Sucked into a Black Hole

STR / AFP / Getty Images

Oil workers in Ho Chi Minh City keep the state-owned PetroVietnam pipeline in full flow

At night, the streets of Phnom Penh reveal the country's vast wealth gap. In front of shopping centers selling luxury cosmetics, whole families sleep on patches of sidewalk; beggars missing limbs, a legacy of civil war, crowd outside upscale restaurants where a tiny élite downs French entrées and chic cocktails. But many average Cambodians hope this poverty will vanish, thanks to an apparent miracle: the country has discovered oil. Off Cambodia's southern coast, explorers have found as much as 500 million barrels, potentially providing over $1 billion annually to the country.

Cambodia is hardly...

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