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Phuket History: Recalling a Thai-Malaysian legacy

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket History: Recalling a Thai-Malaysian legacy | The Thaiger

PHUKET: One of the most famous historical figures in the history of Phuket and this region, is the late Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong, better known on Phuket as Praya Rassada. He was the high commissioner of Phuket and the Southwestern region of Siam from 1900 to 1913. He was assassinated 100 years ago in May, 1913.

To commemorate his death, a regional historical symposium and business forum was recently held in Penang. The event was entitled ‘Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong and shared history of Malaysia – Thailand relations’.

The event was held at Penang’s famous old Eastern and Oriental Hotel and was organized by the Penang Heritage Trust in conjunction with The Thailand-Malaysia Business Forum. The Phuket Governor and several other Governors from Thailand’s southwestern provinces attended.

Speakers at the event included the current Thai Deputy Prime Minister Kittirat Na Ranong; the Thai Ambassador to Malaysia, His Excellency, Krit Kaichitti; the president of the Penang Heritage Trust, Ms Khoo Salma Nausition, as well as several professors, writers and family members of the Sultan of Keddah, and of the Khaw and Na Ranong families, from both Malaysia and Thailand.

The speaker representing Phuket was Mr Colin Mackay, the author of the recently published book A History of Phuket and the Surrounding Region.

The large and influential Khaw (in Malaysia) or Na Ranong Family (in Thailand) are the descendants of Khaw Soo Cheang, a poor Hokkien Chinese emigrant from Fujian province China, who arrived in the new British free port of Penang in 1822. Around 1824 he moved north to settle in Phang Nga and then Ranong, which was then a backward but developing frontier mining region.

He married a local Siamese girl and became a successful mine owner, and in 1854 he was appointed governor of Ranong province and given the princely title of Phraya Na Ranong (Baron of Ranong) by the Siamese King. He proved himself to be an able and efficient governor, building new roads, a courthouse and jail, creating fairer mining laws, and more importantly, paying his taxes to Bangkok on time.

He judiciously arranged marriages between his many offspring from his several wives, both Siamese and Chinese, into the other influential political and business families in the region at the time, such as the Hokkien Tan Clan families in Phuket who controlled much of the region’s tin mines, and other wealthy Hokkien business families in Penang. He also had a child married into the powerful, Persian-rooted Bunnang family in Bangkok, who at the time ran the government department for Southern Siam.

Due to these connections, the Na Ranong family prospered in the late 19th century and also grew politically powerful. By the late 19th century, Khaw Soo Cheang’s sons were in position as Governors of most of the provinces of Southwestern Siam.

The most remarkable son was his youngest – Khaw Sim Bee, whose efficient governorship of Lang Suan, near Chumporn garnered him a promotion to become the governor of the more important Trang province. In Trang, he did a good job at developing the province, building infrastructure and controlling the previously rampant banditry, as well as bringing the first rubber trees into Siam.

In 1900, Bangkok created Monthon Phuket (or greater Phuket county) this was a new super-province which incorporated all the surrounding southwestern Siamese provinces from Trang to Ranong into one big province under the administration of Phuket. Khaw Sim Bee was appointed the high commissioner of the whole tin-rich region south west of Siam and himself given the lordly title of Praya Rassada.

Although he was a short stumpy man standing just 1.7 meters tall, he was of strong character, entrepreneurial, clever and powerful. Under him the Na Ranong family, in cahoots with the local Tan family bosses on Phuket were able to dominate and monopolize the most lucrative businesses in Phuket at the time, namely: Opium, tin smelting, shipping, tin mining, logging, property and insurance.

Praya Rassada worked hard to improve and beautify Phuket Town, which until then was a squalid, ramshackle frontier mining Town. Phuket town itself was laid out along Thalang road and at a ‘T’ angle along what was then the river front of Klong Bang Yai.

He oversaw the construction of many of the fine old buildings in the government quarter of Rassada, such as the Sala Klang the provincial seat of government, the governor’s house, the new court house and jail. He and other rich local Hokkiens in Phuket used mainly Penang-based architects to develop many of the fancy shop houses and some of the fine mansions in old Phuket Town, in a style similar to that of George Town on Penang island.

He introduced the first hospitals, schools, a cinema, an ice house and banking to the island. This was often done by forcing foreign companies who wanted mining concessions on the island to contribute towards the development of the Phuket Town as a condition of getting any business concession.

Praya Rassada and the Khaw family also started Tongkah Harbor Mining Co Ltd, and brought the first great steam dredgers to the island in 1907. Tongkah Harbor is still listed on the Thai and Malaysian stock exchanges today. Praya Rassada was a keen golfer, and even developed the island’s first golf course in what is now Surin Beach Park in 1912.

His rule and business control over the island and the region was, however, quite autocratic, monopolistic and at times corrupt. Indeed, his attempts to keep the encroaching foreign companies out of his family’s and associate’s sphere of influence in Phuket, almost caused the irritated British to invade and colonize Phuket to remove him in order to help open up and liberalize trade in the region.

