What currency does Cambodia use? Khmer Riel, US Dollars and Gold?

Cambodian currency has been in a unique position compared with other ASEAN States and for the last 20+ years has been operating under a dual-currency status.

This is due to the influence of UNTAC period when large amounts of United States Dollars were pumped into the country as well as from foreign investors, NGO's and charities.

The general consensus is that Khmer Riel is used as change for smaller purchases and for anything over USD$10-20 upwards the payment will be made in US Dollars 90% of the time.

Set of Khmer Riel bank notes
Set of Khmer Riel bank notes

In the provinces and outside of urban areas the KHR is used more frequently while in the big cities USD reigns supreme.

$100 US Dollars as Dual Currency in Cambodia
$100 US Dollars as Dual Currency in Cambodia

However if a person is trying to build their savings it is common for them to collect up enough Khmer Riel to change into US Dollars and then as they continue to save they will highly likely convert their USD into 22 or 23k gold jewellery to diversify their savings.

Considering past history it is understandable why more trust is found in strong foreign currency and then gold as the ultimate store of wealth.

Khmer Gold - the ultimate store of wealth
Khmer Gold - the ultimate store of wealth

The National Bank of Cambodia is gently pushing towards longer term single currency using the Khmer Riel but Dollars and gold jewellry will surely retain their premium cache for some time to come.

The NBC has worked hard to create stability with the Riel by linking to the US Dollar with which it hovers at around 4,000 KHR for 1 USD and rarely changes more than a few percent.

 

 

Is Burger King available in Cambodia?

Since 2012/2013 there has been one Burger King franchise operating at Pochentong Airport which was testing the market and serving as a training point for future operations.

Burger King in Cambodia
Burger King in Cambodia

As of February 2014 there is now one new outlet based in the centre of the city in Bong Keng Kong 1 (BKK1) between streets 51 and 310 which has so far been popular with local Khmers, Expats and tourists alike.

Prices remain (relatively) reasonable with most Whopper Meal Deals costing $4-5 as well as smaller items selling for $1-2 like Chicken Wings, French Fries etc.

The Burger King franchise for Cambodia is operated under the same company which successfully introduced "The Pizza Company", "Swensens Ice Cream", "BBQ Chicken" and "Dairy Queen" into the mainstream over the past ten years.

It is expected that Burger King will expand across Phnom Penh and then into key Provincial Cities like Siem Reap, Kampong Cham, Sihanoukville and Battambang.

It's main competitors in the market are the well-known Lucky Burger chain and also KFC which has continued to grow their network of outlets in anticipation of future competition.

McDonalds still has no presence in the country but has just opened their first outlet in Vietnam so the fast food franchise competition in Cambodia might lead to a re-think if all goes well over there.

I still prefer Lucky Burger for the fried chicken and salty fries but it having Burger King as an option is a good sign for a country previously viewed as a low priority for international brands and investors.

 

Are there Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Meetings in Cambodia?

Alcoholics Anonymous in Cambodia
Alcoholics Anonymous in Cambodia

There are regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Cambodia with an active fellowship of Expats, Locals and visiting tourists (who are especially welcome and encouraged to attend).

Phnom Penh currently has 6 AA meetings per week while Siem Reap has 2 AA meetings per week and Sihanoukville also has AA meet ups.

In the tradition and spirit of AA these meetings are open to anyone with a desire to stop drinking or for family or friends in need of support. There are also Alanon meetings held once a week for spouses or family members in fellowship with each other.

Meetings generally consist of readings from the Big Book, the 12 & 12 and Living Sober depending on the day and time of the meetings followed by a period for sharing.

For full details, times and addresses you should check the local AA website which is always kept up-to-date and has dedicated emails and phone numbers to contact if you need help getting to a meeting (or if you just need help): www.aaccambodia.org

 

Playing Facebook in Cambodia

Playing Facebook in Cambodia
Playing Facebook in Cambodia

Following an opening up of the telecom sector in 2006 there was great investment in new operators and upgraded infrastructure with 3G internet eventually becoming affordable and available enough for everyday people to get connected via their phones.

