One of the best-known monarchs in Thai history, King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V), died over 100 years ago. On the occasion of the centenary of the demise of the great monarch, the Government Public Relations Department (PRD) organized a press tour of the eastern provinces of Trat and Chanthaburi to observe historical sites in connection with the King. The press tour took place on 18 and 19 October 2010, with local historians giving press briefings.
Trat, bordering Cambodia, is one of the “orchards of Thailand,” with plantations of durian, rambutan, and mangosteen. Deposits of precious stones are concentrated in the hills and mountains of Trat and the nearby province of Chanthaburi.
King Chulalongkorn visited Trat as many as 12 times. During his reign, at the turn of the 19th century, the French occupied the present- day provinces of Trat and Chanthaburi, but he was able to halt aggression from foreign countries with amiability and prudence. According to historical records, the French ruled Trat for two and a half years. At that time, France had already colonized Indochina, comprising Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. King Chulalongkorn negotiated the return of Trat from the French by giving the province of Siem Reap, Battambang, and Sisophon, now parts of Cambodia, to the French in exchange for Trat.
Now we come to Chanthaburi, where King Chulalongkorn paid his first visit when he was five years old. In 1893, France seized Chanthaburi and stationed its troops there for 11 years. In exchange for this province, King Chulalongkorn decided to give an area on the left bank of the Mekong River to France.
In 1907, during his visit to this province, the King presented the Chanthaburi ruler with a royal sword, recognized as an outstanding artistic creation of the Rattankosin period. The sword is now kept at the treasury of Chanthaburi and is brought out to put on display only at royal ceremonies.
From the days when the French had subjugated Chanthaburi, some colonial-style structures and numerous architectural and design features are preserved. In the town of Chanthaburi, the French occupation force headquarters and its arsenal are situated in the grounds of the Tak Sin Military Camp. There is also the prison tower, called Khuk Khi Kai, built at the start of the French occupation, in 1893, to hold rebellious locals.
Following the French withdrawal from Chanthaburi, in 1904, King Chulalongkorn told the ruler of Chanthaburi to organize a grand celebration at the Town Hall, which was joined by people from all parts of the province.
Chanthaburi, on the Gulf of Thailand, is rich in not only fruit resources but also gemstones. It has become Thailand’s gemstone trade center and one of the world’s most important ruby-producing areas. Also called Mueang Chan, Chanthaburi is believed to have been a human settlement as far back as 6,000 years ago.