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[ April 26th 2004 ]

Action hero Jackie Chan has been appointed a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the organisation's AIDS agency UNAIDS. Chan, probably the most successful Asian star in Hollywood, arrived in Phnom Penh Monday for a three-day visit which will be the first in his new capacity. "I want to stop the spread of HIV-AIDS and the discrimination of HIV-AIDS victims, and protect children who are affected by landmines," Chan told a press conference in the capital that formally announced his latest role. "I always think I'm lucky. God gave me a lot of fame and money. So I called UNICEF to ask what I can do to help," said the star of movies such as "Rush Hour", "Rumble in the Bronx" and a string of martial arts hits.

UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy said in a statement that the agency was delighted that Chan had signed up as an ambassador. "His worldwide fame and popularity will assist UNICEF enormously in its work for children," she said. UNAIDS chief Peter Piot also said that Chan would help in the battle against HIV-AIDS, especially in Asia where the epidemic is spreading rapidly. At the start of his trip to Cambodia, Chan on Monday had lunch with young HIV-positive people and inspected an exhibition of their life-size self-portraits created to raise awareness of the issue. "I saw the children this morning and was very touched," he said.

On Tuesday he is to visit the northern town of Siem Reap to visit a Buddhist temple where monks are helping children and families with HIV-AIDS. In Siem Reap, the gateway to the fabled temples of Angkor, he will also visit a centre for the rehabilitation of landmine victims, before returning to the capital Phnom Penh on Wednesday to wrap up his trip. Cambodia has the highest HIV infection rate in Southeast Asia. The kingdom is also one of the most heavily mined countries in the world following nearly three decades of civil war that ended in 1998.

The Angkor temple complex was brought to the silver screen by another UN goodwill ambassador, Angelina Jolie, in the action movie "Tomb Raider". Chan hinted that he too could star in a film set in the kingdom. "Right now I'm thinking about a script about landmines. After this visit, I will come back and bring a scriptwriter," he said.

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