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New US Ambassador in Cambodia

Chum Bunrong, the Cambodian Ambassador to the US and his delegates are holding an unofficial meeting with the US Ambassador to Cambodia, William Heidt and his delegates at the Cambodian Embassy in the United States on August 26, 2015. (Meng Kimseng/VOA Khmer)

William Heidt speaks Khmer and is married to a Cambodian.

William Heidt will soon become a new US Ambassador in Cambodia, following the departure of William Todd.

In a video clip on the US Embassy’s website, Heidt says he hopes “to strengthen the relationship between the two countries,” but development workers in the country say they hope to see stronger democracy and human rights, as well.

Heidt worked in Cambodia from 1997 to 1999, as an economic officer at the US Embassy, working to increase trade between the two countries and improve food security and environmental protection. He speaks Khmer and is married to a Cambodian.

Khus Thida, executive director of Silaka, a development organization, said she hopes the new ambassador will not disregard the importance of civil society in the US relationship with Cambodia. Human rights and peace must be priorities in the region, and among countries like the US, China and Russia, she said.

“As he’s worked in Cambodia before, he can work more efficiently,” she said. “I hope to see close cooperation with civil society, even better than in the past.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the new US ambassador would strengthen the “good relations and cooperation” between the two countries.