|Preface Last Updated: 6/9/2005
Cambodia, a fledgling democracy under a system of constitutional
monarchy, is slowly emerging from decades of violent civil war,
foreign occupation and neglect. Cambodia is among the poorest
countries in the world. Eighty percent of its population of 13.6
million engages in subsistence farming, with rice as the primary
crop. Economic deprivation and poor health characterize life for
most citizens. The rate of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases is
among the highest in Southeast Asia. The education levels of
Cambodia’s population still show the devastating effects of the
Khmer Rouge’s genocidal policies from 1975–1979, which devastated
the entire population but particularly targeted the educated elite
for torture and death. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died
during this period, either murdered by the Khmer Rouge or killed
from overwork, starvation, and disease. Notwithstanding these
serious social problems, Cambodia is presently enjoying a measure of
peace and stability it has not seen in more than a generation. With
support and prodding from the U.S. and other donors, the government
is making slow and uneven but discernible progress on reforms to
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 6/9/2005 3:47 AM
The Kingdom of Cambodia covers an area of 181,040 sq. km. (69,900
sq. mi.), approximately the size of Missouri. It is bordered on the
west and northwest by Thailand, on the north by Laos, and on the
east and southeast by Vietnam. Cambodia has a short coastline along
the Gulf of Thailand where Sihanoukville, the only deepwater port
and popular weekend destination, is located.
Cambodia’s topography consists primarily of flat, low-lying
plains that are drained by the Tonle Sap Lake and Mekong and Bassac
Rivers. The Mekong River flows more than 500 kilometers through
Cambodia, which is up to 5 kilometers wide in some places. The rich
sediment deposited during the rainy season when the Mekong River
swells and floods adds to the fertile growing conditions that exist
throughout the Upper Mekong Delta. The Tonle Sap Lake, located in
western central Cambodia, connects with the Mekong River at Phnom
Penh via a 100-kilometer long natural channel. During the dry season
when the water level of the Mekong is low, water flows southeast out
of the Tonle Sap Lake into the Mekong River. However, during the
rainy season when the level of the Mekong rises, an extraordinary
phenomenon takes place. The swollen and swift-moving Mekong River
causes the flow of water in the channel linking the Tonle Sap Lake
with the Mekong to reverse, forcing water to drain back into the
Tonle Sap and, over time, causing the lake to more than double in
size. As a result of this unique occurrence, the Tonle Sap is one of
the richest sources of freshwater fish in the world.
The central lowlands are characterized by seemingly endless, flat
rice paddies, fields of reeds and tall grass, and fields of
cultivated crops such as corn, tobacco, sesame, and tapioca.
Sprinkled throughout are tall sugar palm trees and occasional wooded
areas. Rice is grown on 90% of the cultivated land. However, only
two-thirds of the land cultivated before 1970 is cultivated today,
largely as a result of the danger of land mines and a lack of
equipment and irrigation. In addition, Cambodian paddies produce
about half of the yield of Thai or Vietnamese paddies. In recent
years, large parts of Cambodia have experienced alternating droughts
and floods which have further reduced the reliability of the
Cambodian rice harvest.
Historically, heavy forest dominated the landscape in areas away
from the lake and rivers. Nearly a decade of extensive logging, both
legal and illegal, has greatly diminished the area covered by mature
forests. Cambodia’s significant mountainous areas lie in the
southwest (the Cardamom Mountains), the south (the Elephant
Mountains), and the north (the Dangrek Mountains). Most of the
country lies at an elevation of less than 100 meters above sea
level. The highest elevation is Phnom Aoral (100 km northwest of
Phnom Penh) at 1,813 meters. The mountains have retained more forest
than the lowlands, with virgin rain forests in the southwest,
evergreen and mangrove forests along the coastal strip and towering
broadleaf evergreen forests in the north. Much of the north and
northeast is covered by a thick jungle of vines, bamboo, palm trees,
and other assorted ground plants. The eastern provinces support
large (although old) rubber plantations.
Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia since the mid-15th century
and the country’s largest city, has a population estimated at 1.3
million. The capital has seen rapid population growth since 2001 and
beginning in 2003 has experienced a major construction boom. The
city lies at the confluence (called the four faces) of the Mekong
River, the Bassac River, and the channel flowing from the Tonle Sap
Phnom Penh is a sprawling city, with a mix of wide, tree-lined
boulevards and narrow dirt roads, large French-colonial houses,
apartment buildings, and small thatched-roof wooden dwellings. Many
recent residents have relocated to the capital from rural provinces,
hoping for a better life. The infrastructure of Phnom Penh city has
improved dramatically in the last few years, but many basic services
are still lacking. Despite traffic signals and a proliferation of
driving schools, traffic remains chaotic; however, it tends to flow
in a slow enough pattern that major car accidents are uncommon. In
addition, the growing numbers of motorbikes coupled with many roads
that remain in poor condition make driving safely a constant
Upon leaving Phnom Penh, the scenery immediately becomes rural;
no other city rivals Phnom Penh in size and infrastructure.
Cambodia’s second largest city, Battambang (population approximately
200,000, is located about 300 kilometers from the capital to the
northwest and travel time is about 4-6 hours. About an hour drive to
the southwest of Phnom Penh are the port and beaches of
Sihanoukville on the Gulf of Thailand. The temple complex at Siem
Reap is about a five-hour drive from Phnom Penh. In general, the
national road infrastructure has greatly improved over the last few
The climate in Cambodia is relatively consistent throughout the
country — hot and humid. There are two distinct seasons: a dry
season that lasts from November to May, and a rainy season lasting
from June to October. The country has an average annual rainfall of
between 50 and 75 inches with the southwestern mountains, the area
with the highest rainfall, receiving nearly 200 inches per year. The
months from December to February are the coolest months of the year,
when temperatures can drop to the mid to upper 60ºF (25–27ºC). April
is the hottest month, when temperatures regularly exceed 100ºF
(40ºC). The average relative humidity is 81%. Although the heat and
humidity, particularly during April and May, can be uncomfortable
and fatiguing, all U.S. Embassy residences and offices are
air-conditioned. During the conclusion of the rainy season, periodic
flooding in Phnom Penh can make driving a problem due to the city's
old and dysfunctional drainage system. Despite this, standing water
usually drains away within a matter of hours.
Population Last Updated: 6/9/2005 3:49 AM
The population of Cambodia is approximately 13.6 million, with an
annual growth rate of 1.8% (2004 census update). The country is the
most homogeneous of the Southeast Asian nations, with ethnic-Khmers
comprising nearly 95% of the population. There are small numbers of
ethnic-Chinese and ethnic-Vietnamese, and a small Cham Muslim
population (around 5%) which was savagely persecuted by the Khmer
Rouge during the 1970s. Cambodia’s ethnic minorities (hill tribes),
numbering around 100,000, reside east of the Mekong River in the
provinces of Rattankiri, Mondulkiri and Stung Treng. Years of
violent and bloody civil war have taken its toll on the Cambodian
population and are reflected in the demographics of the country.
Among adults over 35, there are substantially fewer men than would
be expected, a consequence of the high male mortality during the
1970s. Fully 50% of the population is under the age of 20.
The population of Cambodia is predominantly rural. According to
the 1998 census (the first census since 1962), 84% of the population
lives in the rural areas. Approximately 80% are employed in
agriculture or fishing. Nearly 90% of the population resides in the
central lowlands. The average population density in Cambodia is 64
persons per square kilometer.
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer, and it is spoken
throughout the country. Unlike Thai and Vietnamese, Khmer is a
non-tonal language with many disyllabic words. The Khmer script
descends from Sanskrit and the language borrows a number of words
from Pali. It is not directly related to either Thai or Vietnamese.
During the period of French colonization, educated Cambodians also
learned French. Today, however, the foreign language of choice is
English. Young people crowd English-language classes and practice
their language skills with foreigners at every opportunity.
Buddhism is the state religion in Cambodia, and the vast majority
of Cambodian people are Buddhist. Cambodians practice Theravada
Buddhism, the original branch of the religion that originated in
India. Every male Buddhist is expected to become a monk for at least
a short period of his life. Under the Khmer Rouge, religious
practice was forbidden. Monks were executed, and many of the
country’s 3,000 wats (Buddhist temples) were severely damaged or
destroyed. In recent years, despite a critical lack of resources,
great emphasis has been placed on restoring and rebuilding the wats.
Much of the funding for the restoration and construction of wats has
come from Cambodians living overseas who wish to provide something
of social and religious value to their home villages.
Cambodian Cham mosques can be found in Phnom Penh and in many
villages to the north and east along the banks of the Mekong River.
Public Institutions Last Updated: 6/9/2005 3:52 AM
Historically, the Khmer nation was powerful and influential
throughout mainland Southeast Asia. From the 9th to the 14th
century, the Khmer Empire successfully ruled much of the area that
is today Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. During the 14th and 15th
centuries, the power of the Khmer Empire waned, and a succession of
kings alternately fought with neighboring Vietnam and Thailand. In
1863, Cambodia signed a treaty of protectorate with France, and over
the course of the next century became established as a French
colony. Cambodia, under the leadership of King Norodom Sihanouk,
declared independence from France in 1953. Shortly thereafter, King
Sihanouk abdicated the throne to his elderly father in order to be
elected Prime Minister and then Chief of State. Sihanouk severed
diplomatic relations with the U.S. for several years beginning in
1965. In 1970, when Sihanouk was temporarily out of the country,
General Lon Nol staged a coup d’état, and replaced Sihanouk as chief
of state. Sihanouk established a government-in-exile operating out
of Beijing, and became a figurehead leader of the group known as the
Khmer Rouge. Violent fighting led to the deaths of several hundred
thousand Cambodian people between the years of 1970 and 1975.
On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh and
systematically and methodically emptied the city of all residents,
as it did all other urban areas. For almost 4 years (1975–79), the
Khmer Rouge attempted to implement a totally agrarian-based
self-sufficient society, forcing Cambodians to work in the
agricultural fields. Under the genocidal leadership of the Khmer
Rouge, numerous Cambodians were tortured and executed and almost an
entire generation of educated and professionally trained citizens
was methodically annihilated. Widespread starvation, disease, and
exhaustion contributed to the massive number of deaths that occurred
under Khmer Rouge rule. During this period, the country’s basic
infrastructure — systems of transportation, communication,
education, health, economics, and government — was destroyed.
In December 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia, forced the Khmer
Rouge westward to the Thai border and installed a new government
headed by Heng Samrin. For more than a decade, Vietnam presided over
a chaotic situation in Cambodia, plagued by continued guerrilla
warfare with resistance groups, famine, international isolation, and
International pressure and a declining economic situation at home
forced Vietnam to end its occupation of Cambodia in 1989. The
signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements was a watershed event,
which ended almost 13 years of Cambodian civil war and established
the country as a democracy via a UN-established peacekeeping force,
the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). In
May 1993, Cambodia held its first free and open elections. A
constitutionally based government took office in September 1993,
with Prince Norodom Sihanouk again elevated to King and made head of
state. Prince Norodom Ranariddh, leader of the royalist FUNCINPEC
party (the French acronym for Cambodian National Front for an
Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia) and Hun Sen,
chief of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) served as co-Prime
Ministers. In July 1997, when fighting broke out between forces of
the two coalition partners, Prince Ranariddh and other senior
members of his party, including legislators fled to Thailand. In
July 1998, national elections resulted in a plurality for the CPP.
