Koh Mak, the History
The island of Koh Mak is located in the East of the Gulf of
Thailand, 35 kilometers from the mainland, at latitude 11 °
49' North, longitude 102 ° 29' East. Koh Mak is the third
biggest island in Trat province after Koh Chang and Koh Kood,
with an area of 16 square kilometers; it is mostly flat. The
island has a circumference of 27 kilometers, and white sandy
beaches stretch from the north-west of the island round to
Mak is a tambon (sub-district) attached to Khing Amphur
(district) Koh Kood, Trat province. The traditional
occupations of the island are agricultural: most of the land
is cultivated as plantations of coconut or para rubber.
It is said that the
island was first settled by Chao Sua Seng, who established a
coconut plantation, and who occupied the post of Palad Jeen,
or Chinese Affairs Officer, during the reign of King Rama V
(King Chula-longkorn). Later, Chao Sua Seng sold his coconut
plantation to 'Luang Prompakdii', Plian Taveteekul, who also
held the post of Chinese Affairs Officer and who came
originally from Ban Koh Po in Prachankiriket province. This
is now the province of Koh Kong in Kampuchea, but at the
time it was a province of Thailand.
Now I would like to relate the history of Luang Prompakdii
and his family, the descendents of the Taveteekul clan. To
this day, his children still own most of the land on Koh Mak.
As far as we know,
Luang Prompakdii was himself of Chinese descent, and
emigrated from China to Thailand at the time of the Great
Revolution in China to settle at Ban Koh Po. He received a
royal appointment to the post of Chinese Affairs Officer for
the province of Prachankiriket, for which reason the
villagers called him Than Palad Jeen. He was married to Khun
Mae Mulee and had eleven children, as follows:
1. Nai Mueng
2. Nai Prom Taveteekul
3. Nang Tae Wongsiri, who married Khun Wongsirirak
4. Nai Kanna Taveteekul
5. Nai Au Taveteekul
6. Nai Dam Taveteekul, who drowned at an early age
7. Nang Kimhun Wattana, who married Nai Panompuong
8. Nai Aeb Taveteekul (Luang Uthai-satchavethee)
9. Nang Payorm Aungsuworn, who mar--ried Khun
10. Nai Aab Taveteekul
11. Nang Sumlee Bunsiri
Luang Prompakdii sent
his fifth son, Nai Au Taveteekul, to study in China, and
later sent his fourth son, Nai Kanna Taveteekul, to
accompany his brother to work on the coconut plantation on
Life in old Ban Koh Po
Koh Po (that is, Koh Po village) was a tambon or
sub-district of Pra-chankiriket province, or Koh Kong, and
in the old days Koh Kong town was a place from which agri-cultural
products were sent to be sold in Bangkok, especially rubber
and rong thong (gamboge, a kind of gum resin collected from
a tree and used as a colourant in paints and dyes).
We know, for instance,
that there was a tax collector called 'Nai Kong' who was
charged with collected taxes from the gamboge-tappers and
sending the taxes to the Royal Finance Bureau (from which we
may conclude that the cultivation of gamboge was the most
popular way of making a living in those days). Historical
evidence shows that he was responsible for the gamboge-tax
from 2411 to 2435 B.E., that is, 1868-1892, in the reign of
The name which Nai Kong
was given by the King was Luang Yothapirom; he was a royal
officer with a direct connection to the Palace, which at the
time controlled the administration of tax collection. His
family also lived in the village of Koh Po.
Ban Koh Po is located
on the banks of the Koh Po River, and the villagers lived
along the banks of the river. This village has a long
history, and a densely settled population, and in those days
was an administrative and trading centre. The offices of the
Royal administration were there, and the offices of the
appointed Governor of Prachan-kiriket: Pra-pichai-chonlathee,
who was also called "Saang".
Every aspect of
progressive development was at that time concentrated within
Ban Koh Po. Royal officers and prosperous families lived
there, and traders, some of whom traded on a large scale.
Big sailing boats came to and fro, carrying on a constant
trade with Bangkok.
