This paper examines the discourse of a leading Western publication (The Economist magazine) in its reporting on a poorly understood country steeped in different cultural values and traditions (Cambodia). Using a critical discourse analysis framework and the theory of systemic functional linguistics, this paper argues that The Economist's reporting effectively reinforces an image of Cambodia as a 'basket case'. This is achieved by setting the country up for failure (by measuring its performance against Western benchmarks) and then vilifying the Cambodian leadership for that failure. A solution is hinted at but with little hope of success. The data analysed consist of 129 articles published in The Economist between late 1991 and mid-2002, with a special focus on a key sub-set of 18 articles. Particular attention is given to the analysis of field settings in The Economist's reporting and its treatment of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen through the semantic system of voice.