FUNCINPEC officials returned to Cambodia to form a new coalition
government in November 1998. Hun Sen continued to serve as Prime
Minister and Prince Ranariddh became President of the National
Assembly. A subsequent election in July 2003 led to virtually one
year of negotiation among the three parties and formation of a
two-party coalition of the CPP and FUNCINPEC in July 2004. Hun Sen
remained Prime Minister and Prince Ranariddh was again selected as
National Assembly President. King Sihanouk retired in October 2004
and was replaced by his son, King Norodom Sihamoni.
The Kingdom of Cambodia is divided into three municipalities and
21 provinces that in turn are broken down into districts, communes,
and villages. Seats in the National Assembly are allocated
proportionally by province. The National Assembly, the leading
legislative body, is currently comprised of 123 elected members
representing three political parties. The CPP with 73 seats and
FUNCINPEC with 26 seats are coalition partners. The Sam Rainsy Party
(SRP), holding 24 seats, is the opposition party. A Senate
comprising 61 members was created in 1999 by an amendment to the
Constitution, but it has little power or influence. An election for
most of the Senate seats is tentatively scheduled for January 2006.
Today, the Kingdom of Cambodia is struggling to overcome decades
of civil war, isolation, and massive destruction by the Khmer Rouge
of its population, infrastructure, and national identity and
culture. The government is still struggling to reestablish basic
levels of transportation, communication, food and water supplies,
and government services, especially in the countryside. Poverty is a
serious problem, and living standards and social indicators place it
among the poorest countries in the world. A severe lack of
government resources, widespread corruption and absence of a rule of
law have hampered efforts to strengthen Cambodia’s economy and
improve living standards. The government budget relies on a heavy
influx of assistance from donor countries.
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 6/9/2005 3:59 AM
Cambodia is a country with a diverse history of traditional
architecture, music, dance and handicrafts, all of which suffered
near cultural devastation under the Khmer Rouge regime. Pagodas and
temples, museums, libraries, and theaters were routinely ransacked
and destroyed. Between 1975 and 1979, the rich history and culture
that had accumulated over thousands of years in the form of
buildings, sculptures, paintings, and manuscripts was ruthlessly
wiped out. In Phnom Penh, only a few buildings of traditional wooden
architecture were spared destruction by the Khmer Rouge.
Today, the country is struggling to restore, rebuild, and
resurrect its cultural institutions. Historically, Cambodia is
perhaps best known for its unique and impressive architecture that
climaxed during the Angkorian period (the 9th to the 14th century).
At that time Khmer art and architecture were widely influential
throughout Southeast Asia. The most magnificent example of Khmer
architecture can be seen at the world famous temples of Angkor,
including Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Angkor Thom. Although ransacked
by various parties, these spectacular temples remain one of the
architectural splendors of the world. With international assistance,
a variety of conservation efforts are underway to protect and
preserve these national monuments.
The National Museum of Khmer Art and Archaeology, located in
Phnom Penh, has some of the finest examples of Khmer art and
sculpture. Pagodas around the country are in various states of
refurbishment and repair: the Royal Palace and its surrounding
compound — including the Silver Pagoda, with its floor covered with
5,000 silver tiles — has undergone an impressive renovation and has
sections that are open to the public for tours.
Cambodia’s classical dance, with its graceful and controlled
movements and colorful silk costumes, is performed to the
accompaniment of traditional string and percussion instruments and
vocalists. Under the Khmer Rouge, 90% of Cambodia’s classical
dancers were killed, but the government has reestablished a national
dancing troupe. Theater in Cambodia received a severe setback when
the Bassac Theater, Cambodia’ national theater, caught fire in 1994
and was destroyed. The structure was rebuilt and today houses the
National Cultural Center. A complete renovation of Chaktomuk
Conference Hall was also completed in 2001. This facility is used to
stage ceremonies, workshops and art performances. Post’s Public
Affairs Section sponsored artist-in-residence programs at this venue
in 2001 and 2002.
Like most institutions in Cambodia, the educational system
suffered greatly under the Khmer Rouge. After 1975, the educational
system ceased to exist. In addition, the country was left with a
severe lack of trained teachers, many of whom were executed during
the Khmer Rouge regime. School buildings, books, supplies and
printing facilities were all destroyed. However, a major effort in
the 1980s to reestablish a national school system resulted in the
opening of nearly 4,700 primary schools and 440 secondary schools
throughout the country. Today, there are close to 5,500 primary
schools with nearly 2.5 million primary school students and more
than 500 secondary schools with just under 400,000 secondary school
students, as well as a university and technical school population in
Phnom Penh. However, quality of education remains low. Primary
school graduates risk lapsing into illiteracy and secondary school
graduates lack the required level of knowledge, particularly in the
fields of mathematics, science and foreign languages, to gain
One of the major problems facing the educational system in
Cambodia is a continued shortage of competent and qualified
teachers. For example, approximately 10% of all primary school
teachers themselves have only a primary school education, while 80%
have just a lower secondary education. While the situation has
improved from 1994, when one-third of primary school teachers had
only a primary school education, much remains to be done. In
addition, teaching salaries are so low, $25 per month that new
teachers are discouraged from entering the field (It is estimated
that average teacher salaries cover less than the cost of a typical
household’s monthly rice consumption.) Educational resources of all
types are lacking; only a little over 8% of the projected 1999
national budget was allocated for education. Adult literacy in
Cambodia has hovered around 35% for the past 5 years.
The Ministry of Education continues to raise standards and work
toward reform of the educational system. As a result, a growing
number of private universities have opened to meet the demand posed
by increasing numbers of students at this level. There are 25
institutions of higher education in Cambodia today. Many
universities have established new departments to meet current market
needs, such as tourism, mass media/communication, information
technology, international relations, and natural resource
preservation/environmental studies. Through open competition, both
public and private institutions are working to improve school
curriculum by taking advantage of opportunities for university
affiliation programs both within the region, particularly with
Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, and with universities in the U.S.
Students at the secondary education level are required to study a
second language, English or French, from grade 7. Today, the
majority of students prefer to learn English. The Ministry of
Education faces a constant struggle to recruit competent English
teachers to place in secondary school in order to meet this demand.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 6/9/2005 4:15 AM
Cambodia remains a very poor country (per capita income is under
$300 annually) although it is reasonably well endowed with natural
resources. There is great disparity in incomes between city dwellers
in Phnom Penh and the 85% of the population that remains in the
countryside. While 40% of Cambodia’s population is officially poor,
most of that poverty is concentrated in the countryside. There is a
growing urban/rural divide with the city dwellers doing relatively
well and those in the countryside seeing living standards mostly
stagnate and even fall. It is easy to be fooled by the bustle of
Phnom Penh and assume that Cambodia is developing rapidly. It is
also important to remember that only about 15% of Cambodia’s
population lives in urban areas.
Cambodia’s social indicators rank among the lowest in Asia. In
the wake of the formation of the first Royal Cambodian Government (RGC)
in 1993, assistance from the international community and foreign
direct investment led to a surge in economic activity, with real GDP
growth peaking at 7.6% in 1995. However, the twin effects of the
July 5–6, 1997 factional fighting in Phnom Penh and the Southeast
Asian financial crisis led to a pronounced economic slowdown in
1997–98. In somewhat of a rebound, Cambodian real GDP growth from
2001-2004 averaged around 5%, but the downward trend in foreign
direct investment and low domestic investment has continued. Most
international and domestic businesses cite the risk associated with
an incomplete and inconsistently applied legal framework as the main
barrier to investment and business growth.
Agriculture, primarily subsistence rice farming, accounts for
approximately 43% of GDP and up to 85% of employment. Most areas of
Cambodia produce one rice crop a year, with planting taking place in
June after the onset of the rainy season and harvesting occurring in
December. Cambodia’s rice industry is centered in Battambang
province in northwest Cambodia, and rice wholesalers operating in
Battambang city set nationwide rice prices. Livestock accounts for a
further 13% of GDP and consists primarily of small-scale family
farms. Fishing, particularly around the Tonle Sap Lake, is also an
important activity; although over fishing is an increasing concern
(fish is the major source of protein in the Cambodian diet).
Cambodia’s manufacturing sector is small (20% of GDP), but it has
grown rapidly from nearly nothing a decade ago. The garment sector
has expanded rapidly since Cambodia received Normal Trading Status
from the U.S. in 1996 and a series of yearly duty-free quotas under
the unique Bilateral Textile Agreement. The Agreement granted
Cambodia specific levels of export quotas for respecting core
international labor standards as well as Cambodia’s own labor laws.
The Agreement led to a proliferation of unions and a growing
consciousness in Cambodia about the importance of workers' rights.
The “Made in Cambodia” label promises not just quality but respect
for workers as well.
The Bilateral Textile Agreement came to a conclusion with the end
of the worldwide system of quotas at the end of 2004. By the
beginning of 2005, the garment sector employed over 250,000 people
in over 200 factories. Ninety percent of garment workers are women.
Exports of garments to the U.S. in 2004 were valued at $1.4 billion.
The value of total exports from the garment sector topped $2.1
billion. The Cambodian government has publicly pledged, despite the
direct trade-labor link that the Bilateral Textile Agreement
demanded, to maintain its commitment to international labor
standards. The favorable reputation for Cambodian textile exports
created by this commitment is currently Cambodia’s only real
competitive advantage. The Cambodian government must take additional
steps to help a significant portion of its garment sector survive.
Cambodia will need to reduce producer costs not only by lowering the
cost of input factors such as energy but also by dampening a growing
culture of corruption that threatens to make future production in
Cambodia economically untenable.
Alarming levels of deforestation and illegal logging since 1994
have left Cambodia with less than 50% of its land area forested.
Under strong pressure from the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund, and other foreign donors, the Cambodian Government
froze logging in all concessions in 2000. Efforts to improve
monitoring and sustainability of the forestry concessions have
largely failed. Illegal logging continues on a scale that is hard to
quantify. If Cambodia had been able to restructure its forestry
industry along more sustainable lines, the sector could have made a
significant contribution to development both through employment and
royalty payments to the national budget.
The tourism industry continues to develop rapidly with Cambodia
welcoming over a million visitors for the first time in 2004.
Tourism development has centered on the Angkor Wat temple complex in
northwestern Cambodia, but the northeast provinces of Ratanakiri and
Mondulkiri are potential ecotourism sites. A series of casinos
located at Poipet, just across the border from Thailand, draw
several thousand, mostly Thai, visitors per day.
Although economic growth figures look good on paper, that growth
has been concentrated in Phnom Penh, and to a lesser degree in the
other main cities. Wide disparities between life in the cities and
the countryside remain and, if anything, are likely to grow. For
now, economic development and growth will depend heavily on
international aid and assistance in the short term. For viable,
long-term growth, Cambodia must do a better job at creating a legal
and commercial environment that will attract direct foreign
investment and domestic investment in fixed assets that will create
jobs. Without that job creation, the domestic bubble facing Cambodia
over the next decade – hundreds of thousands of new job seekers
annually coming from the half of the population under 20 – could
overwhelm Cambodia’s hard-won political and social stability.
