Arnold Wright.

Twentieth century impressions of Siam: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources, with which is incorporated an abridged edition of Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya online

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Online LibraryArnold WrightTwentieth century impressions of Siam: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources, with which is incorporated an abridged edition of Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya → online text (page 1 of 107)
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Editor in Chief: ARNOLD WRIGHT (London).
Assistant Editor: OLIVER T. BREAKSPEAR (Bangkok).













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7' « curious how little is known of Siam in the outside world, and how meagre,
hitherto, has been the sum tola! of authoritative and reliable information
published regarding it. And yet it is a country of peculiar interest and infinite
possibilities, destined in the near future to occupy a position of great commercial
importance. The Government is, in form, an absolute monarchy, but hand in
hand with the monarchical system are to be found some of the best features
of an enlightened and progressive democracy. The humblest subject may climb,
through a well-organised educational process and a series of public scholarships,
to the highest offices in the State. After passing through the local schools several of the most promising
boys are sent each year to complete their education in Europe, with the understanding that upon their
return they remain for a certain period in the Government service. Their records in the various
colleges and schools of the West have been exceptionally good, and the possible extent of the influence
such a constant stream of capable, well-trained, and efficient servants may have in the administration of
the country is well - nigh incalculable. The progress made during the last quarter of a century has been
remarkable ; and while Siam may not have asserted her position as an independent political entity with that
rapidity which has characterised Japan's emergence from comparative insignificance and entrance into the
comity of nations, this may be attributed solely to the difficulties of her geographical position, which place her
somewhat outside of the beaten track of Eastern commerce. In spite of such obvious disadvantages, however,
the public revenue and expenditure of the country have trebled during the last twenty years — a result due, not
to new or enhanced taxation, but merely to more effectual methods of financial control and the natural
expansion of trade and cultivation. Larger and larger sums have been spent on the steady development of the
country. The Army has been remodelled and radical reforms introduced into the methods of enlistment, with
the purpose of preventing military service, as far as possible, from interfering with the exigencies of other
branches of Government service or the vigorous exploitation of the country's natural resources and industrial
capabilities. Railway construction is being pushed forward as rapidly as possible, so that it is reasonable to
believe that quick means of communication will soon be established between those places which can now be
reached only after weeks of tedious travel. The country is being gradually opened up, and on all sides there


are evident signs of the adoption of modem and progressive methods on the part of the Government for the
improvement of the country's position. Siam is an independent country, intensely jealous of her independence,
and her children yield to no other nationality in their love for the homeland.

The King is, in theory, the master of life and death and the owner of all land, but in practice, of course,
this is not so. No one is condemned without a trial, and the expenses of the King's private property are never
defrayed out of the public treasury. The religion of the Stale is Buddhism, and his Majesty, as the highest
"supporter of the doctrine" stands at the head of the religion. But a broad spirit of religious toleration
prevails j- all creeds are granted full liberty of worship, nor is any one, by virtue of his religious belief, prevented
from occupying any secular office under the administration or disabled in any way.

In the present volume, while due regard has been paid to historical claims, no trouble has been spared to
give a true picture of Siam as it exists at the present day. There are articles showing how the country
is being administered and what advance has been made under the wise and beneficent rule of his present
Majesty. All the departments of State have been dealt with adequately, and proper recognition paid to
the ministers to whose inspiration and genius many of the most notable reforms effected during the last quarter
of a century have been due. On the commercial side the volume has exceptional claims to attention. The
great rice trade, the teak industry, shipping, mining, and the multifarious trade interests centring in Bangkok
all have their share of space, and in the result is produced a record which may be consulted with advantage by
every business house in Europe which desires to extend its connection with the East.

Generally, it may be staled that in carrying through the work no trouble has been spared to ensure
completeness and accuracy, and in every section of the volume, governmental, industrial, and commercial, the
various articles have been written by the highest authorities. In each instance the author, from long experience
and training, has become a specialist on the subject of which he treats. The publishers wish to express their
thanks to the Government, without whose assistance the satisfactory completion of the task would have been
impossible, and especially desire to acknowledge the cordial goodwill of H.R.H. Prince Damrong, the Minister
of the Interior. Throughout His Royal Highness has evinced the greatest interest in the work, and his many
practical suggestions, having been acted upon, have in each instance added greatly to the value of the book.
His Royal Highness also placed at the disposal of the publishers the whole of his unique collection of photo-
graphs of the interior of Siam. These, together with those the publishers themselves procured, give a pictorial
representation of Siam upon a scale which has never been attempted before.