In turn this led to multiple years from 2010 to 2014 of sharp increases in social media users with Facebook becoming the nationwide go-to site for sharing photos, stories, news and gory traffic accident videos.

From just a hundred thousand or so users a few years ago there are now over 1,120,000 users in Cambodia who colloquially use the term "to play" or "playing" Facebook.

With Cambodia's youthful demographic it is no surprise that the biggest proportion of users are between 18 and 24 years old and making up 48.3% of total usage followed by 25 to 34 years old with 30.4%.

While "playing Facebook" is becoming a national pastime for fun and games it is also developing large amounts of interest from businesses as well as political opinion leaders.

With the continued growth of the telecom networks and the ever-growing circles of friends and friends of friends it appears that Facebook's rapid expansion is set to overdrive for the foreseeable future.

 

After the Khmer Rouge what Flags did the People's Republic of Kampuchea, State of Cambodia and UNTAC use?

  • 1979–1989 Flag of the People's Republic of Kampuchea
The Flag of the People's Republic of Kampuchea
The Flag of the People's Republic of Kampuchea

Following the overthrow of the Pol Pot regime by Khmer Rouge defectors known as the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation (or FUNSK) and backed by the Vietnamese who had been provoked and invaded by the Khmer Rouge there was now a new establishment being set up.

While still overtly Communist and Pro-Soviet the new People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) was completely different from the evils and Killing Fields of "Angkar".

Instead of genocidal paranoid destruction the new government began to restore traditional, cultural and some aspects of Buddhist religion to help bring the country back to life.

At the same time the Flag used by the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation was adopted by the PRK government with the 5 towers of Angkor Wat being declared symbolic of the unity of between the country's soldiers, traders, workers, peasants and intellectuals.

 

  • 1989–1991 Flag of the State of Cambodia
The Flag of the State of Cambodia
The Flag of the State of Cambodia

As the Soviet decline led to the inevitable withdrawal of Vietnamese influence it was on April 29–30, 1989 that the "People's Republic of Kampuchea" was changed to a more conciliatory "State of Cambodia" (SOC).

The long-standing blue colour was reintroduced to the Cambodian flag which was merged with the existing PRK flag while other small national acts of reconciliation were further made with new National Anthem, apathetic abolishment of the death penalty and the full reinstatement of Buddhism as the national religion.

 

  • 1992–1993 Flag of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC)
The Flag of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC)
The Flag of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC)

It was on 23rd October in 1991, following extensive negotiations between the key Royalist, SOC/CPP and Khmer Rouge and with the international community, that a settlement was signed by all sides at the Paris Peace Conference.

This effectively gave power of the country other to the UN to supervise a ceasefire, begin repatriating Khmer refugees, work between the different factions to disarm and demob and to get Cambodia set up to hold its first free and fair elections under the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) after which point the country would return to legitimate self-rule.

In March 1992 UNTAC began its mission and while the UNTAC Flag only flew for a single year it signalled the the major turning point of Cambodia's path away from the Killing Fields, its re-entry to the international community and fresh chance to reunify and rebuild.

 

What Cambodian Flags were used by Lon Nol's Khmer Republic, MONATIO and the Khmer Rouge aka Democratic Kampuchea?

  • 1970–1975 Flag of the Khmer Republic
The Flag of Lon Nol's ill-fated Republican Regime
The Flag of Lon Nol's ill-fated Republican Regime

The modern day national Flag of the Kingdom of Cambodia was first adopted in 1948 and continued to fly until a surprise coup against the Monarchy led by Army Chief Lon Nol with alleged CIA support and this new flag.

Following pressure from pro-US politician the Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak a hesitant Lon Nol agreed to depose Prince Sihanouk as Head of State and declared a Khmer Republic to eliminate all Royalist bases of political power.

With Lon Nol as Cambodia's first (and last) President he titled himself Lok Sena Bra Mok Lon Nol and despite promises of democracy and peace his rule was a complete disaster throughout it's 1970-75 existence.