The family of Luang
Prompakdii and Khun Mae Mulee was one of the best known,
most respected and prosperous in Prachan-kiriket. Luang
Prom-pakdee's trading interests were highly diversified. His
trading post and house were situated right in the centre of
the village, on the river bank, by a pier that stood out
into the river. North of this pier were terraced houses for
workers and servants; and south of the pier stood Luang
Prompakdee's own house, built in the old Thai style with a
high, steep roof and a verandah looking out over the river.
Further along from
Luang Prompakdee's house were the houses and offices of
other traders, and the houses of royal officials and
villagers, all settled very closely together along the river
bank. Then came the house of the Governor,
Prapichaichonlathee; then more houses, and so right out to
the edge of the village.
Running parallel to the
river was an old path, which divided the village into two.
The houses were built in a row along both sides of the path,
sometimes close together or and sometimes further apart
depending upon how much land each owner had.
In those days, Koh Po
also had many brewers of alcoholic drinks, who exported to
distant places. This in turn meant that there were traders
in alcoholic drinks- and also the 'drinks stamp' officers,
the men who administered the royal taxes on this commodity.
Later, King Rama V
reformed the administrative system away from direct royal
rule to a system of Ministries, each Ministry being
responsible for a particular aspect of administration. Rama
V's system was very similar to the administrative system
still used in Thailand at the present day.
reforms of Rama V brought big changes to Prachankiriket. Old
pro-cedures were abolished and government offices were
relocated from Koh Po to Tambon Laem Dan at the mouth of the
Tapangrung River, inside the Straits of Kong.
The new provincial
governors were appointed directly by the Ministry of the
Interior. Prayapichaichonlathee who was sent as Governor to
Prachankiriket. His previous name had been Jorn Chatraputi,
and he became known locally as Chao Muang Jorn.
The timber business
Prompakdii and Khun Mae Mulee had expanded their business
interests, setting up a timber factory and buying up
mangrove wood. They bought the woods on the southern banks
of the Bang Krasop River, a place which is still known as
Rong Pheen ('Wood Factory') to this day.
The province of
Prachankiriket had very large mangrove forests covering the
flooded, muddy estuarine areas. Every area of mangrove
forest was a flooded zone, all the way from Klong Lad at Koh
Nuu, where the stream from Koh Nuu cut through to join the
Koh Po River on the west bank. This forested area was
interlaced with many creeks, and the mangroves flourished
At that time,
charcoal-burning was not being done in that area. Luang
Prompakdii and Mae Mulee were the first traders who bought
mangrove wood and shipped it to Bangkok on a regular basis
by large sailing boat. On its return journey, the boat
brought back goods from Bangkok for sale in Pra-chankiriket.
The purchase of Koh Mak
Mae Mulee was highly respected by the people and known for
her devotion to Buddhism. She owned rice fields which she
rented out, collecting the rent in rice; part of this rice
was set aside so that it could be given as alms to the monks
on a regular basis.
With her close
connections to traders and royal officials, Khun Mae Mulee
was well informed, and this is how she learned that Chao Sua
Seng, another of the Chinese Affairs Officers, wanted to
sell his coconut plantation on Koh Mak. Khun Mae Mulee
agreed to buy the plantation for the sum of 300 Chang, which
was the name of the currency in those days (One Chang = 80
Baht). And that is how the coconut plantations on Koh Mak
came into her family, in whose possession they have remained
to this day.
The French colonial
time went by, the situation in Prachan-kiriket felt more
uncertain in many ways. The situation of the whole of
Thailand was also uncertain. This was the heyday of European
co-lo-nialism, when the nations of Europe were competing to
exploit nations throughout Asia and the other continents.
Lands belonging to many less developed countries were seized
by Europeans and turned into colonies. Many parts of our own
Siam (Thailand) were seized and ruled by the British and the
French on many occasions.
was Thai territory in the past, its population of the same
descent as other Thais. But in 2447 B.E. (1904) the French,
expanding their colonies in Indochina, annexed
Prachankiriket-or Koh Kong-and integrated it into Cambodia,
which they had already seized. This occurred during the rule
of Rama V (Chulalongkorn).
