9 May 2011

Cambodia on Foreign Stamps (Part 1)

Cambodia is best known to the world for two things, the ancient Angkorian civilization, and the Khmer Rouge era and its aftermaths. Since 1980 these themes has been featured on foreign stamps so often that they can give a one frame exhibition.

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia. The most notorious action of the Chinese-backed Communist group is they moved the whole urban population to rural area to be peasants - most educated civilians were brutally killed, all social institutions dissolved, and communications with the outside world eliminated. It led to more than one fifth of the population vanished under their rule. In 1999 the Marshall Islands remembered this man-made disaster with a stamp in the "20th Century" series:

The regime of terror was toppled by the Vietnamese in 1979. A pro-Vietnam Communist government was installed, then for the next ten years Cambodia was basically under the shadow of Vietnam. In 1983 Vietnam issued a set of two stamps to mark the Laos-Cambodia-Vietnam Summit Conference held in Vientiane. The conference was to form a militant alliance of the three countries with Vietnam taking the lead:

The year 1984 sees two more sets of Vietnamese stamps feature Cambodia. The first is to celebrate Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia solidarity and friendship, the second is to commemorate the 5th anniversary of friendship and cooperation treaty between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Vietnamese domination of Cambodia is once again reflected on stamps in 1989. A 2v set celebrating the 10th anniversary of National Day of Cambodia was issued, the day marks the Vietnamese took over Phnom Penh in 1979:

Although the Khmer Rouge no longer ruled all Cambodia, they still held the seat at the United Nations because of support from anti-Soviet countries. In the 1989 "National Flag" series of UN, the three-tower Angkor Wat red flag of "Democratic Kampuchea" represents Cambodia:

The Khmer Rouge and subsequent decade of war made hundreds of thousands of Cambodians flee the country, some bitterly succeeded while some tragically lost their lives. Devoted journalists brought these refugees' hell like situation to world news audience as one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of 1980s. In 2005 the Netherlands celebrated the 50th anniversary of World Press Photo with a stamp sheetlet, one of the stamps honours a 1979 press photo taken by photojournalist David Burnett showing a Cambodian refugee who cradles her child while waiting for food to be distributed:

Rays of dawn passed through the mist in 1992 when the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was mandated to implement the 1991 Paris Agreements on the Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict. A general election was conducted which consequently formed a coalition government bringing Cambodia back to the road of peace, stability and development.

The operation involved 22,000 contributors of military and civilian police personnel from 45 countries. Below is a 1993 Uruguayan stamp which hails Uruguay joining the UNTAC peace mission:

For part 2 of "Cambodia on Foreign Stamps", please click here.


  1. awesome post, used stamp to tell the story - fantastic!