Former Australian ambassador John Holloway dies

PHNOM PENH (The Cambodia Herald) — John Holloway, a former Australian ambassador who worked as a Cambodian government advisor for almost 20 years, died Tuesday at the age of 70 after a long battle with skin cancer and diabetes.

The former ambassador had been living in Cambodia since 1991 when he became one of the first western diplomats accredited to the Supreme National Council (SNC), a body set up under the Paris Peace Agreements. 

Between 1991 and 1992, he was in charge of managing more than 60 staff at the Australian Permanent Mission to the SNC, which was chaired by the then Prince Norodom Sihanouk and oversaw UN-backed elections in 1993.

After serving as Australian ambassador to the newly-formed Kingdom of Cambodia between 1993 and 1994, he worked as advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation until 1995 when he returned to Australia to complete a master’s degree on Cambodian belief systems at the University of New South Wales.

Since 1997, he had been working both full and part time as advisor to the Ministry of Interior where he helped draft a five-year work plan and provided strategic advice to ministers and senior officials. He also contributed to the ministry’s vision and helped upgrade the skills of middle-ranking and junior officials.


Holloway was one of Australia’s most outstanding diplomats to specialize in Asia and played a key behind-the-scenes role in the Cambodian peace process. 

Following the election of a Labor Party government in Australia in 1983, he worked with the then Foreign Minister Bill Hayden in relaxing the country’s participation in a US-led Western embargo against the then People’s Republic of Kampuchea. The embargo was also being imposed by ASEAN countries and China. 

Working with the Australian Embassy in Hanoi, Holloway helped arrange a secret meeting between Hayden and the then Foreign Minister Hun Sen in Ho Chi Minh City in 1984. He later worked closely with Hayden’s successor as foreign minister, Gareth Evans, in contributing to the Cambodian peace process.

Holloway’s first diplomatic posting was to Indonesia, where he worked from 1965 to 1969.  He was later posted to Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and India before returning to Indonesia in 1981. Two years later, he was appointed Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In 1986, Holloway was named as Australia’s ambassador to the Philippines during the period of political turmoil following a “people’s power” revolution that toppled President Ferdinand Marcos and brought to power Corazon Aquino, the wife of slain opposition leader Benigno Aquino and father of the current president.

Before moving to Cambodia in 1991, Holloway served as deputy director general of the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB), now known as the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

In addition to being advisor to the Ministry of Interior, the former Australian diplomat worked for the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Municipality of Phnom Penh.

He served on the board of Krom Aphiwat Phoum, a progressive village development association. He was also deputy director of Crossroads Consultancies Group, a local non-governmental organization specializing in socio-economic, health-related and governance surveys.

Holloway worked for various international organizations in Cambodia, notably the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asian Development  Bank (ADB).

The former diplomat had been convalescing at a house of a Cambodian friend in Khan Dangkao since being briefly hospitalized with complications from diabetes in 2011.

He is survived by four children — two daughters and two sons — as well as four grandchildren, all of whom reside in Australia.

Holloway died at  10:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the friend said. His cremation is expected to be held at 156 Plouv Beton in Phum Kouah, Sangkat Dangkao in Khan Dangkao at 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening.