25 January 2015

Cambodia to Pakistan UNTAC Mail

Pakistan was one of the 45 countries which contributed to the UNTAC operations in Cambodia from 1992 to 1993.  Since the contingent did not have their own military mail service, Cambodia Post and the French military mail franchised by Cambodian Post for international delivery were the two options for them to send letters.

Here is a Phnom Penh to Lahore mail sent by a Pakistani UNTAC CIVPOL Kampong Speu Province inspector.  Although he was in Phnom Penh, he used the UNTAC Bangkok Headquarters PO Box as his return address likely because of the unreliable incoming mail service of Cambodia Post at the time.

The cover was machine cancelled at the Phnom Penh Central Post Office on 27th October 1992 with an arrival postmark of Lahore on 18th November, it was a 3 week travel.  Due to rapid inflation and shortage of high denomination stamps, postage meter was extensively used on mail in 1992, this cover is a testimonial of the phenomenon with 410r meter postage and an additional 6r postage stamp franked on the far left of the cover.

The following is a Pakistani UNTAC mail from Phnom Penh to Lahore handled by the French military mail franchised by Cambodia Post for international delivery.  This service was offered from July 1992 to November 1993.

The Pakistani battalion did not only helped in the electoral support in Preah Vihear Province as assigned by the UNTAC, mine clearing, disarmament of different fractions, infrastructure repair and strengthening, language and vocational training for civilians are among many of the aids provided by the more than 1100 Pakistani contingent members from May 1992 to August 1993.

13 January 2015

1979 Vietnamese Military Mail from Cambodia

In response to the Khmer Rouge's cross-border offence, Viet Nam launched a full scale invasion of Cambodia in late 1978.

During the invasion and occupation period which last for a decade, most Vietnamese combatants in Cambodia wrote home using the Vietnamese military mail service.  Mail was taken from Cambodia to southern Viet Nam by pouch and then returned to the Vietnamese mail stream for delivery. The following is a sample of it.

In the return address "HT" stands for "Hòm Thư", "PO Box" in Vietnamese.  "7A" indicates that it is from Tactical Zone #7.  Not all Tactical Zone #7 mail was from Cambodia, so it is vital for collectors to find further information for clarification.  For this cover, the acronym "C.P.C." which stands for "Campuchia" in Vietnamese is the clue that tells the sender's location.  It was discouraged to include geographic names in the return address, this sender was simply a rule breaker.

While the vast majority of Vietnamese military mail from Cambodia was postmarked in Saigon of Viet Nam, this mail was in Mỹ Tho.  Mỹ Tho, capital of Tiền Giang Province, is a Mekong Delta region city located 70km from Saigon.  The cover has two strikes of the Mỹ Tho postmark yet no stamp franked when I acquired it, the stamp might have fallen off if there ever was one, I tend to conclude that it has no stamp as no paper thinning is observed.  The date shown on the postmark is 26th July 1979.

Another Mỹ Tho postmark appears on the back of the cover, but dated one day after, 27th July, 1979.

The cover is roughly made with lined writing paper, not a surprise as in those days everything was in shortage in Cambodia and Viet Nam.

5 January 2015

Sihanouk's Residence in Beijing

This 2001 mail to France with China Post Beijing Zhengyi Road branch postage meter is from the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk's secretariat in the capital of PR China.  The mail content is a private correspondence of the former Cambodian monarch.

The King Father's Beijing residence was located in #15 Dong Jiao Min Xiang (return address shown on the top left corner of the cover).  Dong Jiao Min Xiang is a quiet tree lined street near the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, the street and the nearby area has been an embassy district since the Ming dynasty in Chinese history (1368-1644).  In 1861 the French were granted a Manchu prince's palace there to be their embassy.  The palace compound was rebuilt in early 1900s as #15 Dong Jiao Min Xiang where continued to serve as the French Embassy until WWII.

General Lon Nol launched a successful coup d'état in March 1970, consequently the ancient Cambodian monarchy was overthrown.  This made the King Father go into exile for the next three decades spending 2/3 of his time in the Chinese capital and the rest in Pyongyang of North Korea until he returned to Cambodia in 1991.

When staying In Pyongyang, the King Father resided at the Changsuwon Palace which Kim Il-Sung built for him in 1974; when In Beijing, the old French Embassy compound was where he called home.  The late Chinese premier Chou En-lai renovated the compound in 1970 and turned it into a luxurious residence for the King Father's comfort.  The residence includes a swimming pool and a tennis court, an entertainment club, a gymnasium, and a large mansion as the living quarters.

Entrance of #15 Dong Jiao Min Xiang. (courtesy: China News)

Main Mansion of  #15 Dong Jiao Min Xiang.  (courtesy: Jing Bao)

The compound remained the King Father's official residence in Beijing after he was crowned again in 1993 till he passed away in 2012.

Dong Jiao Min Xiang literally means "the east section of Diplomats Lane".  Yes, there is a west section of the street, the two sections are divided by the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall.  West section was a banking district in the early 20th century.