Visiting Cambodia’s Win-Win Memorial

Twelve million dollars can buy a lot — yachts, islands, or the iconic Cambodian architect Van Molyvann’s former house, with $5 million left over to buy new curtains. It’s also how much it cost to build Cambodia’s Win-Win Memorial, the phallic stone-clad monument memorializing the Khmer Rouge’s 1998 surrender to Hun Sen.

Carvings at the Win Win Memorial

Carving at the Win-Win Memorial depicting the end of the Khmer Rouge era.

Located 20 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, opposite the new national sports stadium and next to a granite-cutting factory and a TV station, the Win-Win Memorial seeks to educate the world about the actions, achievements, and glory of Cambodia’s prime minister, and in particular about his policy of offering amnesty to the motley crew of Khmer Rouge commanders who lurked on the Thai border throughout the 1990s causing trouble. Continue reading

Expat Q&A: Starting a coffee social enterprise in Cambodia

In this series we talk to Cambodia expats about their lives here, and what they know now that they wish they had known when they first moved to Cambodia. This week we talk with Swapnil Deshmukh, an expat originally from India who moved from Singapore to Phnom Penh to work in banking, and ended up starting a social enterprise that provides training and jobs to the Deaf community.

Swapnil Deshmukh in Cambodia at Angkor Wat

Swapnil wishing he had moved to Cambodia sooner.

Why did you move to Cambodia and what do you do here?

Before moving to Cambodia, I was working for a Digital Banking company in Singapore. I had first visited Cambodia in 2013 on a business trip. I was touched by the people here – many of them are super kind and made time to be nice to each other. In that first trip, one particular moment stood out to me. At a traffic light, a tuk tuk driver was next to a couple with a small baby on a moto. Within those 60-90 seconds, the tuk tuk driver exchanged pleasantries with the couple and even played with the little baby in the mother’s arms. I never experienced anything like that in Singapore or India. Continue reading

Registering with the Foreigner Presence in Cambodia app

In Cambodia, landlords have long been required to report the presence of foreign tenants — this is why you’ve always had a copy of your passport made when you check in at a hotel, or lease a new accommodation. Until now, the process has been done on paper, and many small-time landlords ignored the regulations to avoid the taxes that came with it. But no longer — now all foreigners in Cambodia are required to register their presence via app.

FPCS Cambodia app

Get registered on the FPCS app by July 1st.

The Cambodian government has announced a new mobile app, the FPCS-GDI, or “Foreigner Presence in Cambodia System” for Android, iOS, and desktop. From July 1, 2020, foreigners who are not registered in the database will not be allowed to extend their visas. Continue reading

Using Cambodian traditional music to share COVID-19 safety tips

You may be familiar with the long-necked lute, known as a Chapei, already if you live in Cambodia, where it is played at weddings and funerals. The Cambodian traditional music called Chapei Dang Veng employs both rhyme and wordplay to share information and social commentary, and subjects can include Khmer poems, folk tales, and Buddhist teachings. While this tradition has been around for centuries in Cambodia, it’s easily adaptable to modern situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic. In this video, Master Kong Nay, uses Chapei Dang Veng to share public safety tips in Khmer about coronavirus.

Below the lyrics to the ចម្រៀងចាប៉ី-COVID-19 Safety Tips From Master Kong Nay video:

Wash your hands to protect yourself from catching coronavirus
Make sure to get soap into all the nooks and crannies
Do it often and for at least 20 seconds each time

Brothers, sisters, grandparents, please keep two meters distance from one another
Stay away from crowded places
Follow the guidance from the Ministry of Health

If you have a high temperature, a dry cough or trouble breathing
Please call 115 to ask for advice on what you should do
If you are advised to go to the clinic, please make sure you wear a correctly fitted mask

Master Kong Nay with his Chapei

Master Kong Nay with his chapei. Photo by James Dewar.

Master Kong Nay was declared a national living treasure by the Cambodian government in 2013, and is one of the few masters of this traditional Cambodian art that nearly disappeared before Cambodia Living Arts helped facilitate some of the masters of Cambodian art forms to train a new generation of artists and keep the traditions alive.

We caught up with Yon Sokhorn the head of Arts Development at Cambodia Living Arts to find out a little bit more about Chapei Dang Vang. Continue reading

Will American expats in Cambodia get a US stimulus payment?