At the time, the loss
of Koh Kong to the French wasn't carefully recorded in Thai
chronicles, so later generations do not know how this
happened. But it is accepted as a fact that Thailand lost
this part of her territory to the French.
The territory of
Prachankiriket or Koh Kong borders on Trat province, which
is still Thai territory. This border is a long one, run-ning
as far as Ao Kompong Som in Cambodia. The inner part of the
island of Koh Kong was a huge area of forest.
King Rama V made
journeys to patrol his eastern territories in this area,
travelling down from Chanthaburi province along the sea
border on the East of the Gulf of Thailand.
As is recorded in
history, Bangkok was built in 2325 B.E. (1782) at the start
of the Chakri Dynasty. Until the reign of King Rama IV, or
around 2400 B.E. (1857), the security of the kingdom was
endangered by the colonial ambitions of the French. The
French invaded Vietnam in 2401 B.E. (1858) and seized many
important cities such as Saigon and Binh Hoa; later they
took complete control of the whole of Vietnam.
The French did not use
force against Cambodia as they had against Vietnam. Here
they resorted to a softer, diplomatic approach by sending a
representative to negotiate with King Norodom Sihanouk of
Cambodia, proposing that Cambodia should become a French
'protectorate'. Eventually the Cambodian monarch acceded
completely to French wishes.
It was easy for the
French to use their great military force to impose their
will on Thailand's neighbours, who were in a weak position
and unable to fight back.
In their ambition to
expand their power, the French had their eyes on a large
area of Thailand bordering on Cambodia: Pratabong (now the
Cambodian province of Battambang), Siamrat (now integrated
into Cambodia as Siem Reap) Srisophon and Prachankiriket.
All of these had been Thai territories since the old days.
It is recorded as an
important event in Thai history that we were forced to lose
our land to these French 'colonial hunters'. The French
tried to force the Siamese ruler at the time to accept that
the land to the east of the Khong River (Maekhong) should be
under their rule. This included the North and South of Laos,
the country of the Laotian people, whose relationship to the
Thais went back many generations.
Then the French used
military force to invade Thai territory, but met fierce
resistance from Thai forces.
Realising that Thailand
would not be overcome or bullied easily, the French launched
a naval expedition on 13 July 2436 B.E. (1893), sending a
fleet with two gunships and a pilot vessel up the Gulf of
Siam into the mouth of the Chao Praya River. Fierce gun
battles took place between the French and Thai navies, in
which the Thai force was at a disadvantage, having less
modern ships than the French enemy. Thailand's fighting
ships sustained heavy damage, but one of the French gunships
was also holed.
Because of the
disadvantageous position of the Thai force, in respect both
of weaponry and ships, the Thais agreed to negotiations for
French demands for
French colonial powers dictated very oppressive conditions
for a peace treaty, and as losers of the war the Thais were
bound to agree to these terms unconditionally. What the
French demanded was:
1. The Thais must
accept that Vietnam and Cambodia, all the territories on
the eastern bank of the Maekhong River, and all the
islands in the Maekhong were under French rule.
2. The Thai military forces must be withdrawn from all
territories east of the Maekhong River within one month.
3. Thailand was pay reparations for the fighting in the
Northeast and also at the mouth of the Chao Praya River.
4. Thai military personnel were to be punished, and
compensation was to be paid to the wives and children of
French soldiers killed or wounded in the fighting.
5. In all, the compensation demanded came to a total of
three million French francs.
6. As a guarantee, the Thai King would also be required to
deposit three million French francs in foreign currency in
advance, or else let the French have the right to collect
taxes and tax stamps. (These taxes were mainly levied on
an annual basis on production of fruits and other
agricultural products from Pratabong and Siamrat.
