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US Ambassador Kristie Kenney on a visit to Phuket

US Ambassador to Depart Thailand, Leaving Growing US Chasm

Thursday, October 9, 2014
BANGKOK: US Ambassador Kristie Kenney has announced her departure from Bangkok. Thailand is about to join dozens of countries without an American ambassador at a pivotal time for the south-east Asian nation, a close US ally.

Western countries such as the US and Australia have faced diplomatic dilemmas in dealing with the Thai army that seized power in a coup in May.

Generals have rolled back civil liberties and are ruling the country with no definitive timetable set for democratic elections.

Political gridlock in Washington has prevented US President Barack Obama from getting any of his ambassadorial nominees confirmed, leaving the US without a top diplomat in almost 50 countries at a time when Washington is grappling with threats from Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, the civil war in Ukraine,

Ebola in West Africa and China's rise in the Pacific, among other global concerns.

The US has been among countries openly pressing Thailand's military to move quickly to restore democracy in the region's second largest economy.

Ms Kenney, a 59-year-old former ambassador to the Philippines, delayed her departure from Bangkok for almost a year longer than the typical ambassador's term of three years because of the Washington logjam.

She has been waiting to join her husband William Brownfield, who has a top US State Department job, in Washington.

In a YouTube message Ms Kenny said Mr Obama would appoint a new ambassador to Thailand and ''we hope that ambassador will arrive in the new year''.

The US embassy in Hanoi has also been without an ambassador since August as the US tries to improve relations with Vietnam, easing a long-standing arms embargo and helping its former enemy modernise its military to help fend off China's aggressiveness in the South China Sea.

Republicans in the Senate have held up the May appointment to Hanoi of Ted Osius, a Vietnamese-speaking career foreign service officer who would be America's first openly gay ambassador in Asia.

The US has ambassadorial vacancies in countries including Turkey, Sierra Leone, and nine posts in Eastern Europe.

Republicans in the US Senate have used procedural tricks to stall the appointments despite most being approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They claim Mr Obama is nominating an usually large percentage of political supporters rather than career diplomats.

''We're going without our strongest voice on the ground every day in more than 25 percent of the world,'' US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week.

Australia has appointed senior career diplomat Paul Robilliard to be ambassador in Bangkok, replacing South-east Asia veteran James Wise. Mr Robilliard took up the post this week.

Fairfax Media

Comments

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I am struggling to get my head round this article. The mighty US which has so much say in so many countries, cannot find the time or will to perform a simple function such as fill a now considerable & growing list of vacant ambassadorial positions?

As a non American I find this quite incomprehensible. I am sure it is a matter of real concern to US nationals. Perhaps instead of appointing career diplomats, the US should consider appointing senior military personnel, perhaps those retired or approaching retirement from active duty.

Posted by Logic on October 9, 2014 10:34

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Where can I apply

Posted by sky on October 9, 2014 11:55

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USA don't have diplomats in about 50 countries? Wow! Something's really going wrong in the States. About time for a new president.

Posted by Volker on October 9, 2014 14:36

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All the consuls were screaming about the shoddy tuk tuks jet skis and many other issues The military step in with a coupe and have addressed many of these problems result some western countries want to have a diplomatic rumpus over it they just don't like the word coupe even if its best reforms ever seen in this country.

Posted by slickmelb on October 9, 2014 17:14

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If you are American and Republican your job is to ALWAYS vote down a Democrats policy and its vice versa.

No one cares about the Policy, they care about NOT allowing progress.

American Politics is THE worst in the world.

Posted by Tbs on October 9, 2014 18:00

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Volker - The president attempts to appoint people to positions. However, the congress has to approve those appointments. Currently, the congress cannot even agree that humans need oxygen to survive.

Posted by No on October 9, 2014 19:27

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All part of the Republican Party's grand plan to destroy the daemon Obama, now in its 6th year, hasn't worked yet but it has done a good job of paralyzing the US government at all levels. Does this sound familiar, oh, that other daemon, the Thai one whose name is now officially unmentionable. Actually not having a US Ambassador in Thailand at this time is a rather good thing. Nothing the US can do to change the present lamentable situation. Kick back and let the Thai people thrash things out for themselves, if they can. I'd be fine with no US Ambassadors to North Korea, Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries. Maybe its time to draw back and stay clear of the world's current and potential blood-letting.

Posted by Anonymous on October 9, 2014 19:45


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