Cambodia's Plow, Notes Of The Second Riel: 1 Kak (Cambodia, 1979)-Article

Updated: Jan 3

This small Cambodian banknote represents the 1st denomination of the Second Riel (Seventh Issue, Series 1979). The Second Riel was introduced 1 April 1980, during the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia. Which was in response to the Cambodian (Democratic Kampuchea) invasion of Vietnam. Beginning the drawn out Cambodian–Vietnamese War (1978-1989).

The Vietnamese successful counter-attack lead to the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge government. And the establishment of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (1979-1989). Notably the Second Riel was technically preceded by the Democratic Kampuchea Riel (Series 1975). Which were withdrawn and destroyed, due to the Khmer Rouge abolishing the concept of currency. (This banknote will be reviewed reverse first.)


The reverse illustration depicts Khmer farmers driving pairs of water buffalos. A row of tractors can be seen driven in the background. Representing a transitional from traditional to modern farming. For the most part, the note's image is aspirational, rather than a realistic depiction. As water buffalos are still quite common in rural Cambodia, even in modern times.

Unlike the observe the reverse frame features both Khmer (๐.๑) and standard numerals (0.1). The upper-left corner lists the note's "1 Kak" value. While the more complex Khmer script (មួយកាក់) repeats the same value, along the lower-left of the illustration. It should be noted Kak is a fractional denomination, equal to 1/10th Riel.

The reverse border is highly ornate, with floral imagery. This style is based on traditional Khmer stonework. Featuring precise geometric cuts and thick rounded edges. This art style was nearly lost due to Khmer Rouge rule. As they associated Buddhist-inspired artwork to be linked to classism and feudalism.


The observe features Coat of Arms of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (1979-1981). Notably this short-lived Coat of Arms was replaced by a more elaborate design (1981-1989). Which again was replaced by another design, representing the transitional State of Cambodia. It was eventually replaced by the pre-revolutionary Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Cambodia (1953-1970/1993-20xx).

Returning to the observe, nearly all text is printed Khmer script and numerals. The header reads "សាធារណរដ្ឋប្រជាមានិតកម្ពុជា", translated as the "PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KAMPUCHEA". Above the footer is additional text it reads, "មួយកាក់" or "One Kak". While the footer itself list the note's print date "1979".

To the left of the note's illustration is the Coat of Arms of the People's Republic of Kampuchea. Below this Coat of Arms one of the note's serial numbers. It reads "ឋផ 3846320", roughly translation to "ThPh 9854841". Notably the Khmer alphabet does not directly translate to Latin/standard script.

Moving toward the ornate border, we see an art style reminiscent of Khmer stonework. The lower-left and lower-right corners list the the notes value. The corners simply read "๐.๑" or "0.1", representing the note's 1 Kak value. It should be noted Kak is a fractional denomination, equal to 1/10th Riel.

The Asian Water Buffalo

The Asian Water Buffalo is economically and culturally significant in Southeast Asia. Particularly amongst rural farmers, often forming their most prized procession. Providing their owners with a source of heavy labor, fuel, and renewable food. Through their rich milk, which is processed into useful dairy products. Historically consumption of their meat was rare, often reserved for religious festivals.

Asian Water Buffalo is divided into distinct River and Swamp types. With each type domesticated independently, at different times and regions. The River Buffalo is believed to been domesticated in Western India 4,300 BCE. While the domestication Swamp Buffalo is more uncertain, Although is believe to have happened within Southeast Asia, sometime between 5,000-1,000 BCE.

The 2 water buffalo types differ in appearance and behavior. River Buffalo are black to dark slate in color, with long faces/legs, and upward curving horns. While Swamp Buffalo are gray to bluish gray, with swept back horns, wider faces, stocky legs, and large bellies. Their natural habit to wallow in mud better suits them for rice planting. As opposed to the larger and taller River Buffalo, who make better pack animals.

The smaller Swamp Buffalo is often considered the more manageable of the 2 types. To the extent children in Southeast Asia are capable of rending them in rice paddies. Children are often first trained with younger animals, which helps create better bonding. Similar to the family structure of Southeast Asia villages, buffalos are often bred amongst neighbors.

Both River and Swamp Buffalo dung is utilized as a natural fertilizer. It plays a particularly important role in rice farming. As buffalo dung adds vital nutrients to the soil, through its rich diet of aquatic plants. This diet it useful when clearing wetlands for rice cultivation, as its within buffalo's nature.

Notably Water Buffalo are also capable of consuming dry and non-aquatic plants. Buffalos used for dairy are often fed green fodders. Which includes fodders rich in sugars, which helps produce more disable milk. While recycling left over by-products, such as banana peels and sugar cane waste. Thus helping minimize local waste and in neighboring areas.

Water Buffalo have also been recently suggested to clear areas of evasive and overgrown aquatic plants. By using Water Buffalo in controlled grazes, to provided space for beneficial plant and wildlife. Thus providing a natural means of environmental conservation and restoration.

Second Riel (Series 1979) Gallery

(Gallery will be updated, as new banknotes are databased)


Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 100 x 50 mm or 3.04 x 1.97 in, smaller than a US Dollar.

  • The preferable method to preserve this note are side opening sleeves, cut to size.

  • The Second Riel uses the ISO code is KHR and "" as its symbol.

  • The Second Riel was sub-divided into 10 Kak/100 Sen, before rising inflation made these denominations obsolete.

  • Since the 1990s the US Dollar has been used as an accepted currency, in Cambodian retail.

  • USIA is a defunct US Government agency, its 1999 website has been achieved for posterity.

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