19 June 2009

Mail at Your Risk

In Cambodia, if you choose to send letters or parcels at a post office, it is a big challenge.

Post offices may not open. The staffs may not be ready to serve you. You may be randomly charged. Stamps may not be at face value. Your mail may not be delivered, and if it is to deliver, the service can be at tortoise pace in rain season, or sometimes your mail simply vanished.

The long war and consequent economic difficulties has made the postal services hard to operate professionally.

Low rank civil servants in Cambodia have salary which is difficult to support basic living. As a result public service users have to "contribute". Although there is a postage rate table at Phnom Penh CPO, the postal clerks charge at their mercy.

Rules and code of practice are reintroduced, but postal workers understand little about the importance of following them straightly. The stamps you get are not necessarily the amount you have paid, sometimes more, sometimes less. You just stick them on your mail, the postal clerk says it is okay, then it is okay.

The final challenge comes from the delivery. Phnom Penh is the national mail hub. Other than in-town delivery, all mail, both domestic and international, have to be sent to Phnom Penh first, then dispatched to their destination. Flying in and out of the capital is frequent, but travelling within the country can be slow, it depends on the condition of road network which deteriorates badly in rain season.

Although social stability and infrastructure development has been helping Cambodia Post improve her service, Cambodians more prefer telephone or private express shipping companies. Intra-town mail of private correspondence is getting less, within town is rare.

A Briton blogger, Michelle, has shared with us her adventure at Phnom Penh CPO, please click here for story.

The featured cover is a beautiful 1993 philatelic mail from Cambodia to USA. It was the time when the country name changed from "Kampuchea" back to "Cambodia". The old "Kampuchea" postmarks went obsoleted, the new "Cambodge" postmarks were not ready, so this pre-1975 postmark only with city name and no country name was just right for the duty. It was heavily used in 1994 and 1995 along with the new "Cambodge" postmarks.

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