In 1913 Praya Rassada was shot with a pistol at close range in a crowd on Trang pier by the local hospital dresser, who believed that he (Praya Rassada) was having an affair with his (the hospital dresser’s) younger and apparently most attractive wife. After the attack the seriously wounded Praya Rassada was taken on his private steam ship to the best hospital in Penang, where he and the other Khaw family members also kept their main houses, but he never recovered from the wound and died in May, 1913.

In the 19th century, wealthy men could take several wives as did Praya Rassada. The wealthy members of the Na Ranong or Khaw family have since intermarried and interbred and have now spread all over the region (and indeed the world) over the last 150 years. They have remained strongest in their main bases of Penang, Phuket and Ranong where the huge family grave can be seen beside the road to the Casino pier.

Today, family members such as Kittirat Na Ranong, who is the current Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Thailand, are evidence of the continued strength and influence of the family in the region, both in Thailand and Malaysia. So it was fitting that the 100th anniversary of Khaw Sim Bee’s death was used to both promote this symposium to advance historical knowledge in the region and further business ties between these two historically closely linked islands of Penang and Phuket.

A copy of Colin Mackays book ‘A History of Phuket and the Surrounding Region’ is available from the Phuket Gazette offices or any Seng Ho bookstore (click here for map).

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Enterprising young Cambodian impresses with multi-lingual skills

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Enterprising young Cambodian impresses with multi-lingual skills | The Thaiger

Young vendors become very resourceful at extracting money from tourists. All in the quest of making an honest living and bringing some money to their families. This young boy seems to have knowledge of at least seven languages, obviously representing the most popular languages spoken by the tourists he speaks to during his daily rounds.

Netizens are impressed by his talents but some are saying that the boy has to develop this skill in order to survive. A translation follows some of the many languages he is able to use in his daily work. Let’s hope he gets the opportunity to use his skills in a prosperous career in the future.

We’ll take five of whatever you’re selling!

A video clip showing a Khmer boy showing off his linguistic talent while trying to sell souvenirs to a tourist in Cambodia is going viral on social media.

Posted by The Nation Bangkok on Sunday, November 11, 2018

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Bangkok

New additions to the Thailand Michelin foodie guide

The Thaiger & The Nation

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New additions to the Thailand Michelin foodie guide | The Thaiger

by Khetsirin Pholdhampalit

Thai street food eatery Jay Fai has retained its one Michelin star for the second consecutive year and the legendary Thai restaurant Methavalai Sorndaeng is among the new 10 additions to have been awarded one star, according to the announcement of eateries making it the second edition of Michelin Guide Bangkok.

No restaurant has achieved the coveted highest three-star rating.All three two-starred restaurants in the inaugural edition, namely Gaggan, Le Normandie and Mezzaluna have retained their stars, while Suhring has been upgraded from one to two stars.

The little red guide has been extended to cover the best dining venues in the Southern provinces of Phuket and Phang Nga for its 2019 edition.

However, Pru restaurant in Phuket is the only restaurant in the two Southern provinces to have been awarded one star.

The other 14 restaurants in both cities, such as the famous venues of Raya and Chomchan received Bib Gourmand awards for being ‘good value for money’.

In addition to Methavalai Sorndaeng and Pru, other new one-starred additions include Le Du, Gaa, Canvas, R.Haan, Saawan, Sorn, Ruen Panya, and Suan Thip.

Dining venues in Bangkok’s neighbouring provinces of Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon and Samut Prakan are also covered in this new edition.

New additions to the Thailand Michelin foodie guide | News by The Thaiger

ORIGINAL STORY: The Nation

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Thai Life

Plain packaging for cigarettes being introduced to discourage smoking

The Thaiger

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Plain packaging for cigarettes being introduced to discourage smoking | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Example of the changes to cigarette packaging now being implemented in Thailand

In the moves to modify polices relating to smokers in Thailand, some of the new legislation is directed towards manufacturer packaging

Cigarette packets will soon be plain and much less attractive under the new regulations approved by the National Tobacco Products Control Committee.

Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsattayathorn says that the plain packaging will replace the current packaging. They say the current guidelines have been used for more than five years and become ‘familiar’ with smokers to the extent that it is ‘no longer effective’ in discouraging people from smoking or making people recognise the health threats from cigarette smoking.

He says the plain packaging will be standard and applied to all brands of cigarette. He added that colorful or appealing packaging will not be allowed as it is regarded as marketing of cigarettes.

The Minister says that the introduction of plain packaging regulation would make Thailand the first country in Asia and the eleventh in the world that adopts this kind of ‘negative’ packaging to discourage cigarette smoking. Australia was the first country to enforce plain packaging; the most recent country was Mauritius.

Dr Chayanan Sitthiboot, director of the Tobacco Consumption Control Office, says cigarette manufacturers have one year to prepare for the new packaging.

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