September, 1908.



History. By Arnold Wright

The Royal Family

Constitution and Law —

The Constitution .......

Siamese Law : Oi.u and New. By T. Masao, D.C. LL.D, Senior Legal Adviser to H.S.M.'s
Government and Judge of H.S.M.'s Supreme Court of Appeal

The Administration oe Justice. By W. A. G. Tili.eke, Acting Attorney-General

Diplomatic and Consular Representatives

The Army and Navy —

The Army. Bt Major Luang Bhuvanarth Narubal, CHitf of General Staff

The Navy . . ...

Police and Provincial Gendarmerie —

The Police. By Eric St. John LaWSON, Commissioner of Police, Bangkok ....

The Provincial GENDARMERIE •-......

Finance. By W. J. F. Williamson, Financial Adviser lo the Government of Slam

Royal Survey Work. By R. W. Giblin, F.R.G.S., Director of the Royal Survey
Department ........

Health and Hospitals —

Climate ano Health oe Bangkok. By Dr. H. CAMPBELL Highet, Fellow of the Royal
Institute of Public Health and Principal Medical Officer, Local Government, Siam

The Department oe Puhlic Health. By Morden Carthew, M.B., B.Ch., Edin., Acting
Medical Officer of Health for Bangkok • •-....

Imports, Exports, and Shipping. By Norman Maxwell, Principal of the Statistical Office
of H.S.M.'s Customs .........

Rice. By A. E. Stiven, Manager of the Borneo Company, Ltd., Rice Mill, Bangkok .
The Teak Industry. By A. J. C. Dickson

Mines and Mining Administration. By John H. Heal, R.S.M., F.G.S., Inspector-General
of the Royal Department of Mines and Geology '

Engineering. By C. Lamont Groundwater, M.I.E.E

Means of Communication —

Rivers, Roads, and Canals. By J. Homan van der Heide, Director-General of the Royal

Irrigation Department .
Railways ............

, Posts and Telegraphs .........


















Ecclesiastical —

BUDDHISM. By O. FRANKFURTER, Ph.D., Chief Librarian of the National Library, Bangkok
The Roman Catholic Church ..........

The Protestant Church. By Rev. Henry J. Hii.lyard, M.A., LL.D., Chaplain of Christ
Church. Bangkok .............

The Siamese Language. By B. O. Cartwright (Cantab.), Exhibitioner, King's College,
Cambridge; English Tutor to the School of the Royal Pages, Bangkok

Manners and Customs

Education. By W. G. Johnson, Adviser to the Ministry for Public Instruction and
Ecclesiastical Affairs



The Highways and Sanitation of Bangkok. By L. R. de la Mahotiere, City Engineer
and Chief Engineer of the Sanitary Department, Bangkok . . .

The Press







fcnttktlj Cental! ^ntprrsstons at








^ 5 ^7


Ancient history — The Portuguese period —
Camoens' description ofSiam in the "Lusiad"
— Early Dmh and English connection —
The English East India Company estab-
lishes factories at Ayuthia and Patani.

IAM, though one of the
ancient kingdoms of
Asia, possesses a his-
tory which is compara-
tively modern. The
vicissitudes of the
Siamese people have
been great, and in the
overwhelming disaster
of the middle of the eighteenth century, when
the Burmese devastated the country and burnt
Ayuthia, the ancient capital, the national records
were irretrievably lost. Afterwards an attempt
was made to piece together the story of the
race from fragments preserved in monasteries
and from traditions surviving among the priests,
but the result, though interesting in a literary
way from the point of view of historical ac-
curacy, leaves much to be desired. In the
main the work consists of a series of fables
and myths as monstrous and fantastic as any
to be found in the annals of Eastern nations,