Dejected, the Thais
accepted five out of the six conditions in the treaty and
immediately delivered the deposit of three million French
francs. However, the Thais would not agree to give up their
territories east of the Maekhong to the French, as this was
the land of people who were blood relatives of the Thais
going back many generations. That land did not belong to any
other nation, as the French were arguing in support of their
The French could see
that the Thai ruler was still slow to give his official
words of approval to the treaty in the wording that had been
presented to the Thai negotiators. Monsieur Pavi therefore
sailed the French fleet out of the mouth of the Chao Praya
River and established a new base at Koh Sichang. They then
boldly announced a blockade of the Gulf of Thailand, with
the intention of cutting Thailand off from the outside world
and from necessary trade goods. By these means they put
pressure on Thailand for a while; the blockade was lifted on
3 August 2436 B.E. (1893).
Later the French sent
their fleets to seize Chanthaburi province, and they also
dictated two further treaty conditions to the Thai ruler:
1. Thailand would
have to withdraw its military forces from the provinces of
Pratabong and Siamrat;
2. A demilitarised zone was to be established, reaching 29
km. back from a border defined as running along the
Maekhong River; Thailand would not be allowed to have
soldiers within this zone.
Historical records show
that the diplomatic negotiations between King Rama V and the
French lasted eleven years altogether, from 2436 B.E. to
2447 B.E. (1893-1904); the French finally withdrew their
troops from Chanthaburi on 28th December 2447 B.E. During
the negotiations, King Rama V sought concessions from the
French on the matter of rights to collect taxes, and their
territorial demands. Finally it was agreed that the French
would withdraw from Chanthaburi in exchange for the control
of certain areas which were part of Trat province, such as
the lands south of Laem Singh and some of the marine
islands-and also the province of Prachankiriket or Koh Kong
which lay to the south of Trat.
Prachankiriket fell to the French, the lives of its people
changed in every respect. The French sent Khmer military and
civilian personnel to administer the province; to the
locals, these were foreigners, who spoke a foreign language.
The Khmer officials dealt with the local people in an
suspicious and overbearing way, demanding forced labour, and
treating people badly, even beating them; in fact this was a
habit Khmer officials had towards their own people, too.
Crimes were committed which caused people to live in fear
and insecurity, worrying for their own safety and that of
As for Luang Prompakdii
and his family, although they already had bought the coconut
plantation on Koh Mak, a secure property firmly within Thai
territory, far from the oppressive rule of foreigners, yet
he still felt tied to his home in Ban Koh Po, and to his
relatives and friends there who had passed together through
the difficulties and happinesses of life. His livelihood was
still prosperous and comfortable, and he dwelt at Koh Po-a
beautiful environment of hills and forests, river and rocks,
indeed a setting which could hardly find its match anywhere
else. People who lived in this region felt attached to its
landscape, and though they might have to move away for a
long time they would still not forget their old home town.
And so Luang Prompakdii long continued to live at his house
in Koh Po. The responsibility for looking after the coconut
plantation in Koh Mak he gave to his sons.
However, one night an
incident occurred which changed his mind about staying on.
Why Luang Prompakdii
moved to Koh Mak
rich people of that region were concentrated together in Koh
Po village, because it was still the centre of trading, just
as it had been when it had belonged to Thailand. One very
rich trader in Koh Po was Luang Panom Tao, or Chao Sua Tao.
He was known far and wide on account of his wealth, which
came from trading in forest produce, gamboge resin, fragrant
woods, herbs and herbal medicines. His house in the centre
of Koh Po was built in the Thai style with teak wood brought
from Bangkok, with steep roofs, an elevated floor and teak
Luang Prompakdii was a
close friend of Luang Panom Tao, and later on a son of Khun
Luang Panom Tao, called Khun Wongsirirak (previously known
as Nai Tek) took as his wife one of Luang Prompakdii's
daughters, Nang Sao Tae. Wongsirirak and Tae had many sons
and daughters together.
Then one night in the
year 2453 B.E. (1910), in the sixth year of French rule at
Koh Kong, Luang Panom Tao's house was robbed in the middle
of the night while everyone was fast asleep. Many of his
valuable belongings were taken.
In those days the Thai
currency was coins made of silver. Luang Panom Tao kept much
of his savings in the form of these Siamese silver coins, as
well as Indochinese silver coins and old-style paduang
ingots. As it happened, the robbers were unable to carry off
all of his money and they dropped quite a lot of it while
making their escape. Many villagers found the coins and kept
them to themselves, which raised their living standards
Luang Prompakdii became
considerably more nervous after that big robbery. Later that
year he eventually moved his entire family to live on the
coconut plantation in Koh Mak.
