‘Samdech’ Just Isn’t Practical For English-Language Press

I am writing to make a clarification and add some more points of view related to the use of the titles of government officials such as “Samdech” in the article, “Government to Review Media That Shun ‘Samdech,’” (May 16).

—Letter to the Editor—

Regardless of the legal basis concerning the use of the titles of government officials, as a Cambodian journalist I would not reject using such a title in my news stories in Khmer. However, my concern is that such a title may lose its meaning when used in an English language article because of the different cultural context.

From Malaysia to Saudi Arabia to the U.K., government officials in countries reigned by monarchs have used different titles, some of which are equivalent to Cambodian titles granted by the king. Yet, we have often avoided using them in Khmer translations except by imprecisely calling them “His Excellency” or “Her Excellency.”

Meanwhile, I also encourage the Khmer-language press to follow suit and use a shortened title in front of an official’s title like “Samdech” instead of the long title, which may interrupt the flow of the story when it is repeated frequently in the same story.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh
Director of Cambodia Institute for Media Studies
Phnom Penh

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