The president of France has selected Eva Nguyen Binh, an official at the French Embassy in Hanoi and wife of the French ambassador to Vietnam, as its next ambassador to Cambodia, two media outlets have reported.
Le Petit Journal, a French international news site, reported that French President Francois Hollande appointed Ms. Nguyen Binh on February 8, along with 27 other ambassadors, months before his nation’s upcoming presidential election.
If the Cambodian government confirms her appointment, Ms. Nguyen Binh, whose father is Vietnamese, will become the first woman to serve as French ambassador to Cambodia, according to the government-aligned website Fresh News.
Chum Sounry, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Mathilde Teruya, spokeswoman for the French Embassy in Phnom Penh, would not confirm the selection of the new ambassador “as long as the relevant authorities have not yet officially notified their approval,” she said in an email.
The appointment of a French national of Vietnamese descent to a position of power is likely to be seen by some as contentious at a time when Cambodia’s border with Vietnam remains a political lightning rod and residents along the border continue to make claims of encroachment by Vietnamese nationals.
Alain Gascuel, a French former journalist who has lived in Cambodia since 1992 and has connections in the French community in Cambodia, said there were concerns in the community about Ms. Nguyen Binh’s background.
“Many French people are anxious about the reaction of Cambodians [to the appointment],” said Mr. Gascuel, the former editor of French-language journal Cambodge Nouveau.
He said France may view the appointment of Ms. Nguyen-Binh as a way of helping border
negotiations between Cambodia and Vietnam. But others in Cambodia thought it was more to
do with her being well-connected in Paris, he added.
Ms. Nguyen Binh, whose mother is French, is a career diplomat who currently serves as counselor on technical cooperation and cultural action at the French Embassy in Hanoi. She spent 16 years as a diplomat for the Foreign Affairs Ministry in France, according to her LinkedIn page. Her husband, Jean-Noel Poirier, has been the French ambassador to Vietnam since 2012.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Vachon)
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