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US’ Cambodian ambassador appointment blocked

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Patrick Murphy.

US’ Cambodian ambassador appointment blocked

The US Senate returned the nomination of Patrick Murphy as Ambassador to Cambodia back to US President Donald Trump on Thursday, as the American government shutdown entered its third week.

The US Senate website announcement said it returned Murphy’s nomination as ambassador as his appointment was not approved by the close of the 115th US Congress period on January 3.

“The request of [Patrick Murphy] has been returned back to the US President and it is the implementation of Paragraph 6, Article 31 of Internal Order in the US Senate,” the announcement read.

According to Paragraph 6, if the Senate is paused or in a vacation period for over 30 days, all nomination requests will be returned to the president via the State Department. To be considered, the president will need to make the request once again.

Murphy was nominated Ambassador to Cambodia by Trump on August 10 to replace outgoing Ambassador William Heidt. He was set to be confirmed once he received approval from the Senate before the close of the 115th Congress.

Government shutdown

However, the Senate failed to approve Murphy’s appointment – along with a number of other ambassadorial appointments – as a result of a US government shutdown that began on December 22, when the Democrats and Trump could not agree on $5 billion in funding for the president’s infamous border wall with Mexico.

The Democrats assumed majority control of the US’ lower legislative body, the House of Representatives, on Thursday, marking the start of the 116th Congress that will run until January 2021.

Murphy is originally from the state of Vermont and has been deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s East Asia and Pacific Region Bureau since 2016. He has served over 25 years in senior positions in the Foreign Service.

Murphy also worked as Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’Affaires in Bangkok, Thailand from 2013 to 2016, and as acting special representative and policy coordinator for Myanmar from 2012 to 2013.

While on a visit to the Kingdom in December 2017, Murphy criticised the arrest of former Cambodian National Rescue Party leader Kem Sokha and the subsequent dissolution of his party. At that time he urged Cambodia to “return to democracy”.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said he “hoped the new ambassador would not interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs” and would “benefit the two countries in terms of creating a good relationship and cooperation.”

US Embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes did not wish to comment on the matter when contacted by The Post.

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