29 August 2011

Guangzhou - Phnom Penh First Flight Cover

First flight covers (FFC) were popular in the days when inauguration of new air routes was a major event. As traveling by air is getting as common as by land, new air route inauguration gradually loses its thrill and FFC face dying supply and demand.

Cambodian FFC created before 1975 were not hard to find. However, since civilian postal service resumed in 1980, new created FFC have become very rare. Two things happen which leads to this rarity, one is the significant drop of collectors interested in post-1979 Cambodian philately, the other is zero support from postal authority in new air route commemoration.

Little collectors interested in post-1979 Cambodian philately is due to heavy commercialization of 1980s and 1990s stamp issues as well as too little information and materials available.

Zero support from postal authority on first flight souvenirs is because in 1980s and most of 1990s there was no direct mail route to international destinations from Cambodia. For political reasons, all mail in and out of the country was via Viet Nam.

Here shows a cover carrying a handstamp cachet which marks the open up of direct air route between Guangzhou (Canton) of China and Phnom Penh of Cambodia. The cover was registered at Liuhua post office of Yuexiu District, Guangzhou on 28th February 1999. The next day, 1st March, the China Southern Airlines Boeing 737-500 made the maiden flight from Guangzhou to Phnom Penh.

On the back the cover is the Phnom Penh Central Post Office arrival postmark dated 5th March.

The postcard below features a 1964 Chinese handstamp cachet (left) which commemorates the opening of air route between Cambodia and PR China. The destinations are the same as the cover shown above, Guangzhou and Phnom Penh, but with a Hanoi stop over.

21 August 2011

Bo Rai Border Camp (UNTAC Mail)

This is a letter sent by a United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) staff located in Bo Rai in 1993.

Bo Rai is a border town in Trat Province of eastern Thailand. It had a Cambodian refugee camp which accommodated the people displaced by the 1985 fighting between the Vietnamese army and the Khmer Rouge along the Thai border.

Bo Rai camp occupants were mainly the refuging Khmer Rouge and their followers. Other than Bo Rai, there were four other similar camps, namely Huay Chan, Na Trao, Ta Luan and Site 8 (Phum Tmey). All these camps were administrated by the Khmer Rouge, Site 8 was the largest and most important one but Bo Rai was where Pol Pot actually lived.

Famous for its gemstone mines, Bo Rai was one of the geese which laid gold eggs to fuel the Khmer Rouge resistance against the Vietnamese backed Phnom Penh government in the second half of 1980s.

Location of border camps held by different factions.
(From John Rogge "Return to Cambodia" 1990)

16 August 2011

1983 Olympics S/S Misperforation

COPERFIL does not have a very good quality control system, perforation errors are quite common on 1980s and 1990s Cambodian stamps.

Common imperfection includes off-centre perforation and blind perforation. Double perforation, imperforate between and perforation shift happen sometimes but something like this is silly:

11 August 2011

Michelle's Adventures at Phnom Penh CPO


Back in June 2009 I mentioned about Michelle's adventures at Phnom Penh Central Post Office, didn't I? For those who missed it, here is a repost, originally written on 22nd January 2009:

"Visiting the main Post Office here in Phnom Penh is always an amusing experience.

"First there are many counters to choose from - Letter, registered letter, registered packet, packet etc etc. There is never a queue of any kind [because no one uses the post for the reasons I am about to explain]. At the right counter you will be ignored by the two women behind it who are "busy" sorting their pencils or similar. When you have their attention they will proceed to "weigh" your letter/packet in a place where you cannot see the weight for yourself.

"They will then randomly pick a charge for the packet. You may manage to work out the cost yourself from a faded list they have stuck to the glass and manage to have a conversation about why they have asked for 12,000 Riel when the table says it should onlybe 8,000 Riel. If you are lucky they will shrug and reduce the price. Otherwise, they may just stare blankly (or still shrug) and you are stuck with the random price.

"Next challenge... you get the stamps... or do you? Often the (now helpful) clerk will state that they will now deal with the stamping and posting of your packet. Bad idea to accept this. The idea is that if you do not see the stamps being stuck on your packet then your letter will be binned/the contents of the parcel treated as a gift and the money not put in the Post Office till.

"So you have got the thing "weighed", you have paid the "fee", they have stuck on the stamps.... Next challenge, get the stamps franked (they have to be franked before you put it in the post box). This is where lots of had actions and drama is necessary to get the job done.

