southeast asia

In a vast parking lot outside Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temples complex stands a new museum built by North Korea, part of a lucrative charm offensive by a hermit state exporting its monumental art to a handful of foreign allies. [...] “North Korea has discovered soft power, it has discovered cultural diplomacy ... they are trying to broaden the image of what North Korea is about..."

The Angkor Panorama Museum, which opened its doors in December, is just the latest international project to be completed by Pyongyang's Mansudae Art Studio - one of the largest art production centres in the world. […] In recent years Mansudae has started taking its gargantuan socialist-style monuments abroad.

American documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer has spent more than a decade of his career attempting to lift the veil of forgetfulness hanging over one of the postwar era’s worst mass murders—the killing of as many as a 1 million Indonesians in 1965 and 1966 by military and right-wing forces, ostensibly reacting to a failed communist coup.

For years, governments and foundations have used scholarships as instruments of diplomacy. The Brits have Rhodes and Chevening, the Americans have Marshall and Fulbright, and the Australian government has created a lot of goodwill in its neighbourhood through the New Colombo Plan. 

Shila Amzah is a Malaysian pop star famed as much for her fashion sense as for her powerful voice […] These days, though, she sings primarily in Mandarin […] In a country wary of Islam — the Chinese government has a fractious relationship with its ethnic Uighur minority in the western province of Xinjiang […] her rise is attributable to […] a rapidly evolving cultural relationship between China and Malaysia.

The Let Girls Learn initiative will seek to reduce economic and cultural barriers — such as gender-based violence or living far from school — that keep millions of adolescent girls from getting an education. As part of the initiative, the State Department will work in several countries—including Malawi and Tanzania—to empower adolescent girls and ensure they’re able to attend school.

For many Muslim women, the decision to don the hijab […] is born of private self-reflection [...] But [Yusof's] choice soon became something else, as well: a lucrative source of attention for herself and her multimillion-dollar online-retail startup, FashionValet […] In Malaysia women are free—even encouraged—to inject glamor and prestige into the hijab, and to make money from it.

And the winner for most charitable nation in the world is ... Myanmar. Coming in second: the United States. […] The ranking confounds the common perception "that generosity and wealth are connected to one another," says Adam Pickering, the international policy manager of the London-based Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)...Only five of the G20 countries appear in the top 20, he points out.