21 July 2009

Radio Phnom Penh

These are the 2 sides of a Radio Phnom Penh greeting card sent to a listener in the Philippines.

Radio Phnom Penh, which called Voice of the Kampuchean People (VOKP) after Khmer Rouge fell, started to operate by the late 1980s as the state's mouthpiece.

Based in Phnom Penh, the station is now known as Voice of Cambodia.

I have the luck to reach Mr Manfred Lepp, the recipient of this card. He is kind enough to provide some background information:
"Back in 1990 I was sending a reception report to this station when they were still broadcasting on shortwave. Then later on they sent me this card, which you got from me. I have no further connection with the radio station, but I can give you a little information about it:

Now they are only transmitting on mediumwave 918 kHz from 2230 UTC to 1600 UTC (= 06:30 in the morning up to midnight Hong Kong time) with a power of 120 kw.

The station address is:

National Radio of Cambodia
20 Street 106
Sangkat Wat Phrom
Phnom Penh 12202

The last time I could hear this station was just recently when I was in Myanmar but with heavy interference from Radio Thailand operating on the same frequency. In the Philippines I cannot hear it at all because the Philippine station DZSR on the same frequency is just too strong."

My profound thanks to Mr Lepp for his kind response and valuable information.

Now back to philately. The card has a 170 riels postage. A sharp postage increase in December 1991 due to inflation has consequently led to high denomination stamp shortage. From information by the International Monetary Fund, we can see the inflation trend of Cambodia from 1987 to 2008:

In 1989, centrally controlled economy was no longer practiced. Just as most former socialist countries had experienced, transformation to market-oriented economy brought considerable negative impacts on monetary and financial stability, and one of them is inflation. Stamps obsoleted quick when inflation ran faster than the stamp printing machines.

On top of inflation, peace brought by the Paris Conference on Cambodia 1989 has made UN and NGO staffs flock to Cambodia. The sudden mail traffic boost resulted by these foreign aiders' correspondence also contributed to a significant demand on high denomination stamps for postage.

The postal authority tried to solve the problem by surcharging existing stamp stock, but very soon they realized that surcharges were too easy to counterfeit.

A second solution then came up. The French flew in meter stamp machines. In such a way, high denomination stamps were no longer needed in great amount to make up the postage.

My next blog entry will show samples of the French meter on covers.


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