"Once you have the letter in your hand fully stamped and franked all that is left is the post box which is far less of a challenge (unless you are using the Post Office on Sihanouk Bvd where the slot is practicially narrower than a letter and looks like it hasn't been opened to collect the mail for a century). You can then inform the person (by email) the packet is on its way - only to be told 3 months later by them that it never arrived.

"So the idea I had to post a good book to a friend at home was never a good one. The charge was incomprehensible to me - so I failed at the first hurdle. I was out-numbered. 2 clerks against 1 foreigner. The cost was $13 (more than the book itself)! Having been ripped off (I think) at this stage I was determined to get my stamps. This is when I was greeted by the ever present phrase uttered here ... "sorry cannot". "Sorry cannot"..... aghhhhhhhhh!!! I had paid my money I was trapped. "Sorry cannot" does not usually follow with an explaination here. However, "Late. [it was 5.30pm] Machine off. I will do" - ummmm. Perhaps being British I couldn't bring myself to challenge this explaination and accuse the women of conspiracy to de-fraud me of my stamps. I just said "please - do it tomorrow".

"I had no hope of the packet ever reaching the UK. $13 that would be more than a week's salary so the temptation too much.... On the upside when I went outside the PO I saw a whole family of monkeys - including tiny baby ones...walking across the main electric cables!

"But monkeys were not the purpose of the trip and so I sadly emailed my friend apologising for my lack of conviction in the Post Office to get the stamps stuck and cursed my wasted $13 (equaling 13 beers in happy hour). Then behold!!!!!!! Today, about ten days later, the packet arrived! Oh sweet JOY! and faith in the Cambodian postal system restored!!!! On reflection it was a book (Cambodian's don't generally read let alone read English novels) and I bet the stamps were far stuck on were far less than $13...."

Michelle is a briton living in Phnom Penh. The following are some selected replies to her original blog post:

dsingis said...
"The Phnom Penh Post Office is, indeed, a very funny typical Cambodian specialty. After shipping a lot small parcels, I thought I would know the system. Weighing the letter or parcel at home, look in the tariff list, how much it is, write it on the enveloppe. And go to the post-office.
Their scales were always better than my electronic scale, saying 200 gramms heavier or more.
Than they tried to charge the tariff for the most expensive Zone F (USA), even when the shipping was going to Asia.
The best way to get things done, is shipping by registered letter or parcel. Than they cannot cheat and You can be sure, Your shipping reaches its destiny in less than a week.
Tomorrow I have to go to this very nice place to ship 2.8 Kg to Europe. With a big smile in my face I will enjoy that adventure."
Monday, July 13, 2009

Paul said...
"Hi, lived here for 4 years now (from UK), and use the Post Office about 3 times a week (a sucker for punishment).
For the average tourist, you will be better (as another poster said) to use the registered service, as the paperwork has to be completed and rubber-stamped, in front of you.
If you use the counters round the back, the chances of your package reaching your destination are not that good.
I work for a big company here, and receive parcels very regularly, but only because they are adressed to a company,they dare not 'intercept' them.
I get very good service, partly because I 'speaka da lingo', and partly because I always drop a couple of thousand reil extra, onto the counter for the girls.
2000r is only about 30p (50c), but is good insurance for ensuring good service, and a welcoming smile when you arrive.
They also call me on the phone, as soon as the package arrives, to make sure I'm not having an unnecessary ride into town from work/home (9Km).
Bottom line is; spend a little bit extra, and go the registered route."
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Caron Margarete said...
"I find the post office here infuriating, mostly because most offices close for a 3hr lunch between 11-2 and the front counter staff are the closest thing to useless, lazy and unreliable, and that's just those that can actually speak some English.
If you have any drama ask for Mr Mardy (small packets counter) who is undoubtably the nicest man ever because he knows his fellow employees are unhelpful on purpose.
Do not get upset or angry because the Khmer will laugh at you and ignore you. This is common throughout the country because of their custom for saving face.
Mr Mardy tells me that come January 2011 (which will more likely be March knowing this place!) that they're privatising the postal service so here's hoping that makes things better.
Definitely use registered post to send/ receive mail."
Monday, December 13, 2010

For Michelle's original blog page, please click here.