Transportation Last Updated: 6/9/2005 4:31 AM
Automobiles Last Updated: 6/9/2005 4:37 AM
Virtually, all personnel at post have personally owned vehicles (POVs).
Most have been shipped from the U.S. or a previous post; the time
between the Washington area pick-up to release by Cambodian customs
is about 2 months. New and used vehicles can be purchased locally.
Cars can also be rented. Monthly rental costs for a 4-door sedan
with air-conditioning (a necessity in Cambodia) range from $400 to
$600 dollars. Costs for renting a 4-wheel-drive vehicle are higher,
$75 a day and up. Private cars and drivers can also be hired on
short notice for a daily rate of approximately $25 in town and
$30–$35 for travel in the countryside outside of Phnom Penh.
Both new and secondhand automobiles are available locally for
purchase. Available brands include Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes,
and Jeep. Air-conditioning is a necessity. Motorcycles and smaller
“motos” are also available for rent or purchase. There are no helmet
laws in Cambodia. However, protective gear is not difficult to find.
Americans who anticipate wanting to operate a motorcycle should
bring a helmet to post. Given poor local road conditions and general
poor driving across the local populace, motorcycle accidents are all
too common and personnel are advised against using this means of
A Cambodian drivers’ license is required for driving in Cambodia.
The State/ICASS Customs and Shipping office can assist you in
obtaining a driver's license. Third-party-liability insurance is
required under U.S. Government regulation for all U.S. employees who
own and operate a motor vehicle. Several local companies provide
this coverage and rates are reasonable. Additional liability
insurance may be obtained through U.S. companies such as Clements.
Automobile fuel is sold by the liter and is available in regular and
premium grade. Unleaded gasoline is widely available throughout the
country at Caltex, Shell, Tella and Sokimex gas stations. Fuel costs
about $0.80 per liter. Automobile maintenance and repair services
are available at reasonable rates. Because the level of
auto-mechanic training and experience is basic and not highly
technical, mechanically simple cars are preferable and easier to
repair. Many roads in Phnom Penh are dirt, and many asphalt roads
have huge potholes. Most are subject to flooding during the rainy
In Phnom Penh and throughout Cambodia, vehicles drive on the
right-hand side of the road as they do in the U.S. Right-hand drive
cars are now illegal; however, many are still on the roads. Traffic
conditions in Phnom Penh are chaotic and dangerous, primarily
because traffic regulations are rarely enforced. Few Khmer drivers
have had any type of formal driving instruction, and most do not
have a license. Large cargo trucks, cars, and a plethora of motos,
bicycles, cyclos, a few ox-pulled carts, and pedestrians share the
streets. The absence of stop signs or functioning traffic lights at
many intersections and beggars in the middle of the streets add to
the confusion and danger of driving in Phnom Penh. Additionally,
some informal but significant “rules of the road” may prove
initially confusing to American drivers. For example, in Cambodia,
the meaning of another car flashing its headlights is “you are in my
driving path and I am not yielding my right of way to you.
Traffic conditions at night can be challenging, particularly
outside of the city. Travelers are strongly advised against driving
on roads outside of Phnom Penh after dark. The roads are dark and
many cars, motos, cyclos and bicycles travel at night without any
lights. During the rainy season when roads frequently become
flooded, drivers should beware of potentially slippery conditions
and hidden potholes.
Local Transportation Last Updated: 6/9/2005 4:38 AM
There is no public transportation to get around Phnom Penh, such
as city buses or metro.
Car Taxis: A few private taxi companies and several major hotels
can provide taxi services. However, unlike most other major cities,
you will find no taxis traveling through the city looking for fares.
Taxis must be ordered via telephone. Cars provided by the major
hotels are relatively expensive (about $5 for short trips across
town) and the private taxi companies run about $3-$5 per a trip in
town. Taxis are always available at the airport and cost $7 to come
into the city center. These taxis, though, only run from the airport
to the city (and not the city to the airport!) and are not allowed
to pick up incidental travelers. Most Americans drive to and from
work and to social activities or take the Embassy shuttle which runs
after-hours and on weekends and holidays.
"Moto taxis” or “motos” — small motorcycles that accept
passengers to sit behind the driver — are the primary means of
transportation used by the local populace, but not recommended for
both safety and security reasons. Post regularly hears reports of
passengers being dragged off the backs of motos by would-be thieves,
sometimes in collusion with the moto driver. Personnel are advised
to exercise extreme caution on any mode of transportation at
night-and particularly when seated behind an unknown driver.
Cyclos — large tricycles with a passenger seat in front and a
peddler or driver behind — are another widely used form of
transportation and also not recommended for security and safety
reasons. Both moto and cyclo transportation are inexpensive (usually
costing around 2,000 riels — about $0.50; prices are negotiable) and
are readily available.
Given the dangers of night travel and limited public
transportation options, post offers a “fee-for-service” shuttle van
available to official U.S. personnel and family members during
weekday evenings from 5 PM to midnight and from 8 AM to midnight on
weekends and holidays. Cost of a one-way shuttle trip is currently
$1 and shuttle tickets are available through the Embassy cashier.
Post has made every effort to locate houses within close
proximity to the U.S. Embassy. The farthest house in the Mission is
approximately 2 miles away, and many employees live close enough to
walk to work (weather permitting).
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 6/9/2005 4:41 AM
Transportation facilities available within Cambodia are limited.
There are five national highways linking Phnom Penh to other
provinces. The conditions of these roads, the only main roads in the
country, vary considerably and in some cases they are not passable
even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle and may result in suspension
damage. Two highways, one from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)
and one from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, the beach resort, are in
good condition now. The former trip takes five hours by private
vehicle while traveling to Sihanoukville takes 4 hours. As a number
of well-financed road construction projects have been initiated
recently, regional road conditions are expected to improve somewhat
within the next few years.
Cambodia has two usable airports with daily flights to Siem Reap
(Angkor Wat), and several flights a week to Ratanakiri. There are
six daily flights from Phnom Penh to Bangkok (a 1-hour flight),
where connections to other international carriers can be made. Daily
or weekly flights to other international destinations, including
Hong Kong, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur,
Taipei, Guangzhou, and Shanghai are also available directly from
Cambodia has two rail lines, both originating in Phnom Penh, and
a total of 612 km of government owned single, one-meter-gauge track.
The Cambodian Government has announced plans to refurbish these two
lines that have fallen into disrepair. Railroads are not used by
expatriates for either official or personal travel.
Likewise, Cambodia has 282 kilometers of navigable inland
waterways for boats drawing up to 1.8 meters of water. Phnom Penh’s
waterfront offers a dozen or so boats for rent for day cruises and a
few larger boats for travel to other destinations along the Mekong
and Tonle Sap. Some visitors choose to take the “fast boat” to Siem
Reap, a trip of approximately 5 hours costing around $50 roundtrip,
and there are boats to other locations, such as Kratie where
tourists can see the rare freshwater dolphins. At least one luxury
hotel chain with hotels in southern Vietnam offers boat
transportation for groups of four or more visitors from Phnom Penh
to its locations for a fee comparable to the airfare.
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 6/9/2005 4:43 AM
Telephones and Telecommunications In Phnom Penh and throughout
Cambodia, local telephone services consist of land line telephones
and individual cellular (mobile) telephones carried by a large
percentage of the population. Many Cambodian homes do not have
installed telephone lines. Every U.S. Embassy residence has a
telephone land line installed and every U.S. direct-hire employee is
issued a handheld cellular telephone, by the GSO, for official use.
Cellular telephones now reach all major cities in Cambodia, and
coverage to the countryside has increased dramatically. Only pockets
of the most remote areas are outside the coverage areas. Public
payphones do not exist in Cambodia but enterprising individuals in
Phnom Penh have set up booths with cellular phones that can be used
for local, national and international calls.
The Embassy has several International Voice Gateway (IVG) lines,
which can be used by employees for both official and personal calls
on a priority basis. The IVG lines can be used to call toll-free to
the Washington D.C. Metro calling area, which also covers parts of
Virginia and Maryland, all other connected U.S. Embassies and
Consulates, along with toll-free “800” and “888” numbers. IVG lines
cannot be used to call long-distance from the Washington D.C. area
and employees are recommended to bring long-distance or pre-paid
telephone cards to post with them, such as AT&T, MCI, SPRINT, etc.
USAID also provides several Voice Over International Protocol (VOIP)
lines for its staff use. The Mission anticipates having VOIP
capability for use of all personnel with the move to the New Embassy
Internet Last Updated: 6/9/2005 4:44 AM
Phnom Penh has three Internet Service Providers for home Internet
and e-mail connectivity. The dial-up providers are cheaper, with
fees of approximately $50–$60 a month but service can be poor or
unavailable, particularly during heavy rainstorms and peak usage
times. Recently, ISP’s began offering broad band service, providing
much more reliable and high quality connections but the installation
costs are approximately $200 dollars and the monthly rate can vary
from $55 to $200 dollars a month, depending on speed of service and
data usage. There are also numerous Internet Cafés in Phnom Penh,
offering Internet service and International calling via VOIP. Both
services are inexpensive and adequate.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 6/9/2005 4:47 AM
Mail and Pouch Although Phnom Penh is a “pouch” post, post does
have an APO address and has limited APO/pouch service. Mail is sent
via APO as far as Bangkok where Embassy Bangkok mailroom personnel
repackage it as diplomatic pouch for delivery to Phnom Penh.
Although the APO is the most desirable method for sending and
receiving international mail, the added workload on Embassy Bangkok
means that large package shipments must be sent via the Dulles, VA
pouch address instead. APO service through Bangkok takes about 7–14
days transit time. The U.S. official air pouch takes 14–21 days
transit time. Post receives incoming APO/diplomatic pouches from
Bangkok three times a week, and an incoming pouch from Washington
once a week. Outgoing APO mail departs post twice a week via
unclassified pouches. Post does not have the facilities to provide
special services such as selling stamps or registering or insuring
mail (these services can be obtained in Bangkok). International Air
Mail, while reasonably reliable, takes 21–28 days transit time for
letter mail to the U.S.
The APO mailing address for the post is:
Unit 8166, Box P
APO AP 96546
The international mailing address for the post is:
American Embassy Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The diplomatic pouch address for personal mail:
4540 Phnom Penh Place
Dulles, VA 20189–4540
The diplomatic pouch address for official correspondence:
4540 Phnom Penh Place
Washington D.C. 20521–4540
Radio and TV Last Updated: 6/9/2005 4:49 AM
Phnom Penh receives short-wave radio broadcasts in English from
the BBC, VOA, and Radio Australia. Radio France International, a
French station, can be received on FM radio.
Local television programs (news programs, sit-coms, dramas, and
movies) are broadcast on two channels in Khmer, the official
language of Cambodia. The French channel CFI is retransmitted over
Phnom Penh by the French Cultural center. A small regular television
antenna is sufficient to receive it.