rich as they are in flights of imagination. It
is not until we come to the founding of Ayuthia,
in the fourteenth century, that we get on to
anything like firm ground. It is fairly certain,
however, that before that period the Siamese
were a nation who played a considerable part
in the commercial life of Asia. Suleiman, an
Arab traveller of some note of the ninth or
tenth century, is stated by Sir Henry Yule
in his essay, " Cathay and the Way Thither,"
published by the Hakluyt Society, to give a
tolerably coherent account of the seas and
places between Oman and China and to men-
tion Siam under the name of Kadranj. From
other sources it is to be gathered that a con-
siderable Arab trade was transacted with Siam
by way of Tenasserim, which was the starting-
point on what was then the western coast of
Siam of an overland route to Ayuthia. Tavernier,
in his account of the Kingdom of Siam, observes
that " the shortest and nearest way for the
Europeans to go to this kingdom is to go to
Ispahan, from Ispahan to Ormuz, from Ormuz
to Surat, from Surat to Golconda, from Gol-
conda to Maslipatan, there to embark for
Denouserin, which is one of the ports belong-
ing to the Kingdom of Siam. From Denouserin
to the capital city, which is also called Siam,
is thirty-five days' journey — part by water, part
by land, by wagon or upon elephants. The


way, whether by land or water, is very trouble-
some — for by land you must be always upon
your guard for fear of tigers and lions ; by
water, by reason of the many falls of the river,
they are forced to hoist up then boats with

Long before Tavernier's time Siamese
authority had been exercised, not only in
Tenasserim, but in the adjacent country. At
the end of the thirteenth century, Burmese
records inform us, Siam exercised sway as far
north as Martaban, and that its power was
effective is shown by the fact that the second
Siam king of that State, on ascending the
throne of his brother, had to solicit a recog-
nition of his title from the King of Siam.
Later it lost its hold on Tenasserim and Tavoy,
but in the period 1325-1330 Siamese influence
was re-established in the two provinces. The
facts, as far as they are known, go to support
the theory which has been put forward by
eminent Asiatic scholars, that the Siamese
were originally a powerful Laos tribe who,
pushing southwards from what are known as
the Shan States, ultimately established them-
selves at Ayuthia in 1350. As regards the
country's designation, Siam seems to have been
a foreign — probably a Portuguese — invention.
Mrs. Leonowens, in her interesting work,
points out that it has even a contemptuous



signification, being derived from the Malay
word sdgdtn, or brown race. She says "the
term is never used by the natives them-
selves ; nor is the country ever so named in
the ancient or modern annals of the kingdom."
Accurate as these statements doubtless were
at the time they were written, " Siam " has
now become so enshrined in geographical
nomenclature that it is by this name and no
other that it will continue to be known and
styled. , , • .

";Wllen we". £nteJ-/t}ponr the period of Portu-
guese domination' in' Asia the facts in regard to
tSJarn siapd'jr|ore clearly revealed. At the very
'outset the 1 'Western ■ adVemturers appeared to
have been acquainted with the country and its
inhabitants and products. Preserved in the
Public Library at Oporto is a manuscript
written in 1497 — the year of Vasco da Gama's
great exploit in rounding the Cape of Good
Hope — giving an account of Tenasserim. The
writer said that the State which he called
"Tenacar" was peopled by Christians and
that the king was also a Christian. With
greater veracity he went on to describe the
natural characteristics of the country. "In
this land is much brassy 11, which makes a fine
vermilion, as good as the grain, and it costs
here three cruzades a bahar, whilst in Quayro
[Cairo] it costs sixty ; also there is here aloes
wood, but not much." Leonarda Da Ca'
Masser, a Venetian, who was commissioned
as a sort of secret agent from the Republic to
Portugal in the opening years of the six-
teenth century, gives an account of the various
voyages undertaken by the Portuguese, and in
referring to the ninth voyage prosecuted by
Tristan de Acunha in 1506 makes mention of
Tenasserim. " At Tenazar," he writes, "grows
all the vcrzi [brazil] and it costs ij ducats the
baar, equal to four kantars. This place though
on the coast is on the mainland. The King is
a Gentile ; and thence come pepper, cinna-
mon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, galanga, camphor
that is eaten and camphor that is not eaten.
. . . This is indeed the first mart for spices in