May 21 update from the US Embassy: The Embassy recently received 187 U.S. Treasury checks (economic impact payments) for U.S. citizens and is in the process of notifying recipients in Cambodia of their arrival.  Recipients must be registered in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order for us to have contact information and to make notifications when we receive such checks.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Safety (CARES) Act, every American citizen who qualifies will be receiving a $1,200 payment from the US government. People started seeing deposits in their accounts a few weeks ago, but Americans abroad have wondered if they are eligible.

American flag in Cambodia

Since I don’t have a check yet to take a picture of, here’s a photo of an American flag on the Mekong in Phnom Penh.

Although the CARES Act seemed to include all American citizens, the IRS page initially said that “U.S. residents will receive the Economic Impact Payment of $1,200 for individual or head of household filers…” suggesting that non-residents were not eligible.

However, over the weekend the IRS has posted clarification on their site that reads: Continue reading

Cambodia coronavirus visa update

Update May 20: United States, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, and Spain passport holders are again allowed to enter Cambodia if they are already in possession of a multi-entry Cambodia visa. Those not in possession of a long-stay visa already will need to apply for a visa in advance from a Cambodian embassy or consulate. There are currently no visa exempt entries, visa on arrival, or electronic visas being issued. Those entering the country will need to have a medical test with negative COVID-19 results within 72 hours of flying and a health insurance policy with $50,000 of coverage. Get a no-commitment expat health insurance quote from Cigna Global.

While not all incoming passengers are subjected to quarantine, some have reported being quarantined overnight on arrival.

Cambodia COVID-19 update: what’s happening with visas?

Update April 16: Those from the United States, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, and Spain are now banned from entering Cambodia until further notice.

Update March 30: With new travel restrictions coming every few days, it can be difficult to keep track of Cambodia’s visa situation due to coronavirus. From March 17th those from the United States, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain were banned from entering the country for 30 days, apparently due to climbing rates of COVID-19 infections in these countries. Chinese visitors, however, were allowed to travel freely into the Kingdom. On March 28th it was announced that e-visas and visas-on-arrival will no longer be issued to any nationality from March 31st for a period of one month.

During this period all foreigners will be required to obtain a visa at their local Cambodian embassy or consulate, and be able to provide a medical certificate certify a negative COVID-19 test result issued no more than 72 hours before the date of travel, as well as provide proof of insurance with a minimum of $50,000 of medical coverage. Due to the lack of availability of tests in most countries, this restriction makes it all but impossible for most people to travel to Cambodia in April. Continue reading

Expat Q&A: Care about the people not the money

It’s been quite a while since we did an Expat Q&As, and even longer since we did an “old timer” Q&A, where we talk to expats that have been living in Cambodia for years and years. We love talking to long-term expats about what it was like living in Cambodia in decades past, because they have the best stories to tell and the best advice to give. This time we talk to Andy Ahmed, a former teacher from the UK, who has lived in Cambodia for 15 years.

Andy and his wife

Andy and his wife Nou Chakriya in Cambodia, around 2007 when they got married.

What was Cambodia like when you first arrived and how has it changed?

“I came in 2005. It was a mess, but that’s why I’d come. I’d previously been in Kathmandu from 2002 to 2004 establishing a school for street kids in the midst of a civil war, and I was looking for the next most screwed-up Asian nation. The education system was in a particularly dire situation and I thought I might bring my teaching skills and experience ‘to make a difference’. I didn’t.” Continue reading

Staying in Siem Reap during the coronavirus pandemic

While other countries were closing borders and imposing lockdowns, life in Cambodia has largely continued as normal. Over the past few weeks, however, the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic have started to reach the Kingdom. Like many other expats, my family has decided to stay in Siem Reap for the duration.

Old Market Siem Reap closed for coronavirus

Old Market in Siem Reap, almost completely closed in the wake of coronavirus.

Probably the biggest impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Cambodia is with regards to tourism; since last month the tourist numbers have dropped precipitously. Siem Reap, which relies very heavily on tourism, is feeling the brunt of the tourist exodus. Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction, the ancient temples of Angkor, lure millions of visitors every year. Today they sit eerily empty. The tourists and their life-giving dollar have deserted Cambodia.

Continue reading