Memo to Cambodian English-language newspapers

To: English-language papers in Phnom Penh

Subject: “Rubber stamping”

Date: 2 March 2017

I have noticed an increasing tendency for you to use the term “rubber stamp” when referring to actions by Cambodia’s elected parliamentary bodies, especially in headlines: the Senate or National Assembly “rubber stamps” this or that law proposed by the government.

This cannot be merely an editorial convenience – to save space, for example: the word “passes” takes up less space than “rubber stamps”. The implication of the phrase you use is that the body in question does not really consider the subject before it, but simply does what it is told by the government.

Of course, it is true that laws proposed by the government are almost certain to be passed by the legislative bodies in which the governing party has a majority.

But your writers and editors seem to have been resident in Cambodia for so long that they have forgotten what the rest of the world is like. I can assure you that it is quite a normal thing for elected parliaments to pass measures proposed by the government if, as is usual, the government party has a majority in the parliament. The parliament elects the government, after all.

I do not know of any country with a parliamentary system where the press normally refers to the passage of government legislation as “rubber stamping”.

There is thus a danger that your readers, who may be unaware of your writers’ long separation from reality in the West, might conclude that the apparent belittling of Cambodia’s legislative bodies reflects a bias regarding the imagined superiority of Western governance systems.

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