New US Ambassador in Phnom Penh

The new US ambassador to Cambodia, Kent Wiedemann, arrived Sunday, replacing Ken­neth Quinn who returned to the US a week ago.

“My priorities are to work with our friends here in Cambodia to…build a stable democracy and foster closer relations between the United States and the King­dom of Cambodia,” Wiede­mann said at Pochentong Airport.

The US Senate confirmed Wiedemann, a former diplomat in Burma, to the post on May 26. Although he was nominated in July 1998 his confirmation was delayed because of questions about his record. As charge d’affaires in Rangoon, he was accused by human rights acti­vists of being soft on Burma’s ruling military junta.

As deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, Wiedemann angered the Tibet lobby in Washington and the China critics in the US Congress. And in December 1995, in Phnom Penh, he praised Cambo­dia’s human rights performance less than one week after then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen warned diplomats to stay indoors because he was organizing 1 million people to dem­on­strate at embas­sies.

In addition, opposition leader Sam Rainsy and National Assem­bly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh in October 1998 wrote US Senator Jesse Helms and said Wiede­mann may “be less supportive of the cause of democracy in Cambodia” than Quinn was.

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