With greater corruption and incompetence than ever before, complete reliance on US aid and a military strategy entirely based on advice from mystics, monks and fortune tellers it is fair to say that the creation of the Flag for Lon Nol's ill-fated Regime was one of his few achievements.

  • 17 April, 1975 Flag of MONATIO
The extremely short lived Flag of the obscure MONATIO
The extremely short lived Flag of the obscure MONATIO

As the failure of the Khmer Republic became ever more immediate a group was created in a manipulative attempt by Lol Non (brother of Lon Nol) who still schemed to somehow present a middle road between Lon Nol supporters and the Khmer Rouge in the hope of compromises to save their skins.

Led by Hem Keth Dara and backed by groups of soldiers and students dressed in crisp black uniforms in a feeble effort to match the war blackened fatigues of the Khmer Rouge soldiers.

It is said they were claiming to help take Phnom Penh on behalf of their Khmer Rouge brothers in arms as they flew the Flag of MONATIO as a goodwill sign in parts of city with the hopes of receiving a better reception from the approaching Khmer Rouge troops.

Naive or just desperate flag wavers of MONATIO
Naive or just desperate flag wavers of MONATIO

Instead these naive flag wavers were rounded up and massacred by the much more war savvy Red Armies of the Khmer Rouge who did not consider such naive manipulation.

However numerous news media still misrepresent both photos of the MONATIO soldiers and Flag as those of the Khmer Rouge, including a number of ABC Australia TV news reports viewed as recently as 2007!

  • 1975–1979 Flag of Democratic Kampuchea
Official "Khmer Rouge Flag" of Democratic Kampuchea
Official "Khmer Rouge Flag" of Democratic Kampuchea

After the fall of Phnom Penh along with the Lon Nol regime on 17 April 1975 a new political era ominously began with the emptying of every single inhabitant of Phnom Penh and all other urban areas as the key objective of "Angkar" aka the Khmer Rouge.

Since neo-Maoist post-revolutionary transformation of society was the first priority of Angkar it wasn't until 5th January, 1976 that the proclamation of the Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea was made.

Under Article 16 of the Constitution presented to the United Nations it was explained the design and significance of the Kampuchean national flag as follows:

The background is red, with a yellow three-towered temple in the middle - The red background symbolises the revolutionary movement, the resolute and valiant struggle of the Kampuchean people for the liberation, defense, and construction of their country.

The yellow temple symbolises the national traditions of the Kampuchean people, who are defending and building the country to make it ever more prosperous.

Due to a sickening turn of Cold War politics the Khmer Rouge flag was not torn down at the United Nations in New York after the fall of Pol Pot's Regime in 1979 but continued to fly for most of the 1980's due to anti-Soviet bloc point scoring by the US, UK and other like minded fools.Ll

 

What were the Flags of Cambodia as a French Colonial Protectorate and under Imperial Japanese World War Two Occupation?

Prior to Cambodia's Independence in 1953 the country was under the protection and effective control of two major world powers, Colonial France and Imperial Japan, and both countries established their rule with new national flags.

It was after hundreds of years of decline as a regional power and encroachment from being caught between Thailand to the west and Vietnam in the east that Cambodia willingly became a French Protectorate to help sustain its existence and so from 1863 until March 1945 the country flew one of the first modern day Flags of Cambodia:

Flag of Cambodia under French Colonial Protectorate
Flag of Cambodia under French Colonial Protectorate

The Flag of the French Protectorate fell victim to the changing political and military situation during the Second World War and from March to October 1945 a new Flag was raised under a very short-lived Pro-Tokyo puppet state that was established after Japanese occupation of Indochina and Cambodia:

Flag of Cambodia under Imperial Japanese Occupation
Flag of Cambodia under Imperial Japanese Occupation

After Japan pulled out of its occupations in mainland Asia followed by their subsequent surrender the French once again began to reassertion their colonial control of Indochina with the Flag of the French Protectorate flying once more in Cambodia from October 1945 up till 1948 when calls for indendence could no longer be ignored and new National Flags would soon rise in competition.

