A mistake with Google translate has sparked online debate over Chinese influence in Preah Sihanouk province’s Sihanoukville.
Google is translating Sihanoukville to Shanghai from English to Khmer, leading many people on Facebook to question whether the translation was a reflection of many Chinese investors moving into the province.
“Nowadays, there are many Chinese investors for tourism in Sihanoukville,” one Facebook user said. “So is this why Google translates Sihanoukville to Shanghai?”
Others said they were worried that Sihanoukville would become a “China Town” in the near future, claims they backed using the mistranslation.
However, an information technology specialist and a government official explained that the mistranslation was the fault of Google’s algorithms and had nothing to do with Chinese investment in the province.
Heng Sovan, an IT specialist, said no one can insert data into Google translate, which is controlled by the company and cannot always keep up with accurate translations for so many languages.
“Google translate cannot translate all words or languages accurately 100 percent,” he said. “It makes errors and mistakes sometimes. But users can make suggestions to Google and they may make corrections.”
“People should not be overreacting and criticising Chinese investment over the mistranslation, but instead just be sending a note to Google about it,” he added.
Im Vutha, spokesman for the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, said the government had no role in Google’s translations.
“It is Facebook users’ right to comment or criticise, but the ministry does not manage or control the content of Google,” he said.
Trade between Cambodia and China in 2016 was $4.8 billion, up 7.4 percent on the previous year.
China is also the largest rice export market for Cambodia.
By end of 2016, China’s total contracted investment in Cambodian was $ 11.8 billion, accounting for 34.3 percent of Cambodia’s total foreign investment.