25 December 2014

Cambodia Celebrates World Post Day

World Post Day which falls on 9th October each year celebrates the establishment of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874.  As one of the oldest international organizations in the world, the Union has been coordinating international postal policies in the last 140 years.

Cambodia joined the UPU in 1951.  A set of 3 stamps was issued by Cambodia Post in 1997 to mark the death centenary of Heinrich von Stephan, founder of UPU.  Here is the advertizing pamphlet of the issue:

Although no stamps have ever been issued by Cambodia for World Post Day, special cachets in red ink are sometimes prepared and handstamped on mail to commemorate the Day.  At least 5 years have had the World Post Day cachets, here I illustrate cachets of 2005 and 2006:



16 December 2014

"FD" Handstamp on Cambodian Mail

This is a mail from Phnom Penh to Corseul in northwestern France:

Cambodia has a large portion of her mail addressed to France.  It is not hard for collectors to find covers with "FD" handstamp on the front. "FD" stands for "Fausse Direction", it is stamped by La Poste to indicate that the mail is incorrectly delivered (locally) which could be introduced by sorting mistake or unclear address.  "FD" mail is usually returned to the mail stream and be delivered again.

20 November 2014

Bogus Bhutanese Stamps with Cambodian Stamp Design

Some more bogus stamps. 

Below is a poorly produced bogus Bhutanese sheetlet of six stamps on the topic of fish.  What makes this sheetlet too amateur is the Khmer scripts which Bhutan has never used, and the curreny is "k" but the national currency of Bhutan is actually ngultrum "Nu":

Sounds very Cambodian.  Yes, it does, and the design too, it is faithfully adopted from two Cambodian stamps:

The cyprinid is from the 1983 "Cambodian Fish" set.  It is tinfoil barb which can be found in the Tonlé Sap, the Cambodian Mekong and other rivers and streams of the country.  The red fish stamp is from the 1999 "Aquarium Fish" set, the fish featured is clown rasbora, a species of ray-finned fish in Malaysia.

12 November 2014

Bogus Cat Stamps of Cambodia

Cambodia, just as many developing countries, has fallen victim of the bogus stamp trade since 1990s.  Thematic bogus stamps, sheetlets, deluxe sheets, and even cancellations often succeed in deceiving casual collectors as philatelic information of modern Cambodia is rare.

In 2011 I did a blog entry on the helicopter bogus (click here to read).  Here is another bogus with very similar layout, same "denomination" of 1500r and year "2010": 

The cat bogus souvenir sheets have the same presentation format as those of General Charles de Gaulle sheets reported by Thierry Wiart in the journal Indo-China Philatelist #198: 2 souvenir sheets of 2 vertically joined pair of stamps each, very likely a sheetlet of 9 stamps exists as well.  The country name is in English, same as the helicopter bogus.  So far I only see the imperforate version.

26 October 2014

More on 1993 40th Independence Anniv of Cambodia Stamps

 40th Anniversary of Independence, 1993 (Sc #1323-1325 / Mi#1394-1396), printed in Cuba.

Regarding the 40th anniversary of Cambodian national independence commemorative issue (Sc#1323-1325 / Mi#1394-1396) of 1993, I wrote about the theft and replacement way back in August 2009.  If you missed it, click here to read.

The replacement set printed by Russia.

The Cuban printed stolen set has FDC, they were prepared in Cuba and sold by agencies.  All major world stamp catalogues only list the stolen set which is in fact invalid for postage, the Russian replacement is not acknowledged.  Michel makes the following comment on the replacement set:

"Der Status von drei weiteren, motivgleichen (Ansicht von Angkor Vat) Marken zu 400, 500 und 600 R ist ungeklärt."

This blog entry is to provide examples of commercial use of the Russian replacement as a solid proof of legitimacy.  For each denomination (400r, 500r and 600r), a commercial cover franked with it is shown.