It was not until the Portuguese had accom-
plished the conquest of Malacca, in 1511, that
they turned their thoughts seriously in the
direction of Siam. In that year Albuquerque
despatched Duarte Fernandez as ambassador
to the King of Siam. The envoy appears to
have sailed in a Chinese junk direct to the
city of Hudia, and to have returned, accom-
panied by a Siamese ambassador, overland from
Ayuthia to Tenasserim, and to have embarked
at the latter port for Malacca. This mission
was followed by a second one, despatched
shortly afterwards by Albuquerque with the
special object, it would seem from the records,
of reporting on the " merchandise, dresses, and
customs of the land, and the latitude of the
harbours." Antonio de Miranda de Azevedo
and Manuel Frageso, the envoys on this
occasion, proceeded in the first instance by-
sea to Taranque, and thence by land to the
city of Siiio (Ayuthia). On their return they
reported that the peninsula was very narrow
" on that side where the Chinese make their
navigation " and that from thence it was only
ten days' journey to the coast of Tenasserim,
Trang, and Tavoy. In 1516 there was a further

effort made by the Portuguese to establish
intimate relations with the Siamese. The
Governor of Malacca in that year despatched
Duarte Coelho to Ayuthia with letters and
presents to the King of Siam, in the hope that
by an alliance with Siain the ancient glories
of Malacca might be restored. Coelho was
well received, and he was able to arrange for
the renewal of the arrangement entered into
by Albuquerque a few years earlier. It is
recorded that, with the approval of the king^
a wooden crucifix with the arms of Portugal
painted upon it was erected in a prominent
part of the city.

The numbers of Portuguese who made their
way to Siam, says Sir John Bowring in his
well-known work, must have been consider-
able ; and their influence extended under the
protection and patronage they received from
the Siamese. They were more than once
enrolled for the defence of the kingdom,
especially in 1545, when it was invaded by
the King of Pegu, who laid siege to the capital
(Ayuthia). The Siamese were not only
assisted by Portuguese located in the country,
but by the crew of a ship of war then anchored
in the Menam ; and it is reported that the
most vulnerable parts of the city were those
which were specially confided to the keeping
of the Portuguese, who were under the
command of Diogo Perreira. The city was
successfully defended by the valour of the
Portuguese, who are said to have refused
large bribes offered by the Peguan invaders.

" Many Portuguese were at this period, and
even before, in the service of Siam. In the
year 1540 Dom Joiio III. sent Francisco de
Castro to claim Domingo de Seixas from the
Siamese, he having been reported to be held
in captivity by them. But, so far from the
report being confirmed, it was discovered that
Seixas, who had been in Siam since the year
1517, was the commander of a large force in
the interior, and in great favour with the
authorities. He was, however, with sixteen of
his followers, allowed to leave the country,
after receiving liberal recompense for the
services they had rendered.

" Of this De Seixas, Joao de Barros, the old
chronicler, says that he was supposed to have
been a captive, but he was discovered to be the
commander of a large body of men employed
to subdue the mountain tribes ; and he reports
that the Siamese army in his day (the beginning
of the sixteenth century) consisted of 20,000
cavalry, 250,000 infantry, and 10,000 war
elephants, and that his army was raised
without depopulating the country in any

In the Portuguese records one de Mello is
mentioned as having rendered signal services
to the Siamese. He was put to death by a
Pegu nobleman, called " Xenim of the Tuft,"
and it is said that the nobleman, being himself
convicted of treason and condemned to death,
exclaimed, on the way to the place of execution,
while passing the dwelling which De Mello
had occupied, " I deserve this death, because I
ordered Diogo de Mello to be killed, without
reason, and on false information."