Cable television (including Star TV, HBO, Cinemax, the Cartoon
Channel, ESPN, BBC News, the Discovery Channel, the National
Geographic Channel, MTV and CNN) can be installed in your home for a
$50 installation charge and a $10 monthly usage fee. Some Embassy
residences have satellite TV dishes that receive a wide variety of
Asian programs as well as English movies and CNN broadcasting. The
Mission ICASS Council recently authorized and purchased AFN (Armed
Forces Network) decoders for the residences of direct-hire U.S.
Cambodian TV uses the PAL system. U.S.-made televisions and VCRs
do not receive Cambodian broadcast signals. You must have a locally
purchased TV/VCR, or a multi-system TV/VCR. Nevertheless, some
families bring their U.S.-made TVs and VCRs in order to watch video
movie tapes. Televisions, VCRs and DVD players can be purchased
locally at rates comparable to those in the U.S. (U.S. brands are
generally not available.) Prices are less expensive at local markets
but quality cannot be guaranteed. Most electronic equipment is
imported from Singapore or Bangkok. Videotapes and VCD/DVDs of
American movies can be purchased inexpensively in the local markets,
although quality is frequently poor. A video rental store stocks
movies in both English and French.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 6/9/2005
Reasonably current newspapers and magazines are available
locally, including international editions of Time magazine,
Newsweek, and The Economist. Cambodia has one daily English-language
newspaper, The Cambodia Daily, which reports on local items of
interest and publishes a weekly list of local events and classified
ads of interest to ex-patriots. The bi-weekly Phnom Penh Post offers
similar reporting and information. Post receives two Bangkok daily
newspapers and the International Herald Tribune, as well as The
Cambodia Daily, The Phnom Penh Post, the weekly English-language
Business News, and The Mirror, a weekly English-language newsletter
offering a survey of articles that have appeared in the local Khmer
press. Periodicals available in the Public Affairs Section’s
Information Resource Center include more than 42 current magazines
and journals such as Business Week, Pacific Affairs, American
Economic Review, Brookings Review, Far Eastern Economic Review, and
the Washington Quarterly. A limited selection of new
English-language books is available in local shops, such as the
International Book Center, Monument Bookshop and Bayon Bookshop.
Books can also be found at some local supermarkets and some
restaurants and tourist hotels maintain used book swap corners. For
a broader selection, there are several well-stocked English-language
bookstores in Bangkok and on-line outlets that ship to APO
addresses. Post maintains a small, informal lending library, and the
Public Affairs Section has several shelves of reference books that
are available to personnel for research and consultation.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:05 AM
Medical services in Cambodia are poor. The Embassy’s medical care
has improved with the opening in 1998 of the AEA/SOS International
Clinic, located across the street from the Embassy compound, which
functions as the Embassy’s health unit. The clinic is staffed with
one full-time American physician, an American head nurse, an
American dentist and two English-speaking Cambodian physicians. For
other than routine medical treatments, Embassy personnel generally
fly to Bangkok or Singapore. Bangkok serves as post’s primary
medevac point. Given the absence of good in-country
obstetrical-gynecological services, the Embassy recommends that
these services be obtained in Bangkok or other third country with
high quality health care. There are neither speech therapists nor
reputable mental health services available in-country.
The Regional Medical Officer (RMO) from Bangkok and backup RMO
from Singapore make regular visits to post and are available for
consultations with U.S. staff members and family members.
RMO does not recommend the use of other clinics or local
hospitals in-country, as they are poorly equipped and inadequately
staffed. Locally available sterilization techniques are for the most
Note for prospective State bidders: over the past few years, post
has experienced several broken assignments of personnel late in the
cycle due to the inability of employees or their family members to
gain medical clearances. If you or a family member have other than a
Class 1 medical clearance or your child requires special learning
assistance, post strongly recommends consulting MED before bidding
Phnom Penh to ensure that you and your family will be cleared for
Community Health Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:07 AM
As in many developing countries, the health care system for
Cambodians consists of many disparate elements: private providers
(trained and untrained) operating clinics, traditional healers,
pharmacies, drug shops and government hospitals and health centers.
There are a small number of licensed pharmacies and many more
unlicensed pharmacies throughout the country, but in nearly every
community and village, even the most sophisticated antibiotics are
readily available without a prescription. The majority of Cambodians
first consult private providers, often traditional healers, and/or
purchase medications without prescriptions when they are ill.
Unfortunately, since there are few regulations regarding who may
call themselves health care providers, the quality of care provided
by many private health care personnel is questionable. Moreover,
surveys have shown that when patients consult pharmacists or drug
sellers, they are almost never given a physical examination before
drugs are sold. In 1996, the government began a national health
sector reform effort, aimed at distributing health centers and
referral hospitals in strategic regions. To date, the implementation
of that process is about 80% complete. Although the Cambodian
government has intentions to provide full health coverage for all
Cambodians, some rural areas of the country still lack sufficient
health care facilities, trained professionals and medications.
As a very low-income country, Cambodia is faced with many of the
health problems typically associated with developing countries.
Major public health problems include HIV/AIDS, malaria, dengue
fever, sexually transmitted diseases, respiratory infections,
diarrhea, tuberculosis, and malnutrition. Cambodia has the highest
HIV sero-prevalence in Southeast Asia. The reported national HIV
sero-prevalence rate is 2.6%. Although malaria risk is minimal in
Phnom Penh, the northwestern section of the country is the source of
the worst multiple drug resistant malaria in the world. Dengue
fever, another mosquito-borne illness is increasing, particularly in
urban areas. Most of these diseases affect primarily the Cambodian
population, although expatriates exploring Cambodia’s burgeoning sex
industry are at extremely high risk of contracting sexually
transmitted diseases, including HIV disease.
Despite these tremendous problems, the health system in Cambodia
has been improving over the past several years. Newly available data
show that fertility is decreasing and the use of modern
contraception is increasing. The Ministry of Health is constrained
by extremely scarce resources, yet has adopted a range of beneficial
policies. Since the government budget for the health sector was $32
million in 2001, international assistance continues to account for
the bulk of the funds allocated toward health in the country.
Typical of a developing country, sewage and garbage disposal
facilities are generally inadequate but improving. Garbage is
collected from post housing weekly with only occasional
interruptions. Open-air markets suffer acutely from inadequate
garbage and sewage facilities.
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:24 AM
Sickness can be a problem at the post, but with proper attention
to methods of prevention and general sanitation, and by keeping
immunizations current, many common diseases can be avoided. In
general, malaria prophylaxis should be taken regularly when living
or traveling up-country, but are not required within the confines of
Phnom Penh where the risk of malaria is minimal.
Post concurs with CDC recommendations for the following vaccines
(as appropriate for age) for long-term staff:·
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
Hepatitis B if you might be exposed to blood (for example,
health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population,
or may be exposed through medical treatment.
Typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the
presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in
As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a
one-time dose of polio for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now
recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who
did not complete the series as infants.
See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time
for shots to take effect.
Japanese encephalitis currently cannot be administered in the
U.S., but the employees and family members may be vaccinated at
post. Additionally, the rabies pre-exposure series should be
considered for high-risk activities such as jogging and all pets
should be inoculated against rabies. Finally, it is always advisable
to check with a knowledgeable travel medicine specialist to discuss
specifics. Post also recommends checking the CDC website.
To stay healthy, do:·
Wash hands often with soap and water. ·
Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in
cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. ·
Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have
peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
If you visit an area where there is risk for malaria, take your
malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as
Protect yourself from insects by remaining in well-screened areas,
using repellants (applied sparingly at 4-hour intervals), and
wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants from dusk through dawn.
To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry,
and do not go barefoot.
Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other
sexually transmitted diseases.
To avoid getting sick:
Don’t eat food purchased from street vendors.
Don’t drink beverages with ice.
Don’t eat dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
Don’t share needles with anyone.
Don’t handle animals (especially monkeys, dogs, and cats), to avoid
bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague).
Don’t swim in fresh water. Salt water is usually safer.
Many common medications (both prescription and non-prescription
strength) are available from the two doctors commonly used by
Embassy personnel as well as from several reputable local
pharmacies. The quality of medications available on the local market
cannot be guaranteed, but there are a few licensed and reputable
pharmacies in Phnom Penh. Personnel should bring with them any
medications they anticipate needing, particularly medications used
on a long-term basis such as oral contraceptives, estrogen
replacement therapy, insulin, high blood pressure pills, and thyroid
tablets. Pepto Bismol or other anti-diarrheals are useful for
treating “travelers’ diarrhea”, a common ailment. Some vaccinations
can be updated at the post as needed or through the RMO in Bangkok.
Contact lens solution can be difficult to find.
Tap water in Cambodia is not potable and for drinking purposes
most people at post use readily available and reasonably priced
bottled water. All of the Embassy houses are supplied with water
distillers that automatically boil and distill tap water for
drinking. Tap water can be used if it is boiled first for 10 minutes
and then filtered. Iodine is also effective in purifying water. Tap
water can be used for washing and bathing. Fresh fruits and
vegetables are abundant all year round, but they should be
thoroughly cleaned and soaked in an iodine or chlorine solution and
then rinsed with purified water before consumption. All meat and
seafood must be well cooked before eating. Locally produced milk
should be avoided, but UHT whole milk, dried milk, canned condensed
milk, and imported fresh milk from Thailand is available.
The climate in Cambodia is hot and humid year round, and care
must be taken to avoid prolonged sun exposure, sunstroke,
heatstroke, and dehydration. Regular use of sunscreen is
recommended, as well as UV protective sunglasses, and a hat or sun
visor. Dehydration can be a problem, particularly among children,
but consuming proper amounts of water throughout the day can easily
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:25 AM
The U.S. Mission in Phnom Penh has established 19 full-time,
part-time and When Actually Employed family member positions within
the Mission, mainly in the administrative and clerical sections. In
addition, post contracts out the Embassy’s biweekly newsletter, “The
Phnom Pen” to interested spouses. (Newsletter issues are posted on
the Embassy’s Intranet site under the “CLO” heading.)Employment
opportunities are limited on the local economy, although Phnom Penh
supports a large and diverse community of over 1,000 foreign and
indigenous non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Jobs are often
available for teachers in the international schools and for
American Embassy - Phnom Penh
Post City Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:26 AM
Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital and largest city consists of four
urban districts and three suburban districts. Phnom Penh is a
sprawling city of about 1.3 million residents, with a mix of a few
wide, tree-lined boulevards and narrow dirt secondary roads. The
city is laid out in a rough grid system, with odd numbered streets
running basically north/south and even numbered streets running
east/west. However, streets are not always numbered sequentially and
homeowners arbitrarily number their own homes so that house numbers
follow only a rough sequence at best. The streets have been renamed
and renumbered several times in recent years and to avoid confusion
people frequently use both the old and the new street names and
numbers when giving directions or listing addresses.
The city of Phnom Penh has shown a marked improvement in the last
couple of years in the city landscaping and overall cleanliness.
Sisowath Boulevard, which runs alongside the Tonle Sap River and
past the Royal Palace, hosts many eateries, bars and shops. Many a
pleasant evening or afternoon can be spent sitting on the second
floor terraces of restaurants offering Asian and western cuisine
overlooking the Tonle Sap followed by a stroll down the broad
Security Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:29 AM
Cambodia is a nation that has been scarred by violence and
political instability over the past several decades. Recent
developments indicate potential for a brighter, more secure future
for the country and its people, as the coalition government has been
successful in bringing peace and stability to nearly all regions.