 

Is Modern Day Cambodia Still a Communist Country?

Communism in Cambodia?
Communism in Cambodia?

No, modern day Cambodia is no longer a communist country.

Despite gaining Cold War infamy Cambodia has been firmly re-established as a democratic parliamentary constitutional monarchy since the early 1990's.

In fact the country had existed under such a democratic framework since independence from France in 1953 up until a CIA backed Republican coup by Army Chief Lon Nol against popular leader Prince Sihanouk in 1970.

The Republican regime was both incredibly corrupt and incompetent lasting 5 worsening years before America pulled out of the region and Lon Nol fled into exile in Hawaii while Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975.

While the "Khmer Rouge", aka the Communist Party of Kampuchea or "Angkar", stand out in Cambodian history their actual time in control of the country lasted just 3 years, 8 months and 20 days as a ultra Maoist style of Communism until 1979 when Pol Pot's regime lost control of the country to Vietnamese Army backed resistance fighters who established a more Soviet style government.

For the duration of the 1980's the country's newly installed government remained under the political influence of their Communist Russian-Vietnamese allies right up to the collapse of the Soviet Union that made political change inevitable.

Following the vacuum of Soviet influence the United Nations brokered negotiations between Cambodia's warring factions with the Royalist Funcinpec, the Khmer Rouge and the ruling Cambodian People's Party agreeing to the 1991 Paris Peace Accords which paved the way for a return to democracy and a permanent end to Communism as a political force in Cambodia.

Navigation and Travels in Cambodia with iPhones and Apple Maps iOS Mobile App

Google Maps and Google Earth have always been great but since launching in 2012 I have found the Apple Maps mobile app is pretty useful as it uses data from Tom Tom and is pre-installed on all iOS devices including iPhone, iPod and iPads that so many well-off local Khmer and numerous expats like to have so much.

Apple Maps look at Cambodia
Apple Maps look at Cambodia

While much criticised upon the initial launch of the app I found that Apple Maps so far has lived up to my personal requirements during regular usage as a tool to navigate around Phnom Penh for meetings in randomly numbered backstreets and unfamiliar locations that I am able to negotiate with a quick tap of my iPhone.

In fact often times I have found myself thinking I was using my old Google Maps app when upon closer inspection my travel success is courtesy of Apple Maps.

Stand out features include a cool 3D mode detailing the topography of Standard as well as Satellite and Hybrid map versions that provides a more useful perspective overall.

Apple Maps Hybrid Satellite View of Phnom Penh
Apple Maps Hybrid Satellite View of Phnom Penh

Your mileage may vary however since my usage has been restricted only to the Phnom Penh urban landscape and never yet had a chance to use in other provinces or rural areas so when travelling in the rest of Cambodia having both Apple Maps and Google Maps on your iPhone is highly recommended.

 

 

Google Maps, Google Earth & Street View Cars Mapping in Cambodia

Google Maps and Google Earth are a very popular method of navigation for both tourists and locals in Cambodia for many years now.

Google Maps & Google Earth in Cambodia
Google Maps & Google Earth in Cambodia

The boom in smartphone usage across the world has made it a common sight to see people finding their way around urban areas like Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Battambang as well as across rural provinces using their iPhone or Android phone's Google Map mobile applications.

The Sattelite, Traffic Roads and Hybrid Maps are all indispensable tools whether you are foreign tourist on a tour of Angkor Wat or if you are a local Khmer plotting a car journey from A to B on the maps, which thanks to Google are considerably accurate in pinpointing your exact location and giving directions for all types of car, public transport or even travels by foot.

No longer seen as a 1980's Cold War pariah or a dangerously developing country the recent presence of the mighty Google Street View Cars driving around taking images on the streets in 2013 are now helping put modern day Cambodia firmly back in its rightful place on the international map!

Google Street View Car in Cambodia
Google Street View Car in Cambodia