Intermittently this intercourse between the
Portuguese and the Siamese went on for a
good many years. It took a somewhat new

turn in the second quarter of the sixteenth
century, when, during the governorship of Don
Stefano da Gama, son of the famous explore^
a fleet of three Portuguese ships, manned by
eighty men, sailed from Goa, in search of a
mythical island of gold, supposed to exist on
the eastern side of the Bay of Bengal. The
filibusters— for such they undoubtedly were —
failed to find the treasure island, but they,
nevertheless, reaped a golden harvest by levy-
ing toll on ships in Tenasserim waters. Their
depredations were so systematically pursued
that all trade was stopped and urgent repre-
sentations were made by the King of Siam to
abate the mischief. It does not appear whether
any response was made to this appeal. But it
can hardly be supposed that the Siamese of
that day were in a position to seriously oppose
a force so formidable as that of the Portuguese
pirates must have been. Ce>are dei Fedrici, a
Venetian merchant, who travelled between
Malacca and Pegu in 1568, refers to the trade
of the region in terms which leave it to be
supposed that it had recovered somewhat
from the injury inflicted upon it. Describing
Tenasserim, he says: "This citie of right
belongeth to the Kingdom of Sion [Siam],
which is situate on a great river's side, which
commeth out of the Kingdom of Sion. and where
this river runneth into the sea there is a village
called Mergi, in whose harbour every yeere
there lode some ships with versina, nipa, and
beniamin, a few cloves, nutmegs, and maces
which come from the coast of Sion, but the
greatest merchandise there is versina'and nipa,
which is an excellent wine."

1 1 is, however, in the " Lusiad "of Camoens that
we find the most vivid early description of the
country. The poet was wrecked off the Siamese
coast, and it was here that the famous incident
took place of his being washed ashore bearing
about him the manuscript of a part of his famous
poem. In these lines he introduces us to the
majestic Mekon, in whose waters he narrowly
escaped death : —

See thro' Cambodia Meikon's river goes,

Well named the "Captain of the waters," while

So many a summer tributary Hows

To spread its Hoods upon the sands, as Xile

Inundates its green banks —

And shall I to this gentle river throw
My melancholy songs, and to its breast
Conlide the wetted leaves that tell the woe
Of many a shipwreck, dreary and 'distrest, —
Of famine, perils, and the overthrow
Of him, by Fate's stern tyranny opprest—
Of him whose resonant lyre is doomed to be
More known to fame than to felicity ?

In another trail lation of the "Lusiad" we
have this picture of Siam and adjacent lands : —

Behold Tavai City, whence begin
Siam's dominions, Reign of vast extent ;
Tenassari, Queda, of towns the Queen,
That bear the burthen of the hot piment.
There farther forwards shall ye make, I ween,
Malaca's market, grand and opulent,
Whither each province of the long seaboard
Shall send of merchantry rich varied hoard.

But on her Lands-end throned see Cingapur,
Where the wide sea road shrinks to narrow way ;
Thence curves the coast to face the Cynosure,
And lastly trends Aurorawards its lay :



See Pam, Patane, and in length obscure,

Siam, that ruleth all with Royal sway ;

Behold Menam who rolls his lordly tide

From source Chiamai called, Lake long and wide.

Thou see'st in spaces of such vast extent
Nations of thousand names and yet un-nanied ;
Laos in land and people prepotent,
Avas and Bramas for vast ranges famed.
See how in distant wilds and wolds lie pent
The self-styled Gueons, savage folk untamed :
Man's flesh they eat, their own they paint and sear,
Branding with burning iron, — usage fere !

only one difference they have (which is) that
they are somewhat whiter than the Bengalon
and somewhat browner than the men of

For a long period the Portuguese amongst
European nations had a monopoly of inter-
course with Siam. They very cleverly turned
their position in India to advantage by extend-
ing their relations with other Eastern countries,
and European intruders were left out of the
field by the successful enforcement of the
arrogant pretensions to universal domination

Goa. Ultimately Newberry settled down as
a shopkeeper at Goa, and Leedes became a
servant of the Great Mogul. The other
member of the party, Fitch, entered upon a
lengthened course of travel, which took him,
amongst other places, to Siam. He was prob-
ably the first Englishman to visit that country,
and he must have taken home with him a
mass of highly interesting information con-
cerning it.

It is only possible to conjecture the effect
that the account of his travels produced in


See Mecom river fret Cambodia's coast.
His name by "Water Captain," men explain ;
In summer only when he swelleth most,

Online LibraryArnold WrightTwentieth century impressions of Siam: its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources, with which is incorporated an abridged edition of Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya → online text (page 1 of 107)