30 May 2011

Save the Prey Lang Forest

In 2010 Cambodia issued a 5v + S/S set to raise public awareness in combating climate change. Two stamps are devoted to forest protection:

Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world although HM King Sihamoni have cried out for forest protection.

Last Wednesday 200 representatives from Prey Lang (Prey Long) protested in Phnom Penh calling for a Economic Land Concession (ELC) license suspension in Prey Lang. There are more protesters back in Prey Lang.

Protesters including Buddhist monks hope the government
can save Prey Lang. (courtesy: Cambodia Sin Chew Daily)

The representatives gathered at Freedom Park to hand officials a petition signed by more than 30,000 people opposed to land concessions in the Prey Lang forest.

Location of Prey Lang. The forest covers parts of Preah Vihear,
Steung Treng, Kratie and Kampong Thom provinces.

Prey Lang, situated in northern Cambodia, is an area of 360,000 hectares which is the largest of intact lowland evergreen forest remaining in all Indochinese Peninsula. It is home to the Kuy indigenous tribe as well as a whole diversity of wildlife including nearly a hundred endangered or threatened species of fauna and flora.

Rare Prey Lang fauna include Indochinese tiger,
Gaur, Asian elephant and Giant ibis.

In spite of these, provincial officials describe Prey Lang as a "dull forest". Many ELCs have been approved to explore. Projects include logging, mining, plantations and road network.

According to the government, ELCs are designed to "...increase employment in rural areas within a framework of intensification and diversification of livelihood opportunities and within a framework of natural resource management based on appropriate ecological system". However this is not what the people of Prey Lang have found.

The Prey Lang forest in Kampong Thom Province has lost 6,000 hectares to CRCK for commercial rubber plantation, another 1,000 hectares in Preah Vihear Province are awarded to PNT. The companies have started destroying forest to make way for rubber trees, local residents found more than 243,650 trees are cut in the primary forest. Two more plantations are planned to the north of this area, the government may already have awarded these concessions.

More than 200,000 people, mostly indigenous, live in or around the forest in four provinces and a significant number depend on the forest resources for their livelihoods. There are 339 villages around Prey Lang, forest destruction means a loss of home and survival.

Protesters reveal that the two ELCs are licensed to Vietnamese companies, the Vietnamese bulldoze Prey Lang without any environmental impact assessments, and take the best Cambodian timber to Vietnam. At the end of the day Vietnamese enterprises are benefited while Cambodians and the environment suffer.

More on Prey Lang:

A short extract of an hour long documentary by Ben and Jocelyn Pederick:
Prey Lang One Forest One Future. Full version will be available soon.

Learn about Prey Lang and updated news: Prey Lang – It's YOUR Forest Too!

28 May 2011

Cambodia on Foreign Stamps (Part 2)

The end of Cold War in 1989 reset the world power balance, it also broke the strong economic and political tie with the former Soviet Bloc.

One of the few remaining communist states - Cuba celebrated
50th years of diplomatic relationship with Cambodia in 2010

Under the new world order Cambodia rapidly embraced the globalized economy by developing whole new international and regional economic partnerships. In 2004 Cambodia became a member of World Trade Organization (WTO) which offers firm and predictable treatment for products and services of Cambodia in the worldwide market.

Cambodia on United Nations 2006 Flags and Coins series

Regionally a significant move was made in 1999 by joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Cambodian flag depicted on 2006 Malaysia,
2004 Laos and 2010 Vietnam ASEAN stamps.

Currently ASEAN has ten members covering all southeast Asia except East Timor. When first founded in 1967, the bloc aimed at improving trade cooperation within the anti-Communist nations of the region. ASEAN now has the goal of facilitating economic growth, social progress, cultural development and environmental improvement. However the organization does not always work well as expected, recently it fails to resolve Cambodian-Thai border conflict.

The border conflict basically focuses on Prasat Preah Vihear, a Khmer temple which straddles the border in the Dangrek Mountains. The ancient Khmer Empire had a vast territory which included all or parts of modern-day Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia, it has left numerous temple ruins scattered across the area, particularly in Thailand and Laos.

Laos 1997 Commemoration of Lao Admission to ASEAN. Built in 11th century,
Wat Phou is a Khmer temple in present-day Champasak Province of Laos.
The temple has a unique structure, in which the elements lead to a
shrine where a linga was bathed in water from a mountain spring.