Phnom Penh to St Louis of France, 400r Russian replacement with two 150r (Sc#1295 / Mi#1371) from 1993 "120th Birth Anniversary of Alberto Santos-Dumont" to make up 700r postage, CPO postmarked 26th Mar 94:

Phnom Penh to La Baule-Escoublac of France, 500r Russian replacement with two 150r (Sc#1340 / Mi#1416) from 1994 "Vintage Cars" for 800r postage, CPO postmarked 11th Aug 94:

Phnom Penh to Rigny-sur-Arroux of France, 600r Russian replacement with 200r (Sc#1341 / Mi #1417) from 1994 "Vintage Cars" for 800r postage, CPO postmarked 10th Jun 94:

This Russian replacement was produced by Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga (Международная книга), the Soviet/Russian state enterprise for import and export which has also printed banknotes for Cambodia.  The following is one of the proof cards by Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga, a full set of three proof cards was sold early this month (October 2014) by Auktionshaus Christoph Gärtner GmbH & Co.

The Cuban printed set was not officially sold in Cambodia, as a result it has no authentic postal use sample.  However there are recent cases that the stamps are brought to Cambodia from overseas and then used on mail and for making fake covers / philatelic items.  Collectors are warned of the hoax.

9 October 2014

Cambodian Ox Cart on Stamps

 1985 S/S for the National Day of PR Kampuchea (Sc#551 / Mi#631)

The squeaky Khmer ox cart is as old as it sounds, it has such a long history that dates back to the Angkorian times.  The cart used to be a popular transport means for both military and civilian, and now the wooden wheels still proudly leave tracks on the rural muddy roads.

Legend says that the cart was invented by Preah Bath Mhou Sot.  One day his wife Preah Neang Ommara brought him food while he was working in the rice field. The lady decorated an egg with thorns and put a tamarind above it, this decoration made Preah Bath Mhou Sot think that his wife hinted for needing a wheel transport, and so he made a cart with features looking like that food arrangement.

Issued in 1985 (Sc#548 / Mi#548) to celebrate the 6th National Day,
this 0.5r stamp depicts a boy driving a Khmer ox cart loaded with rice.

There is a variety of Khmer ox carts for different use.  Traditionally the cart is from head to toe made by the best Cambodian timber such as Chakrom and Thnong, each set upon two 16-spoked wheels 1.24 meters high.

A 2010 maxicard shows an ox cart in the
picturesque Cambodian countryside.

Just as many traditional tools, currently Khmer ox cart is gradually giving way to modern counterparts like box van and tractor since ox cart is comparatively less efficient.  Nevertheless in rural areas ox cart is still commonly seen as some farmers cannot afford modern conveniences.

Photo of an ox cart on the roadside.  (Photo: Doug Landrum)

To combat the graduate loss of ox cart tradition due to modernization, local authorities have started to revitalize ox cart racing.  Ox car racing had been an ancient Khmer sport for centuries but almost died out because of the Khmer Rouge.  Now once again communes and villages hold ox cart races after the rice harvest season to pay respects to the earth and water spirits, the events are getting to become such a popular tourist attraction and drawing crowds from the cities to attend. 

28 September 2014

Vietnamese Capitalist Tax on Cambodian Mail

Sent from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, this Cambodian cover testifies the economic deterioration of Vietnam in 1980s.


Unification in 1975 under socialism did not bring Vietnamese peace and prosperity.  Elimination of private enterprise, prosecution of so called "capitalists" and ethnic Chinese, and military occupation of Cambodia all seriously hindered Vietnam's national economic development in the following decade.

Towards the end of 1980s, the Vietnamese economy was in such pathetic condition that people had to cross the border to Cambodia for jobs because the recovering Cambodia was relatively more prosperous.

To increase revenue, Vietnamese postal officials broke the UPU regulations with an introduction of an extraordinary tax charged on mail recipients.  From 1983 to 1991, in south Vietnam (primarily Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas) where people were comparatively wealthier than the rest of the country, mail recipients had to pay a surcharge for receiving mail from "capitalist" countries.

A box cachet was handstamped on mail to indicate a surcharge was to collect.   Inscription of the cachet varies: "express", postal surcharge", "collect additional fee" and many more, but all referring to the same taxation.  The following are some examples:

Bưu Điện QN-ĐN Phụ Thu
Dịch Vụ Phí
Phụ Cước
Phụ Thu
Phụ Thu Bằng Một Phụ Cước Ghi Số
Phát Nhanh
Phát Nhanh Thu
Phát Tận Tay Người Nhận
Phát Trực Tiếp Tới Tay Người Nhận
Thù Lao Vụ
Thu Phụ Phí

A tax amount in numerals followed these words or phrases.  This amount has kept increasing over time due to high inflation.

