29 September 2010

Philatelic Pamphlets of Cambodia

Although philatelic service in Cambodia is some amateur staffs selling stamp sets as tourist souvenirs at no official price (there is official price but no one follows it), the postal administration does have something serious, there are philatelic pamphlets to promote new stamp issues and attract orders. These pamphlets are stuck on the post office walls and counters, overseas clients also receive them upon request and availability.

Throughout 1980s and 1990s, COPREFIL prepared pamphlets for each Cambodian issue they printed. The pamphlets are all colour printed on chalky paper, written in Khmer, French and English, usually single sided, decorated with a header design based on the Cambodian national flag. In most cases all key information including the date of issue, values, the design of first day pictorial postmark, name of designer and printing technical details are provided. Sometimes when there is too little space to squeeze in all information, back of the pamphlet is printed as well.


In 1989 the country changed her name from "People's Republic of Kampuchea" to "State of Cambodia". The pamphlets made a relevant alteration in the national flag part, for the rest it remained much the same.

In early 1990s COPREFIL introduced a pamphlet design revolution for their clients. The pamphlets are bilingual, French and English in the case of Cambodia, have water colour painted illustration, and each stamp design has a little paragraph to introduce and explain. They are more informative and attractive.

The other side of the pamphlet:

Sometimes the pamphlets are designed to be single folded, in most cases they are two fold.

Back of the pamphlet:

In the latter half of 1990s, pamphlets are no longer printed on chalky paper, but in B6 size on xerox paper. Text is in English and they were prepared in Germany by Global Philatelie GmbH rather than COPREFIL of Cuba.

Since 2001 Cambodia has been fully responsible for her own stamp issues. In most cases the stamps are printed in Vietnam and so are the pamphlets. The bilingual pamphlets are in Khmer and English on A4 chalky paper. Information on the designer and pictorial postmark is no longer available.

Instead of the philatelic agency contact address, now it features the Phnom Penh CPO address and the logo of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Cambodia.

19 September 2010

"Diplomatic Cover" to Czechoslovakia

This cover is available from a dealer located in Beijing, China. It is franked with 2 Cambodian (1983 fauna 2r and Khmer culture 1.5r) and 1 Czechoslovakian (1965 50h) stamps tied by 2 Takeo postmarks dated 1984. The back of cover is blank. He asks for more than 30 USD.

The dealer said that it is a commercial airmail cover, so I tried to find out how a "commercial airmail" without an addressee justifies the price.

I questioned where the receiver's address was printed, he pointed to the two black ink cachets.

Probably he thought I was western language illiterate or retarded or something so would believe in him. The word "Takeo" in Latin alphabets is very easy to read on the cachet, and the Khmer cachet just say the same thing, "Takeo". Takeo is the name of a Cambodian province and her capital of the same name.

A single word "Takeo" is not an address.

When realizing I was not dumb, the dealer made his second attempt by claiming it was a diplomatic cover sent by the Czechoslovakian embassy.

What? It was postmarked in Takeo, there was no embassy in Takeo. Most of all, a diplomatic cover would still have an address, or the cover should have the contents to prove the identity. The new claim obviously did not help. When I asked further, he kept silent.

It seems only to be a souvenir cover compiled by Czechoslovakians in Takeo who were in the support projects there. Such souvenir may sell at 1 USD if someone buys it, 30 USD is insane. As I have said before, when selling Cambodia most dealers love to make up stories and talk like expert, all for the sake of their pocket.

Below is an authentic commercial airmail from Takeo sent by a Czechoslovakian.  Notice the same cachet in black ink, "TAKEO" and the Khmer version of it, located on the top left corner of the cover under the arimail label, the cachet was used at the Takeo post office.

8 September 2010

Princess Bopha Devi

A self-designed commemorative cover celebrating
HRH Princess Norodom Bopha Devi's 60th birthday in 2003.

When talking about the world famous Cambodian classical dance, Princess Norodom Bopha Devi is undoubtfully an icon of the art.

Bopha devi means "flower goddess/queen" in Sanskirt. Princess Bopha Devi, the daughter of King Father Norodom Sihanouk, is not only beautiful like flowers, she is the dancing flower. At the age of 5 the talented Princess was chosen by grandmother Queen Sisowath Kossamak to become a dancer. At the age of 15, she was the premiere dancer of the Cambodian Royal Ballet and three years later she was granted the title of prima ballerina.

In the old days the Cambodian Royal Ballet was only performed at religious ceremonies or to entertain royalties. Together with Queen Sisowath Kossamak, the Princess has vigorously brought the dance beyond the palace walls to commoners and world audience. Her graceful and sophiscated celestial Apsara Dance performance during a tour in France in 1964 simply took Paris by storm.

In the genocidal years from 1975 to 1979 when the classical dance was banned and artists killed, the Princess went exile in France to continue teaching new dancers. After the Khmer Rouge regime fell, she went to the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand to train dancers for a revival of art and culture, and to give spiritual support for survivors after the 4 year tragedy.

The devoted Princess served as the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts when it was found in 1997, since then she worked close with UNESCO, NGOs, as well as overseas and local art institutions and individuals to revive Khmer fine arts. Now at the age of 67, she still plays a major role in the cultural sector of Cambodia.

The Princess and the King after a dance performance at the Chaktomuk Theatre.
The King is a famous (western) ballet dancer and the Princess Khmer classical dancer.
(Photo by Andy Brouwer 2009)

Bangkok-based British photographer Martin Reeves has produced for the History Channel a short documentary on Cambodian Royal Ballet. It includes a glance of the 1965 movie "Apsara" which features the young Princess dancing. Please click here to view.

External link: Le Ballet Royal du Cambodge (in French only)