However, Cambodia remains a dangerous place due mainly to widespread
crime, corruption, weak border controls and underdeveloped law
enforcement and judicial systems. Individual security awareness
should remain constantly high at this post and thoughtful
consideration given to all activities.
The Regional Security Office is composed of an RSO, ARSO, FS
Office Management Specialist, three Foreign Service National
Investigators, and a 310-person Local Guard Force. A Marine Security
Guard detachment is scheduled for activation in fall 2005 directly
prior to the completion of the New Embassy Complex. The Local Guard
Force operates a 24-hour Mobile patrol vehicle, which conducts guard
post inspections and responds to traffic accidents and incidents
involving American personnel. The Embassy Switchboard/Radio Operator
is on duty 24-hours daily, and processes emergency calls along with
The threat of terrorism is everywhere in the world, and Cambodia
is no different. Incidents of terrorism in Cambodia in recent times
appear to have involved internal political factions, and have
included grenades, semi-automatic handguns and rockets as weapons.
Cambodia is rife with assorted weaponry, derived from years of
military and criminally related activities within its borders.
Although the government has recently begun to crack down on illegal
weapons possession, the number of people who still retain weapons,
and the subsequent potential for violence, remains high. Weak border
control and corruption among underpaid law enforcement personnel and
other government officials provide an attractive environment for
transnational terrorist groups to establish a presence in Cambodia.
Crime is widespread in Cambodia, and long-term trends have shown
increases in the crime rate. Crimes against foreigners continue to
rise along with those against the general population. Common
criminal acts include armed robberies and snatch & grab robberies
(where passengers on motorcycles are pulled from the bike, dragged
down the street and robbed, leaving the victim with serious
injuries). Sexual assaults occur regularly among the local
population and Westerners are not exempt from being victimized.
Violent crimes are common overall, including homicides, armed
robberies, and kidnappings for ransom of wealthy local businessmen.
Police generally lack investigative capabilities, and corruption is
common. Personnel should avoid walking alone at night, stay in
well-lit public areas, and avoid taking open-air taxis (motorcycle
or local cyclo). Thefts are common, and close watch should be kept
on wallets and purses in crowded shopping areas and at tourist
sites. It remains good practice to keep a low profile, and avoid
displaying flashy jewelry or money in public.
Embassy residential security is generally excellent, with 24-hour
coverage by unarmed, uniformed Embassy guards. Guards are well
trained in security-related responses. All residences must have
security surveys conducted by the Regional Security Office prior to
leasing, and required security upgrades are completed prior to
occupancy. Embassy houses are mostly single family dwellings, and
clustered in relatively close proximity to the Embassy.
Traffic safety is a big problem in Phnom Penh. There are growing
numbers of cars, motorcycles and pedestrians on the streets, and
minimal traffic control. Accidents are increasingly common.
Personnel should always carry appropriate license and vehicle
registration documents. Personnel should also remain at accident
scenes, until Mobile I and the police authorities arrive, unless
they determine the situation is potentially too dangerous to do so.
Reliable communications are extremely important in Phnom Penh,
especially in the event of an emergency. Mobile cell phones and
2-way radios are issued to all Embassy U.S. direct-hire employees.
Weekly radio checks are conducted by the Information Program Center.
All employees and eligible family members, including children, and
domestic staff should be familiar with using the radio and cell
A tour in Cambodia can be a very enjoyable experience. However,
it is always wise to prepare for worst case scenarios. Contingency
planning in advance can save many problems and headaches later.
Evacuations from post can occur and have occurred in the past, so it
is recommended to plan ahead for unexpected relocation, provide
family and friends emergency notification numbers, and keep all
important personal papers up to date and available.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:31 AM
The Embassy reopened its doors in 1993 after closing the Mission
on April 12, 1975 in the face of the city’s imminent takeover by the
Khmer Rouge. The U.S. Mission, comprised of State, USAID, CDC and
DOD personnel, operates from a compound consisting of over a dozen
converted villas within a residential city block. The Mission’s
warehouse is leased off-site. The Ambassador’s residence is located
about a half a mile from the Chancery.
All agencies are scheduled to move to a New Embassy Compound
(NEC), currently under construction, by spring 2006. (State, DOD and
CDC personnel will move to the completed chancery in December 2005
and USAID to an annex on the site in spring 2006.)
The New Embassy is located centrally near the Wat Phnom monument,
the historical center of the city. Marine Security Guard Quarters
will be collocated on the compound. The Mission warehouse and GSO
workshops will continue to be leased off-site.
The Mission, including all agencies, employs over 500 persons --
U.S. citizens, third-country nationals, and host national employees.
Of these, over 300 employees are members of the local guard force.
The Embassy currently provides 24-hour guard coverage to the
official facilities and the Mission residences. The guards are in
constant two-way radio contact with a roving mobile patrol.
An Embassy officer will meet and assist new arrivals. Incoming
employees should inform the Management Section of their schedules as
early as possible to ensure coordination of arrangements. The
Embassy operates a 24-hour switchboard for incoming telephone calls.
The number is country code 855, city code 23, 216–436. The operator
can connect callers with anyone in the Embassy.
Arriving employees are recommended to spend a day or two in
Bangkok for consultations en route to post. (Airline schedules
require an overnight stop in Bangkok in any event.) Embassy Bangkok
provides Embassy Phnom Penh with many valuable regional services
such as human resources support, medical (RMO) support, APO mail,
information management and security engineering services, consular
support and so forth. During consultations, employees may wish to
join the American Community Support Association (ACSA). Membership
fees vary depending on family size. Among other benefits, the ACSA
membership allows access to Bangkok's commissary. Embassy Phnom Penh
ACSA members may place food orders about every 1–2 months. The
orders are flown in by military aircraft and can supplement
Incoming employees may wish to visit and register at the Regional
Medical Office (RMO). Bangkok’s RMO provides medical services,
referrals and vaccinations for State Department employees and their
eligible family members.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:32 AM
The Embassy invests considerable time and money renovating and
upgrading houses to meet U.S. standards well in advance of
assignments; and post is generally able to move employees directly
into their assigned residence upon arrival. When this is not
possible, personnel are housed in one of several nice hotels located
in close proximity to the U.S. Embassy, generally the Hotel Le
Royal, the Himawari, the Cambodiana Hotel, or the Sunway Hotel. If
available, vacant USG housing may be used to house personnel.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:34 AM
The Ambassador’s residence is the only U.S. Government-owned
building in Cambodia. All other housing is currently under
short-term lease. The Ambassador’s residence is located at No. 96
Norodom Boulevard, within a short walking distance of the current
Embassy compound and a ten minute drive from the New Embassy
Compound. It is a two-story villa surrounded by a sizable garden and
an annex building housing a kitchen, staff quarters and recreational
Over one-half of the U.S. Embassy housing is located within a
mile of the Embassy. The remaining housing is located within 2 miles
of the Embassy or within a 5-20 minute drive from the office
depending on location and traffic. Housing-to-office commutes will
increase to 10-35 minutes for all personnel after the move to the
New Embassy Compound.
Mission employee satisfaction with housing is high. Those few
houses available on the market that meet minimum Western standards
are usually overly generous in gross size, although they have a lot
of unusable living space such as sweeping staircases and wide
hallways. There are no apartments in the Embassy pool. Most houses
have a master bedroom, a minimum of two spare bedrooms, a dining
room, a living room and a sizable kitchen. Many have an annex
building or indoor maid’s quarters. (Most Mission families hire
daytime household help, not live-in.) Typical modern Cambodian
construction often provides a bathroom with each bedroom. One oddity
of note in Phnom Penh houses: most houses lack an outdoor grass
yard. Buildings are usually built to the size of the lot with
concrete/paved driveways allowing space for two parked vehicles. A
few houses have small gardens or yards but many personnel “create”
ground floor gardens by purchasing inexpensive potted plants, ferns
and palms. Most houses have balconies or terraces on the upper
All U.S. Embassy houses are surrounded by fences and provided
with 24-hour guard service. The guards operate from a guard booth on
the property grounds and have separate outside restroom facilities.
The guards maintain 24-hour contact with the Embassy radio network.
Most maintenance and repair of Embassy-leased housing is provided by
the Embassy Maintenance Staff.
Furnishings Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:35 AM
The Embassy provides each house with the following minimum pieces
of furniture: sofa, loveseat, two armchairs, dining room table with
eight chairs, sideboard, china cabinet, queen size bedroom set, twin
bedroom set (more if employee is coming with children); office desk
and chair, bookcases, kitchen cabinets/shelves, floor lamps, end
tables, and carpets. The quantity and quality of household furniture
is either new or in excellent condition. All windows are provided
with drapes and sheers.
The Embassy furnishes the following 220v appliances: washer and
dryer, gas stove, refrigerator, full-size freezer, water distiller,
vacuum cleaner, four 220v/110v transformers and a microwave. All
U.S. Embassy houses have air-conditioning units in every room used
for living space. Other appliances and equipment personnel have
found desirable to have at post include toaster, coffee pot,
multisystem television, bread and rice cookers, VCR, personal
computer and cassette/compact disc/DVD player. Given the limited
numbers of transformers in houses, incoming personnel should
consider bringing 220v appliances or appliances that can be switched
between 110v and 220v. Most 220v household appliances are also
available locally, at prices comparable to or higher than prices in
the U.S. (depending on whether the appliances are purchased at
outdoor markets where prices are lower, but quality cannot be
guaranteed; or if appliances are purchased at more expensive — and
more reliable — stores).
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:36 AM
Available housing in Phnom Penh is not built to U.S. safety
standards, and the U.S. Embassy goes to great effort and expense to
upgrade each house leased. Wood-fire stoves are replaced with gas
stoves, grounded electrical outlets are installed for a washer and
dryer, the electricity is upgraded to 60 amps, three-phase grounded
electricity with a breaker panel, and hot water pipes and water
heaters are installed in all bathrooms and kitchens. All houses have
running water and indoor plumbing. Tap water in Cambodia is not
drinkable, and all U.S. Embassy houses are provided with a water
distiller. All Embassy houses have telephone land lines. All U.S.
direct-hire employees at post are also issued a mobile telephone and
a two-way radio.
Electricity outages in Phnom Penh, formerly a daily event, are
now an infrequent occurrence, but all Embassy-leased houses are
equipped with a 40 KVA generator and an automatic transfer switch,
providing an adequate 24-hour electrical supply. The reserve tank is
large enough to operate the generator 24 hours per day for 8–10
days. The electricity in Cambodia is 220v, 50 Hz (cycles), but this
level fluctuates and power surges are common. Power surge protectors
are desirable for sensitive electronic equipment (they are not
provided by the Embassy).
Food Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:38 AM
Food shortages are not a problem in Phnom Penh, and a variety of
locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables are always available.