Cachet on Cover

The taxation cachet in red ink on the cover front reads "Phát Trực Tiếp Tới Tay Người Nhận 100đ", which means "deliver to addressee directly, 100 đong".  100 đong is the surcharge amount.

Here is an enlarged scan of cachet:

Cambodia was a socialist country throughout 1980s, so in general mail from Cambodia to Vietnam was not taxed.  But there was a period of exception. 

From 1989 to 1990 when the Vietnamese economy was in great difficulty, mail from both capitalist and socialist countries was taxed accordingly.  This Cambodian cover, cancelled in Phnom Penh on 27th Oct 1990 and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on 3 Nov 1990, fell within this revenue-hunger period.

Surcharge cachets no longer appear on mail after mid 1991, apparently the tax was still collected in some areas until mid 1990s.

10 September 2014

UNTAC German Field Post and Field Hospital

During the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) operation from 1992 to 1993, Germany was one of the contingents which ran their own field post service in Cambodia.

The two covers shown above are UNTAC mail, they feature the German field hospital handstamped cachet in blue ink and printed wordmark of UNTAC in black ink.  The contents show that both letters were written by the same United Nations Military Observers (UNMO) member to Vzlt Oswald Klier in Vienna, Austria.

The first cover postmarked 11th September 1993 was sent in Phnom Penh via German field post.  A 1DM stamp paying basic international airmail postage is tied by the "Feldpost 7415" postmark.

The second cover was sent via the Cambodian postal service, machine canceled 24th March 1993 in Chbar Ampeou, south of Phnom Penh.  A total of 530r postage was charged as Cambodia was experiencing runaway inflation.

The UNTAC mission was for the first time after WWII that Germany accepted invitation by the UN Secretary-General to take part in UN peace keeping operation.  However German laws did not allow the Bundeswehr armed forces to join with UNTAC forces, so non-combat aid was provided instead: 150 corpsmen and 350 tonnes of equipment were sent to Phnom Penh for setting up a field hospital.  This German run hospital was located in the Phnom Penh University campus (now the Royal University of Phnom Penh) and a German field post office was established in the hospital compound.

Airmail and registration was available for letters and parcels at the field post office which ran from 28th November 1992 to 31st October 1993. 

28th November 1992, the earliest day of use of Feldpost 7415.

In the beginning the hospital was exclusively for UN peacekeepers, but later it opened its door to the general public to provide free medical treatment for those who were too poor to afford local medical services.  During its operation period, more than 10,000 Cambodians were treated.

The hospital opened in May,1992 and closed in October 1993.  When the UNTAC mission ended, UNTAC and the German government decided to donate all the equipment and materials to the local hospitals because it was found that Cambodia had a great domestic need for them.

6 September 2014

Sindelfingen '83 Philatelic Cachet of Cambodia

After the abolishment of postal system in the latter half of 1970s by the Khmer Rouge, in 1980 Cambodia issued postage stamps for use again under the new Vietnamese backed regime.  Yet due to financial difficulties, only two stamp sets were issued in three years.  A change came when in 1983 Coprefil, the Cuban state owned enterprise started its philatelic contract with the Phnom Penh authority, since then stamps were regularly issued again. 

Following Cambodia's absence from the philatelic scene for several years, Coprefil had to find an efficient way to reintroduce the country to dealers and collectors worldwide, for maximum exposure nothing was better than participating in international stamp exhibitions.

The first Cambodian stamp prepared by Coprefil to celebrate an international stamp exhibition was issued in 1984 (click here for my relevant blog post), but before it the company had participated in international philatelic events on behalf of Cambodia.  One of the early examples is the Sindelfingen International Stamp Fair in Germany, 1983.  The cover shown below is a self made souvenir of the fair.


The Sindelfingen International Stamp Fair is an annual event held in Sindelfingen of Baden-Württemberg, Germany since 1983.  Stamps and the commemorative cachets of Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Nicaragua and Vietnam are featured on this cover.  The five countries were clients of Coprefil at that time. 

Cachets of Cuba and Nicaragua are in Spanish.  Coprefil certainly knows that Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are francophone, however the cachets of the trio are in German.  It is likely that the Cuban company was actually represented by a German agency which also prepared the cachets.

