28 September 2014

Vietnamese Capitalist Tax on Cambodian Mail

Sent from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, this Cambodian cover testifies the economic deterioration of Vietnam in 1980s.


Unification in 1975 under socialism did not bring Vietnamese peace and prosperity.  Elimination of private enterprise, prosecution of so called "capitalists" and ethnic Chinese, and military occupation of Cambodia all seriously hindered Vietnam's national economic development in the following decade.

Towards the end of 1980s, the Vietnamese economy was in such pathetic condition that people had to cross the border to Cambodia for jobs because the recovering Cambodia was relatively more prosperous.

To increase revenue, Vietnamese postal officials broke the UPU regulations with an introduction of an extraordinary tax charged on mail recipients.  From 1983 to 1991, in south Vietnam (primarily Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas) where people were comparatively wealthier than the rest of the country, mail recipients had to pay a surcharge for receiving mail from "capitalist" countries.

A box cachet was handstamped on mail to indicate a surcharge was to collect.   Inscription of the cachet varies: "express", postal surcharge", "collect additional fee" and many more, but all referring to the same taxation.  The following are some examples:

Bưu Điện QN-ĐN Phụ Thu
Dịch Vụ Phí
Phụ Cước
Phụ Thu
Phụ Thu Bằng Một Phụ Cước Ghi Số
Phát Nhanh
Phát Nhanh Thu
Phát Tận Tay Người Nhận
Phát Trực Tiếp Tới Tay Người Nhận
Thù Lao Vụ
Thu Phụ Phí

A tax amount in numerals followed these words or phrases.  This amount has kept increasing over time due to high inflation.

Cachet on Cover

The taxation cachet in red ink on the cover front reads "Phát Trực Tiếp Tới Tay Người Nhận 100đ", which means "deliver to addressee directly, 100 đong".  100 đong is the surcharge amount.

Here is an enlarged scan of cachet:

Cambodia was a socialist country throughout 1980s, so in general mail from Cambodia to Vietnam was not taxed.  But there was a period of exception. 

From 1989 to 1990 when the Vietnamese economy was in great difficulty, mail from both capitalist and socialist countries was taxed accordingly.  This Cambodian cover, cancelled in Phnom Penh on 27th Oct 1990 and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on 3 Nov 1990, fell within this revenue-hunger period.

Surcharge cachets no longer appear on mail after mid 1991, apparently the tax was still collected in some areas until mid 1990s.

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