Several western-style supermarkets stock supplies of imported meat,
both fresh (imported from Australia and New Zealand) and frozen
(imported from the U.S.). Available types of meat vary but usually
consist of various cuts of beef, pork and chicken. Prices for
imported meat are higher than in the U.S. Locally produced meat is
available, but there are no standards for quality control or
hygienic handling and processing. Locally produced milk should be
avoided, but imported fresh pasteurized milk is available at several
supermarkets. In addition, the markets stock UHT milk, dried milk,
and canned condensed milk. Imported Western-type foods are available
at several markets, but selection and availability vary. Imported
processed baby food is also sometimes available.
There are no government or private commissaries in Phnom Penh;
however, U.S. personnel are allowed to join and subsequently order
merchandise from the commissary in Bangkok. Purchases are sent on
military support flights that come about six times a year, on a
sporadic schedule, but generally a flight arrives every two months.
Many U.S. products that are not available on the local economy can
be obtained through the Bangkok commissary, but the cost of packing
and sending the products to the airport can make this option
expensive. Post recommends shipping in your consumables’ order such
items as paper and party products, specialty spices and foods, hot
cereals, chocolate chips and baking items, baking equipment,
specific brands of pet food, pet litter, home office supplies,
stamps, special brands of cleaners, feminine hygiene products, other
personal hygiene products such as shampoo, hair conditioners if you
are partial to specific brands, and cosmetics. Contact lens solution
can be difficult to find. Contact lens wearers are recommended to
bring in their own supply.
Dining out is a favorite pastime in Phnom Penh given the large
selection of good restaurants. Local cuisine offerings include
Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Thai, Middle Eastern,
French, Russian, German, Mexican, Italian, Korean, Pakistani/Indian
and continental cuisine. Many restaurants serve Western-style
breakfasts and brunches. The major hotels all have dining
establishments usually serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets.
For fast food, there are several delicatessen-style sandwich shops,
pizzerias and hamburger joints in town. Prices vary by establishment
but as a rule of thumb, the prices for Western food generally fall
in the range to be found in mid-range restaurants in Washington,
D.C. Local cuisine options run much cheaper.
The local cuisine is quite good, similar to Thai food but not
generally as spicy. Fresh seafood is a major component of many local
dishes. Native Marylanders on staff can attest that the
steamed/fried crab dishes feature the best fresh crab this side of
the Chesapeake Bay. For non-seafood eaters, Cambodian cuisine also
offers a multitude of choices featuring beef, pork, chicken and
Clothing Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:40 AM
Cambodian culture and custom dictate modesty in dress,
particularly for women. Very short skirts and shorts should be
avoided, although sleeveless tops are acceptable for women
(shoulders should be covered when visiting temples and wats). Many
Cambodians wear Western-style clothing, particularly in Phnom Penh,
but traditional skirts and sarongs are also common. Although shorts
are seen on Westerners and Cambodian children, Cambodian adults do
not wear them. Clothing appropriate for a tropical climate is worn
year round, and most occasions call for casual attire.
Local markets stock some Western clothing including children’s
clothing; however, finding “larger” American sizes can be
challenging. Clothing can also be made locally at very low cost (the
material — cotton, silk, polyester — is more expensive than the
labor). Local tailors are adept at copying clothing styles from
patterns although individuals have reported mixed results in finding
good tailors to handle more complicated alterations and custom-made
requests. Most personnel at post depend on catalog/internet shopping
to buy their basic wardrobe. Good quality ready-made shoes are
difficult to find. Leather shoes and sandals, for adults and
children, can be custom-made locally at relatively inexpensive
prices, and again, local craftsmen can copy favorite shoes or
Personnel should bring with them to post any desired athletic
shoes and clothing (including bathing suits). During the rainy
season, rubber boots, a long, lightweight raincoat, and a rain hat
are desirable. Umbrellas are also a necessity during the rainy
season. Although umbrellas can be purchased locally, personnel may
want to bring with them a small, compact umbrella that can be
carried in a purse or briefcase.
Men Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:38 AM
At work, men will be most comfortable in short-sleeved dress
shirts and cotton pants. Long-sleeved dress shirts and neckties are
appropriate for business meetings and more formal occasions. Cotton
material is available locally, and dress shirts can be made
inexpensively. Personnel should bring tropical-weight suits for
formal occasions, although for most situations shirt and tie is
adequate. Formal entertaining is rare in Cambodia. Black tie is not
necessary even for the Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission.
Women Last Updated: 12/3/2003 3:38 PM
Women will be most comfortable at work wearing at or below the
knee lightweight skirts and dresses, or appropriate slacks. Shorter
styles are acceptable for westerners but are not customary in
Cambodian culture. Tight, scanty or otherwise revealing clothing
should be avoided. In Cambodia’s tropical climate, natural fiber
clothing, especially cotton, is usually the most comfortable.
Sandals or other casual shoes are appropriate for work; for more
formal occasions, pumps or dress sandals are appropriate. At more
formal functions, women should wear skirts or dresses rather than
dress pants. Formal entertaining is rare at the post and evening
dress is not necessary even for the Ambassador or DCM. Women should
not wear black or white to Cambodian weddings (these colors are worn
Children Last Updated: 12/3/2003 3:39 PM
Young children should plan to wear shorts and polo
shirts/t-shirts or sundresses year round, with sandals or sneakers
(sneakers, incidentally, are difficult to find for children in Phnom
Penh). There are very few occasions requiring dress-clothes for
children, and the climate rarely calls for trousers.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:43 AM
Necessary toiletries, cleaning and household supplies can be
purchased locally, although selection and brand names are limited.
Most available products are imported from Thailand, and some
European and a few American brands are available. If personnel have
a preferred brand of cosmetics and toiletries they should bring a
supply with them to the post. Limited supplies of feminine napkins
and tampons are available at several markets in Phnom Penh. Contact
lens wearers should bring an adequate supply of needed solution with
them. Sterile .01 saline drip solution is occasionally available at
local pharmacies. Insect repellent with deet is available locally.
Tobacco products, including some American brand of cigarettes, can
be purchased locally. Batteries are available in standard sizes, but
quality is not comparable to American brands. Diapers, infant
lotions and powders, baby bottles and other accessories are
available at several markets, although they are expensive. Cloth
tablecloths, placemats and napkins can be inexpensively made
For other suggestions on Consumables, see previous FOOD section.
Basic Services Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:43 AM
Local tailors are adequate and inexpensive. Fine quality is
sometimes limited by sewing machines that are very basic and
frequently manually powered. Tailors are adept at copying clothing
styles but usually do not have a lot of experience doing custom
designs. Some minor shoe repairs can be done locally, and leather
shoes and sandals can be custom-made at inexpensive prices. Good
quality repair services can be hard to find. Dry-cleaning services
are available at two hotels but at prices higher than Washington,
D.C. drycleaners. Beauty and barbershops are widely available
locally, at very low prices by American standards, although services
are generally limited to haircuts, manicures and pedicures. Local
garages can provide basic mechanic services on most cars. Wood and
iron workers are also available locally, although the wood is often
not sufficiently pre-treated and may crack if taken to a
The Mission offers, at no cost to U.S. employees and their
eligible family members, a children’s playroom, a fitness room and
an Internet café located across from the Embassy compound.
Domestic Help Last Updated: 12/3/2003 3:40 PM
Host country domestic help is widely available, and many
personnel at post employ a maid and/or a cook and sometimes a
driver. Personnel with children often hire on nannies who double as
maids. Many personnel also chose to employ a part-time gardener.
Full-time (44 hours/week) maids/cooks are usually hired on for about
$100 a month and part-time (6–8 hours/week) gardeners are about
$20–$30 a month. Prices for drivers vary depending on whether you
provide the car. Full-time (44 hours/week) drivers’ salaries run
$150 a month and rental of car (maintenance included) an additional
$250–$350 dollars a month. Employer is expected to pay for gasoline
and generally drivers are paid for overtime. Generally, domestic
staff are given additional benefits, such as a 13-month payment in
conjunction with the Cambodian New Year. Many people pay for English
lessons, cooking lessons and basic medical care as well.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 6/9/2005 5:45 AM
Although Cambodians are predominately Buddhist, religious freedom
is generally respected by the Khmer people and Cambodian government.
Religious services and facilities in Phnom Penh seem to change
often, depending on the current expatriate population. The daily
paper has a weekly section that includes when and where various
religious groups meet. Among those denominations currently
represented in Phnom Penh: Bahai; Baptist World Mission; Bethany
Baptist; Catholic; Church of Christ the King; Church of Christ Our
Peace; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; International
Christian Fellowship; Seventh-day Adventist.
Dependent Education Last Updated: 6/9/2005 10:47 PM
As the expatriate community has grown over the years, the number
of suitable primary and secondary schools in Phnom Penh has likewise
grown. There are three schools in Phnom Penh that many Embassy
children attend. They are the International School of Phnom Penh
(ISPP), the French-language Lycée Francais René Descartes (LFRD),
and the Northbridge International School (NISC).
ISPP is a non-profit, parent-owned school that was started in
1991. NISC is associated with the International School of the
Eastern Seaboard in Chonburi, Thailand, and was established in 1997.
Both schools have been accredited by the Western Association of
Schools and Colleges. Both ISPP and NISC are a part of the Mekong
River International School Association (MRISA), which is designed to
bring together students in schools in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam
for sporting events and cultural exchanges. LFRD is operated by the
French Ministry of Education and strives to provide students with an
education identical to that of a public school in France.
ISPP secondary and elementary school campuses are located
centrally in Phnom Penh on Norodom Blvd. In the 2004/2005 school
year there were a total of 378 students from 34 countries from ages
3 to 19. Of those, 11 were graduating seniors and about 94 were in
grades 9 to 12. This school is within a 5 to 10 minute drive of most
embassy housing and the embassy compound. ISPP is the only school at
this moment offering professional assistance to special needs
children. ISPP follows the International Baccalaureate Program for
primary grades and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program
for grades 11 and 12 rather than the U.S. standard academic system.
Some Mission parents have found that the IB system and the U.S.
standard academic system are not entirely compatible although the IB
program is becoming more commonly known in the U.S. and accepted by
U.S. colleges.. For more information on ISPP, go to
LFRD was opened in 1992 and currently enrolls 390 children. It is
located in the Wat Phnom quarter next door to the new American
Embassy Complex. LFRD teaches the French national curriculum as
defined by the French Ministry of National Education and the
language of instruction is French. The mission of the school, as
well as that of all other French schools affiliated with the
Ministry of National Education, is to ensure French citizens abroad
receive a French public school education and to contribute to the
dissemination of French language and culture. The French curriculum
can be divided into four distinct parts: Ecole Maternelle
(pre-school), Ecole Elementaire (primary school), College and Lycee.
Lycee strives to prepare students either for entrance to a French
university or for a successful career. Students must choose which of
these paths they wish to take and instruction varies according to
this decision. Vocational training is somewhat limited at LFRD for
those students choosing not to prepare for university entrance. LFRD
has a team of 60 teachers, 26 of which are French and 17 of which
are certified by the French Ministry of National Education. For more
information, go to http://www.descartes-cambodge.com.
