Brief History of Cambodian Currency
Cambodia’s first machine made coin — the Cambodian Tical
If you thought the Riel had always been Cambodia’s official currency, you are completely wrong. Instead, our currency has changed rather significantly throughout time, both in form and name.
According to Global Financial Data, from the ninth to tenth centuries, Cambodia imported Pyu and Mon coins from the Mon kingdom of Dvaravati, whose remnants can still be found in the central part of present-day Thailand. For a fact, coins were not produced in Cambodia until the sixteenth century. In the 1850s HM King Ang Duong of Cambodia (1841-1859) issued the first machine-made coins, known asCambodian Tical. The Tical was divisible into 8 Fuang and 64 Att.
12 years after Cambodia became a part of the French Indochina, the Banque de l’Indochine was established. A branch was set up in Phnom Penh, which became the note-issuing bank for all of Indochina from February 22, 1891 to December 31, 1951. It is in this period that Indochina’s currency, the Piastre, was introduced.
During the Second World War, French Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) and Thailand, though occupied by Japanese troops, did not have Japanese occupation currency; rather, they paid a kind of ransom by creating domestic currency and giving it to Japan to pay for local expenses. The Piastre was divisible into 100 Cents.
After the war, France initially revalued the Piastre to equal 17 French Francs, but the Piastre was devalued back to its old level of 10 French Francs on May 11, 1953. On December 31, 1951 the exclusive privilege of banknote issue was transferred to the Institut d’Émission des États du Cambodge, du Laos et du Viêt-Nam, which also had its headquarters in Phnom Penh. Although separate notes were issued for Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the notes were legal tender in all three states.
Upon gaining its independence, Cambodia issued the Riel (KHR) on January 1, 1955. The Riel is divisible into 100 Sen, and was issued at par with the Piastre which was completely replaced by September 29, 1955. The Riel was used in Cambodia until 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, eliminated all money, and introduced a barter economy. The Khmer Rouge had contracted for banknotes showing the Khmer Rouge defending the country against Capitalists, but they were never issued.
After the Vietnamese invasion in 1978, the riel was re-established as the Cambodian currency on April 1, 1980, initially at a value of 4 riel = 1 US dollar. It is subdivided into 10 kak or 100 sen. Because there was no money for it to replace and a severely disrupted economy, the central government gave away the new money to the populace in order to encourage its use. In rural areas the riel is used for virtually all purchases, large and small. However, the US dollar is also used, particularly in urban Cambodia and tourist areas. In Battambang and other areas near the Thai border, like Pailin, the Thai baht is also accepted.