The following is a close up of the Cambodian cachet which ties the 1983 "Butterflies" 0.5r stamp (Sc#387) :

This may be one of the earliest post-1979 Cambodian cachets to mark philatelic events, if not the first.  Contemporary cachets of Cambodia are poorly documented, it posts great challenge for serious collectors to collect and study them.

1 August 2014

Cambodia Becomes a Republic on Postmark

Honestly sailing ships is not interesting to me, but I have to show this 1997 thematic first day cover for it deserves some attention.

The 6v + 1 S/S set was issued on 10th September of the year.  Here is the first day cover for the stamps:

A major mistake happens regarding the full name of the country.  The first day commemorative postmark inscribes in French "Republique du Cambodge" which is "Republic of Cambodia" in English.   Below is a close up of the postmark:

The Cambodian monarchy was restored in 1993 as a consequence of the UNTAC sponsored general elections, since then the country is officially known as "Royaume du Cambodge" in French, or in English, "Kingdom of Cambodia".  It seems that the Cambodian postal authority does not know about the mistake made by the Cuban printer, no withdrawal has ever been suggested.

Cambodia was a semi-presidential republic from 1970 to 1975.  Known as the Khmer Republic ("République Khmère" in French),  the pro-American republican government was established after a coup which overthrew Prince Norodom Sihanouk.  Following the fall of Khmer Rouge in 1979, Cambodia became a pro-Vietnamese socialist state officially called the People's Republic of Kampuchea ("République populaire du Kampuchéa" in French) until 1989. 

The present monarch of Cambodia, HM King Norodom Sihamoni,
visited farmers in Prey Veng Province,
southeast Cambodia, 30th July 2014.
(Courtesy: Royal Cabinet Photo)

20 May 2014

CPO Machine Cancel Variations of Cambodia

I wrote two blog enteries in 2009 on the Phnom Penh CPO machine cancels for letters.  Here are the direct links if you miss them:

- Phnom Penh Machine Cancels (I) 
- Phnom Penh Machine Cancels (II)

This blog post serves as an update on the generation 3 machine cancel varieties which I mentioned in part II of the blog series mentioned above.  Generation 3 machine cancel was first introduced in 1999, here is a sample of it:

The square date dial on the left has its date format vertically arranged from top to bottom in the following sequence:

Day + Month

Since 2000 the date and time have their order swapped sometimes, and there is a rare variety with year arranged first, then time and day+month follow.  The left sample below is in the former case, the right sample latter:

A decade later more variations appear.  Since 2011 the time slug has often been inverted.  It is not only the "9 - AM" numerals and letters inverted, the placement order is inverted as well.  Very likely the postal staff had the postmark upside down when filling the time slug.  Just as the proper placement case, sometimes the time, date+month and slugs are in irregular orders, below shows the 3 varieties found so far, which are:
1) day+month, time, year
2) time, day+month, year
3) day+month, year, time

A summary of the date format varieties is shown below, please note that this is not a full check list as new varieties may come to light in the future :

2 March 2014

Espana '84 Philatelic Cachet of Cambodia

During the 1980s, Cambodia did not only frequently celebrate world stamp exhibitions with thematic stamps, commemorative cachets were prepared for philatelic promotion as well.

The FIP exhibition of Espana'84 was held in Mardrid in 1984.  Cambodia, represented by the an agent on behalf of COPREFIL, participated in the 10 day event by offering philatelic sales and a commemorative handstamp cachet (not postmark) for application.

The Espana'84 handstamp cachet was available at the exhibition venue only, it depicts the exhibition logo with bilingual inscription of Khmer and French.  The exhibition dates are indicated as 27.4 / 6.5:

A souvenir sheet was issued containing a 5r stamp which featured a Hispano-Suiza K6 luxury car.  The year of introduction of the automobile given on the souvenir sheet is 1933, however this Spanish car actually appeared in Barcelona as model T-60 in 1932, and it was presented in Paris in October 1934 as K6.

A close-up of the stamp on souvenir sheet.

The souvenir sheet is a first for Cambodia to issue stamps for world stamp exhibition.  Below is the FDC of the issue, the cancellation is a first day commemorative postmark.