NISC, which lies within the 146-acre gated Northbridge Community,
is located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh off of the main road to
Pochentong International Airport. This is about a 20 to 40 minute
drive from the Embassy, depending on traffic. At the end of the
2004/2005 school year, 247 students were enrolled at NISC
representing 27 countries. NISC uses a U.S.-style curriculum. The
students take math, science, English, history, a foreign language
(French, Spanish, or Khmer), music, art, computers, physical
education, and swimming each year. NISC requires students to have 24
credits by graduation. NISC offers some Advanced Placement classes.
Parents of students in all three Phnom Penh schools mentioned
above have expressed satisfaction with the education provided.
For the 2004–2005 school year, the educational allowance fully
covered tuitions for all three schools. Prospective bidders planning
to send their children to school “away from post” are strongly
encourage to check the current rate with allowances or as listed in
DSSR Section 920.
The Gecko & Garden Pre-School, geared for children ages 2 to 5
years, is a parent-owned and operated non-profit pre-school. It is
set up to provide an environment where children can learn through
School activities aim to foster independence and creative
expression, while considering each child’s interests and
abilities.School hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. After-school
activities on afternoons and Saturdays are offered at an additional
cost, and children ages 2 to 5 who are not enrolled in the school
are also welcome to participate.
Other Education Opportunities
The French Cultural Center offers French language courses and
shows French films on a regular basis. The U.S. Embassy offers a
post-language program to teach Khmer to U.S. employees and their
adult eligible family members. Khmer language classes are also
available at several locations in Phnom Penh or private teachers can
be engaged for one-on-one lessons.
Classes: Yoga classes are
available at several locations in town. Cooking classes are
offered at several hotels and at a local training center. Art and
dance classes are occasionally offered individually around town. The
CLO’s office periodically arranges various classes at the Embassy
based on community interest. Current offerings have included
ball-room dancing, pottery, karate, yoga, sketching and aerobics.
Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 12/3/2003 3:41 PM
The French Cultural Center offers French language courses and
shows French films on a regular basis. The U.S. Embassy offers a
post-language program to teach Khmer to U.S. employees and their
adult eligible family members. Khmer language classes are also
available at several locations in Phnom Penh or private teachers can
be engaged for one-on-one lessons. Saturday morning Yoga classes are
available at the Clark Hatch Health Club. Cooking classes are
offered at several hotels and at a local training center for a fee.
Art and dance classes are occasionally offered individually around
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:01 PM
Because of Cambodia’s hot and humid weather, sports enthusiasts
should take proper precautions to avoid heat stroke, sunburn, and
dehydration. Tennis, swimming, volleyball, soccer, biking,
basketball, softball, motorcycling, golf and running are among the
locally available sports.
Most of the large hotels in Phnom Penh have a health club
membership program that usually includes tennis, swimming, and
weight machines and exercise equipment. (Most offer individual and
family membership rates.) The Embassy offers the free use of its
To avoid traffic, dust, smog, and curious stares, most runners
prefer to run at the Olympic Stadium rather than through the streets
of Phnom Penh. The Hash House Harriers, an expatriate running club,
meets weekly for group runs and socializing. Boating and fishing can
be done on the Mekong and Bassac rivers. Small, rudimentary fishing
and motorboats can be rented at reasonable cost by the hour or the
day (usually a driver is included in the rental cost.) Local boats
are not equipped with life preservers or other safety equipment.
Some basic fishing tackle can be purchased locally, but anglers will
be better off if they bring gear with them. For gardeners,
Cambodia’s lush tropical climate encourages rapid growth of a wide
range of fruits, vegetables and tropical flowers.
The Embassy and SOS medical clinic field a joint softball team
open to any interested Mission member. The team plays on weekends
against one other team in town. In the larger community, there are
also informal soccer, rugby and basketball leagues. Go-karting is
also a popular activity, recommended for children 10 and up. Golf
and tennis are offered at various hotels. Golf/tennis lessons run
around $10–$20 per session.
Occasionally, boat and swimming races are held on the Mekong and
Bassac Rivers, usually in conjunction with a local holiday or
festival. The big event every year for Phnom Penh residents is the
Water Festival, a 2½-day event featuring competing regional rowing
teams in traditional boats. The event brings in approximately
1,000,000 visitors to Phnom Penh.
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:03 PM
Within Cambodia, air travel is possible to Siem Reap (and the
temples at Angkor Wat), Battambang, Stung Treng and a few other
destinations. There are a half dozen daily flights from Phnom Penh
to Bangkok (a 1-hour flight) and regular direct flights to other
international destinations, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Ho Chi
Minh City, Vientiane, and Kuala Lumpur. There are several “high
speed” boat services offering daily trips up the Mekong River to
Siem Reap, Kompong Cham and Kratie. Package boat tours are also
available for day trips and stops at nearby villages for local
Siem Reap is a popular travel destination for all personnel at
post and visitors. The temples at Angkor Wat, built between the 9th
and the 14th centuries when the Khmer Empire was the most powerful
and influential in Southeast Asia, are among the most spectacular
sights in the world and represent Cambodia’s biggest tourist
attraction. Personnel can easily arrange trips on their own or join
a package tour, ranging from 2 to 5 days in duration, which can be
booked through several travel agents in Phnom Penh. Package tour
prices include all ground and air transportation, hotel and meals,
admission fees at all temples, and an English-speaking guide.
Round-trip airfare to Siem Reap is about $135 (daily flights are
available from Phnom Penh). Ticket cost to visit the temples is $20
per day or visitors may obtain a three-day pass for $40. Many people
opt for the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap speedboat that takes about 5 hours
and costs $25 one-way.
The sand beaches at Sihanoukville, located on Cambodia’s coast on
the Gulf of Thailand, are 4-hour drive from Phnom Penh and can
provide a relatively inexpensive weekend beach getaway. Koh Kong
Island, located just off of Cambodia’s western coast in the Gulf of
Thailand, is being developed as a tourist destination. Flights are
available from Phnom Penh, and the island can also be reached by
boat from Sihanoukville.
Day-trip destinations from Phnom Penh include Ou Dong, Cambodia’s
capital from 1619 to 1866, located 40 kilometers north of Phnom
Penh; Tonle Bati, Ta Prohm and Yeay Peau Temples, located 33
kilometers south of Phnom Penh; temples at Phnom Chisor, located 55
kilometers south of Phnom Penh and 21 kilometers south of Tonle
Bati; and Koki Beach, which is not really a beach at all but a
popular Khmer destination—especially on Sundays—located on the
Mekong River, 12 kilometers east of Phnom Penh. For persons who like
to motorcycle but do not own one, motorcycles and mopeds can be
rented inexpensively per day.
The overseas designated rest and recuperation (R&R) post is
Sydney, Australia; however, employees who select the U.S. for their
R&R are entitled to fly to any location within the continental U.S.
Entertainment Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:09 PM
Formal and organized entertainment in Phnom Penh is limited. The
French Cultural Center shows movies in French and sponsors a monthly
schedule of lectures. Several times a year, the Center brings
classical musicians or theater performances to Phnom Penh. The Phnom
Penh Players, an amateur acting group, puts on two plays a year.
Traditional Cambodian dance and shadow puppet performances are held
frequently. Performances, ceremonies and races are also held in
conjunction with most Cambodian national festivals. There is no
Western symphony, opera, ballet or performing arts (other than the
Phnom Penh Players) in Cambodia.
There are a number of nightclubs in Phnom Penh that offer dancing
(most clubs play a combination of Cambodian, Thai, and western rock
music). Other nightclubs periodically offer theme nights, such as
trivia nights or open-mike nights, hold wine-tastings and host
special events in line with Western holidays, such as Halloween
parties, New Year’s events and Thanksgiving dinner.
Among Americans Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:10 PM
As the post is relatively small, there are few organized social
activities. Personnel tend to socialize on an informal basis,
sharing meals and going out to restaurants and nightclubs. There are
no social clubs available to personnel.
International Contacts Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:11 PM
A wide range of nationalities affiliated with local non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), the UN or the diplomatic community resides in
Phnom Penh. Although opportunities for formal socializing and
entertainment are limited, it is easy to meet people informally by
attending local social events and joining organizations such as the
Hash House Harriers or the Women’s International Group, socializing
at local restaurants and bars, and through schools and church
Nature of Functions Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:11 PM
Embassy officers have frequent contact with the diplomatic
community, NGO workers and Cambodian officials. Official
entertaining usually involves cocktail parties, receptions and
dinners. Home entertainment by the Cambodians is rare; however,
senior Cambodian officials usually host annual New Year’s Eve
parties and Water Festival parties in which many senior and
mid-level officers are invited. Junior officers and staff personnel
lead an active social life within the international community.
Although they have fewer social requirements than senior officials,
they frequently are invited to attend official functions.
Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:20 PM
Soon after your arrival, you should call on the Chief of Mission,
the DCM and other Section and agency heads. Formal calls on
Cambodian Ministry officials or other members of the diplomatic
community are appropriate. Business cards are presented when making
You may bring a supply of business cards but post recommends
having the card printed at post to include Khmer translation. Phnom
Penh has commercial printers that can print bilingual cards and
invitations. 100 business cards cost between $10-$12. Many employees
prepare their own business cards using Embassy software.Dress for
individual official and social functions is indicated on invitation
cards. Formal occasions are rare for all but the most senior
officials; however, there may be occasions when a long skirt and
blouse for ladies is appropriate. Ladies should avoid wearing black
and white to official functions hosted by Cambodians. Men are rarely
asked to dress more formally than a dark suit and tie.
Special Information Last Updated: 6/10/2005 0:25 AM
Cambodia’s nearly 30 years of war not only caused an enormous
loss of human life and hardship, but also left a legacy of landmines
and unexploded ordinance (UXO) for future generations of Cambodians.
Most of the landmines in Cambodia are of Chinese or Vietnamese
origin, and were laid during the years of Vietnamese occupation by
all parties. They are concentrated in the west and northwest
portions of Cambodia along the Thai and Lao borders. The provinces
of Battambang, Banteay Mean Chey, Otdar Mean Chey, and Pailin
produce 60% of Cambodia’s present-day mine victims. The vast
majority of UXO is in the eastern portion of the country as a result
of the American, South Vietnamese and Cambodian bombing and ground
operations during the Vietnam War. It should be noted that while the
majority of UXO is located here, every province in Cambodia (minus
Krong Kaeb) has a UXO problem in some form or another. UXO varies
from small caliber ammunition, to mortar rounds and sub-munitions
from cluster bombs, all the way up to 500-pound bombs dropped by
Mine and UXO casualty rates are seasonal, with the months of
Jan–May having the highest rates (average 110 victims per month),
the months of Jun–Oct having the lowest (average 37 victims per
month) and the months of Nov–Dec in the middle (average 77 victims
per month). Mine casualty rates are steadily declining in Cambodia
through demining and awareness/education programs and now account
for 25% of all mine/UXO victims. Of note, half of all mine
casualties occur as a result of individuals’ cutting timber and
traveling in the forest. UXO accounts for 75% of all mine/UXO
victims and of these, slightly more than half are caused by the
individual tampering or playing with a UXO device. The lesson here
is to stay out of the forest and never touch UXO.