Laos 2003 World Heritage Site - Wat Phou 3v and S/S FDC.
The temple was designated a World Heritage Site in 2001.

Thailand 1995 Thai Heritage Conservation - Phimai Historical Park 4v set.
It is Khmer heritage rather than Thai, built in the reigns of King
Jayavarman VI and VII of Angkor (1080-1219), Prasat Phimai is
located in now Nakhon Ratchasima Province of Thailand.
It was a Tantric Buddhist temple.

Thailand 1997 Thai Heritage Conservation - Phanomrung Historical Park
1st Series S/S. Prasat Phanomrung is a Khmer temple complex set on
the rim of an extinct volcano in now Buriram Province of Thailand. It was
built in sandstone and laterite in 10th to 13th centuries. The complex
was a Hindu shrine dedicated to Shiva and it symbolises Mount Kailash,
Shiva's heavenly dwelling.

Thailand 1998 Thai Heritage Conservation - Phanomrung
Historical Park 2nd Series S/S

Amongst all Khmer temples the mega star is Angkor Wat. Built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat was the state temple of the Khmer Empire, and it also served as the première temple of Angkor Thom, capital of the empire during its height.

France 2011 150th Death Anniversary of Henri Mouhot

Angkor Wat was popularized to Europeans by French explorer Henri Mouhot. In his 1868 travel journals "Voyage dans les Royaumes de Siam, de Cambodge, de Laos et Autres Parties Centrales de l'Indo-Chine", Mouhot enchanced his description with illustrations and exclaimed that none of the ancient Greek and Roman buildings could be compared to the splendid Angkor Wat.

France 1993 UNESCO World Heritage

Vietnam 1993 Southeast Asian ancient architecture

Japan 2003 ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year

Mozambique 2000 World Heritage Sities - Asia

World tourists flock in Angkor Wat and surrounding ruins bringing in thousands of millions of US dollars. Although the money is big, in a country like Cambodia which everything rebuilds at ground zero, the piece of cake shared by social services is small. Education and health care for children is inadequate and it heavily depends on foreign assistance. If education can reduce poverty, Cambodia has a long way to go.

Andorra 2004 Children of the World - Cambodian children FDC

For part 1 of "Cambodia on Foreign Stamps", please click here.

20 May 2011

HAFNIA '87 Philatelic Cachet of Cambodia on FDC

On the occasion of HAFNIA 87 international stamp exhibition held in Denmark, Cambodia issued a set of 7v and S/S thematic stamps featuring helicopters.

Above shows one of the FDCs of the full set of three. What makes it stand out is the special cachet right below the 1.5r stamp. This particular cachet was available only at the exhibition venue.

"Kampuchea" (name of Cambodia at the time) is never a popular country to collect for Danes. So I guess the one who bought this FDC set at the venue might just be a thematic collector.

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 May 2011

1984 Aerogrammes of Cambodia

Aerogrammes (air letters) were first introduced in Cambodia in 1971. After 1979 the Phnom Penh administration issued new aerogrammes again but they did not gain popularity.

Civilians were first free to send letters after the post office operated again. Although international postage was not cheap in the following years, people least prefered aerogrammes. The postal stationery was not welcome in poverty-plagued Cambodia primarily because of the price.

Below are two aerogrammes issued in 1984, one depicted wild dogs and the other commemorate the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, each of them bear 6 riels postage:

Postage of mid 1980s can be observed from these covers:

March 1984 airmail to Czechoslovakia, 4r postage.

April 1985 airmail to USA, 4.6r postage.

World destinations are grouped into zones for easy postage calculation, in general the Americas have the highest rates, Europe and Africa come the second. From 1984 till mid 1985, it took no more than 5r as the highest basic rate, obviously a 6r aerogramme did not serve its expected duty properly - aerogrammes are supposed to be at a preferential postage, or at most, the same postage as regular airmail.

In 1986, inflation started to kick off. Look at this June 1986 airmail to USA:

Stamps on front and back added up to be 43.3r, nearly ten times higher than the postage a year ago. In the following years riel kept ruthlessly depreciating.

The aerogrammes were too expensive to use when issued and then later in a flash they virtually became obsolete. It had to wait till more than a decade later when Cambodia issued another aerogramme.