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US names new ambassador to Cambodia

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Deputy Assistant US Secretary of State W Patrick Murphy (centre) and US Ambassador William Heidt (left) attend a meeting last year at the Foreign Ministry in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

US names new ambassador to Cambodia

US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt.

A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the US State Department.

He has served over 25 years in senior positions in the Foreign Service, including as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs since 2016.

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

US Embassy spokesman in Phnom Penh Arend Zwartjes said he has not been informed of the official nomination as yet since the appointment had to be approved by the US Senate.

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

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the appointment affirmed that the US accepted the new Cambodia People’s Party-led government and that the US would have good relations with the Kingdom.

“This shows strengthening relations and cooperation. If the US didn’t like the sixth mandate government, they would not put in another ambassador. They would lower it to just a Chargé d’Affaires.

“So, it means they accept [the new government],” he said stressing that Cambodia and the US are not enemies.

Professor of political science So Chantha said that even though there’s a new ambassador, he will still follow the US’ established foreign policy. He said in the geopolitical context, Cambodia could be the frontline for shaky US-China relations.

“The future of US-Cambodia relations may not change for a more positive stance so long as both parties do not accept each other’s demands,” he said.