Other Posts or Offices Within the Host Country
There are no U.S. Government posts or offices in Cambodia outside
Post Orientation Program
Post provides a half-day newcomer orientation for employees and
family members. Past orientations have included various speakers
from the Management Sections and the SOS medical doctors followed by
a tour of the Embassy compound and the SOS/AEA medical clinic.
Incoming employees are also provided with hefty welcome kits from
both the Community Liaison Office (CLO) and the Human Resources
Section. These kits provide a wealth of information about the post
and Phnom Penh and a packet of forms for in-processing. CLO makes
every effort to assign a social sponsor for each new family. The
social sponsor is an invaluable resource in the first few days to
help incoming employees learn where stores, restaurants and services
are located in town and introducing the new family to the Mission
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:28 PM
No U.S. carriers fly directly to Phnom Penh. The most traveled
route from Washington to Phnom Penh is via Chicago, Detroit or the
U.S. West Coast to Tokyo, then to Bangkok, then to Phnom Penh.
Travelers also commonly reach Phnom Penh through Hong Kong and
The routing through Bangkok generally requires an overnight stay
and luggage is best checked directly through to Bangkok. If an
overnight is required in Bangkok, Thai currency (baht) will be
needed for meals, ground transportation, etc. Money can be exchanged
at bank booths located outside the Customs hall, ground floor. Many
Embassy personnel overnight in Bangkok at the Amari Airport Hotel
that is connected to the Bangkok Airport by a skybridge although
persons with business at the U.S. Embassy often choose to stay at
one of the hotels near the main Embassy compound. Taxis are readily
available at the Bangkok airport for travel to town at a cost around
300-500 baht one-way ($8-15). The airport taxi stands are located
directly outside of the airport arrival terminal. Slightly more
expensive limo services are available inside the arrival terminal
(600-700 baht or $15-$20.) Travelers are recommended to use these
airport services rather than book limo services through the local
hotels, which cost two-three times the amount of regular taxis or
airport limos. Thai taxis and businesses will not accept U.S.
dollars so travelers going into Bangkok are advised to change money
before departing the airport.
There is a mandatory 500 baht departure tax ($12-$15) when
leaving Bangkok by air. This fee may be paid at manned booths or
automatic machines located near the passport control line. The
receipt must be shown to the passport control guards to proceed to
passport control. The Thai authorities at the departure tax booth
and the automatic machines will not accept or exchange U.S. dollars.
Travelers who do not have the correct amount in baht must then find
a money exchange or bank booth and exchange this amount in baht and
return to pay this fee -- which can be stressful if the traveler is
in a hurry. Travelers are advised to consider this mandatory
departure expense upon first arrival when changing U.S. dollars into
A change of clothing, toiletries and medications should be hand
carried in your accompanying baggage (whether or not an overnight
stay is required in Bangkok).
Employees are recommended to bring half a dozen visa-sized
pictures for themselves and accompanying family members to post for
use in obtaining diplomatic cards after arrival.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:29 PM
There is a $25.00 departure tax for all international flights and
a $6.00 departure tax for all domestic flights from Phnom Penh.
There is no restriction on the amount of currency that can be
imported into the country, but amounts in excess of $10,000.00 must
Passage Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:29 PM
All travelers must have a valid passport. New employees assigned
to the Embassy must obtain a diplomatic visa in Washington, D.C.
prior to arriving in Phnom Penh. Tourists, business travelers and
other visitors to Cambodia may purchase an airport visa on arrival
in Phnom Penh for $20. One visa-sized photo needs to be provided for
obtaining an airport visa. Baggage claim receipts must be retained
and shown to claim bags on arrival in Phnom Penh. Although no
inoculations are currently required for entry, there are a number of
recommended vaccinations and prophylactics (see Health and
Pets Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:29 PM
Pets are permitted entrance into Cambodia. All pets should have
standard vaccinations and certificates, and the post should be
notified in advance if an employees plans to bring a pet. Airlines
should be contacted directly about its policy for shipping of pets.
There is an established veterinarian, Agro Vet in Phnom Penh.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 12/3/2003 3:44 PM
The Ambassador’s written approval must be obtained before
bringing any firearms into Cambodia. There are no public shooting
ranges in Cambodia and hunting opportunities are not available.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
6/9/2005 11:33 PM
Cambodia is principally a cash economy in which the Cambodian
riel and the U.S. dollar are used. Travelers do not need to change
dollars into riel, as the dollar is accepted everywhere. Paper riel
notes in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000
are in circulation. However, at 4,000 riel to the dollar,
transactions are more easily accomplished using dollars. Dollar
denominations from 1 to 100 are in wide circulation. Prices of goods
and services may be quoted in either riel or dollars and may be paid
using either currency. Coins (Cambodian or U.S.) are not used.
Often, payments are made in dollars and change is provided in a
combination of dollars and riel. Dollars (and riel) are readily
available from the U.S. Embassy cashier where U.S. employees may
cash personal checks for up to $500 per day. It is important that
employees bring an adequate supply of checks to post.
The PCC (Paper Check Conversion) software has been installed at
the Cashier window. Personal checks presented at the window for
accommodation exchange are immediately scanned and electronically
transferred to the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland; and, they are
cleared in 24 hours.Checks and credit cards are not readily
accepted, except by major hotels, some restaurants and a handful of
retail shops. For businesses that accept credit cards, it is not
unusual that they add a 3% to 5% surcharge to the transaction. Post
employees can cash U.S. traveler and Treasury checks at the U.S.
Embassy cashier and at some local banks. However, the local banks
charge a fee for service. As of this writing, there are around 20
Western Union agents located in Phnom Penh and more than 60 in other
locations outside of the city.
Personal banking in Cambodia is not advised. There are only a few
reliable banks in the country and depositors’ accounts are not
insured against loss. Although banking regulations exist, they may
not always be enforced. Several banks have opened, and then closed,
during the past years. No U.S. banks are currently operating in
Cambodia.In January 1999, Cambodia instituted a 10% valued added tax
(VAT) on the sale of goods and services. VAT paid on services is not
reimbursable. However, VAT is not uniformly applied and generally
only charged at major hotels, high-end restaurants, on ticket sales
and at Western grocery stores. Small local vendors do not charge VAT
and there is no government mechanism to enforce compliance. VAT paid
on goods is usually reimbursable if claims are filed with the Local
Regime Tax Office. The Financial Management Office (FMO) can assist
post employees in filing for VAT tax refunds. Original receipts must
be submitted to receive the refund. As of this writing, it was
taking from 3–12 months to receive VAT refunds.
The metric system is used throughout Cambodia for all weights and
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 6/9/2005
Post employees should consult with the State ICASS shipping and
customs section before selling personally owned vehicles (POVs) or
other personal property to those not having diplomatic status. There
are tax implications on such transactions and permission to sell
must be obtained from the Management Officer in advance.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:51 PM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Becker, Elizabeth. When the War Was Over. Simon and Schuster: New
Bizot, Francois. The Gate. Random House, Inc., NY, 2002.
Brown, Frederick Z., ed. Rebuilding Cambodia: Human Resources,
Human Rights, and Law.
Public Interest Publications: Virginia, 1993.
Chanda, Nayan. Brother Enemy. Collier Books: New York, 1986.
Chandler, David. A History of Cambodia. Westview Press, Inc.:
Boulder, Colorado, 1983.
Chandler, David. Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol
Pot. Westview Press,
Inc.: Boulder, Colorado, 1992.
Chandler, David. Facing the Cambodian Past. Silkworm Books:
Chiang Mai, 1996.Chandler, David & Mabbett, Ian. The Khmers.
Blackwell: Oxford, UK & Cambridge, USA, 1995.
Chandler, David. The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War,
and Revolution Since 1945. Yale University Press: New Haven,
Chandler, David and Ben Kiernan, eds. Revolution and Its
Aftermath in Kampuchea. Yale University Press: New Haven,
Chandler, David, Ben Kiernan, and Chantou Boua, eds. and trans.
Pol Pot Plans the Future: Confidential Leadership Documents from
Democratic Kampuchea. Yale University Press: New Haven, Connecticut,
Coedes, George. Angkor: An Introduction. Oxford University Press:
Singapore, 1959, and Oxford University Press: Hong Kong, 1963.
Criddle, Joan D. and Teeda Butt Mam. To Destroy You Is No Loss:
The Odyssey of a Cambodian Family. Doubleday: New York, 1987.
Gottesman, Evan. Cambodia After the Khmer Rouge: Inside the
Politics of Nation Building. Yale University Press: New York, 2002.
Him, Chanrithy. When Broken Glass Floats: A Memoir of the Khmer
Rouge Years in Cambodia. Norton & Company: New York, 2000.
Hinton, Alexander Laban. Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the
Shadow of Genocide. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA,
Jackson, Karl, ed. Cambodia 1975–1978: Rendezvous with Death.
Jacobson, Matthew. Adventure Cambodia. Silkworm Books, 2004.Kamm,
Henry. Cambodia: Report from a Stricken Land. Arcade Publishing: New
Kiernan, Ben. How Pol Pot Came to Power. Verso: London, 1985.
Kiernan, Ben and Chanthou Boua. Peasants and Politics in
Kampuchea, 1942–1981. Zed Press: London, 1982.
Livingston, Carol. Gecko Tails. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London,
May, Someth. Cambodian Witness. Random House: New York, 1986.
National Geographic. March 1971. “The Lands & Peoples of
South-East Asia.” National Geographic Society: Washington, D.C.,
National Geographic. May 1982. “The Temples of Angkor.” National
Geographic Society: Washington, D.C., 1982.
National Geographic. May 1982. “Kampuchea Wakens from a
Nightmare.” National Geographic Society: Washington, D.C., 1982.
Neveu, Roland. The Great Little Guide: Phnom Penh and Cambodia,
The Great Little Guide. Ltd.: Bangkok, 1993.
Ngor, Haing with Roger Warner. A Cambodian Odyssey. Warner Books,
Inc.: New York, 1987.
Osborne, Milton. Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness.
Silkworm: Chiang Mai, 1994.
Shawcross, William. Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon & the Destruction
of Cambodia. Simon and Schuster: New York, 1979.
Short, Phillip. Pol Pot Anatomy of a Nightmare. Henry Holt and
Co.: New York, NY, 2004.
Szymusiak, Molyda. The Stones Cry Out: A Cambodian Childhood
1975–1980. Hill and Wang: New York, 1986.
Ung, Loung. Lucky Child: Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the
Sister She Left Behind. HarperCollins: New York, NY, 2005.
Vickery, Michael. Kampuchea: Politics, Economics and Society.
Lynne Rienner: Boulder, Colorado, 1988.
Welaratna, Usha. Beyond the Killing Fields: Voices of Nine
Cambodian Survivors in America.
Stanford University Press: Stanford, California, 1993.
S-21, The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine. 2004.
The Killing Fields. Columbia Pictures, 1984.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 6/9/2005 11:56 PM
Cambodian New Year (3-day celebration) Mid-April
Chrat Prea Angkal (Royal Ploughing Day) May
King Sihamoni’s Birthday May
Pchum Ben (Feast of the Ancestors. 3 day celebration) Sept/October
The Water Festival (3-day celebration) Oct/November
Former King Sihanouk’s Birthday October — November
Independence Day (celebrates independence from the French) November