Amid Souring Relations, US Appoints Experienced Asia Diplomat to Cambodia

Murphy will face a government that has pivoted towards China, which has invested billions of dollars and provided geopolitical cover for Cambodia’s poor human rights record.

Nearly two years ago, W. Patrick Murphy, seated in the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Phnom Penh, addressed reporters and expressed serious concern over a widespread crackdown initiated by the Cambodian government against the political opposition, civil society and independent media.

“When we had said that we had a concern, we also said that we would be required to take measures if there were further backtracking of democracy,” Murphy said in December 2017, then serving as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, in charge of Southeast Asia.

In several weeks, Murphy will be at the center of diplomatic work by the U.S. to curb that “backtracking of democracy,” this time in his capacity as the top U.S. diplomat in Cambodia. On August 1, after a nearly one-year delay, W. Patrick Murphy was approved by the U.S. Senate to take over as U.S. ambassador from William A. Heidt, who left the position in late 2018.

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