The settlement of Koh
was an abundance of land on Koh Mak. Some parts of the
island were old orchards, but much of the land was
uncultivated, and these virgin lands were cleared and
cultivated by Luang Prompakdii's children.
Luang Prompakdii and
Khun Mulee both were strongly devoted to Buddhism and were
constantly making merit. They built a temple in Koh Mak, but
it was deserted again after two years. Then Luang Prompakdii
built a large sala (hall) for the temple of Wat Pai Lom in
Trat province, at the time when Than Chao Khun
Buraketkhanajarn was the abbott.
They were serious
practictioners of Buddhism, generous and very kind. They
kept working on their plantations in Koh Mak with their
children until the end of their lives, and passed away at an
advanced age on the island of Ban Suan Yai. Their deaths
brought great sorrow to their children, who diligently
organised their funeral and a Buddhist sermon at Wat Pai Lom
In conclusion, we can
see how Koh Mak became covered with coconut and para rubber
plantations, owned throughout the island by descendants of
the same family. The childen of Luang Prompakdii, on
receiving their inheritance from his coconut plantations,
divided up the unoccupied lands for their children and
grandchildren. Eventually all these lands became cultivated
with either coconut or para rubber, leaving no land for
outsiders save any land which members of the family were
willing to sell.
At present, Koh Mak is
still very rich with coconut and para rubber plantations.
The islanders still work mainly in agriculture, although
there are some who fish or catch squid.
of tourism on Koh Mak
first bungalows for tourists were built around 2517 B.E.
(1974) at Ban Ao Nid on the east of the island.However,
tourism was not yet flourishing in this area, and transport
and telecommunications were difficult, which put a halt to
developments for some time.
2530 B.E. (1987), part of the beach areas of the island were
developed into tourist attractions. Bungalows and resorts
were built to serve Thai and foreign tourists properly. Now
Koh Mak has several interesting tourist places such as:
Resort: Located at Ao Suan Yai, this resort has a long white
sand beach along the whole bay, and faces the small island
of Koh Kham. Ao Suan Yai is on the west side of Koh Mak. You
have a distant view of Koh Chang, Koh Wai and Koh Kum from
Resort: Located at Ao Suan Yai next to KohMak Resort.
CocoCape Resort : Next from Fantasia in the far end of Ao
SuanYai, still under construction
Resort: located on Koh Rayang Nork, on the south-east of Koh
Mak opposite Ao Na Nork. There is a white sand beach and
bungalows at the foot of a hill.
located on Koh Mak at 'Suan Ban Yai' in the Ao Na Nork area.
T.K. Hut is on the south-west of the island. It has a long
white sand beach connected to Ao Ka-toeng and Ao Khao.
Beach Resort: Next to T.K. Hut
KohMak : Located between T.K. Hut and Ao Kao Resort, still
Resort: This is on the south of the island in the area of Ao
Kao. You can see Koh Kood and Koh Rang from here.
Resort: this is on Ao Kao, connected to Ao Daeng on the
south of the island.
Resort: Located in Laem Chan, next from Lazy Days Resort.
Sunshine Resort: Located on the hill, eastern side of the
KohMak Guesthouse: Located at Baan Ao Nid.
Resort: this is on Koh Kradad and on the south of Koh Mak.
Koh Kham Resort: this is opposite Ao Suan Yai on Koh Mak, in
similar landscape to Koh Rayang Nork. The clean, piled-up
white sand beach with black stones is unlike other islands
Here the author would
like to sum up the main facts. Luang Prompakdii and Khun
Luang Panom Tao lived originally in Koh Kong province, or
Prachankiriket, together with other Thai people, before the
province fell into Khmer hands. Prachankiriket was Thai
territory from a long way back. Luang Prompakdii had his
home in Tambon Koh Po; he was an influential person who
commanded much respect. He was appointed to the post of
Palad Jeen (Chinese Affairs Officer), and so took charge of
collected taxes from the Chinese. Luang Panom Tao, Khun
Wongsirirak and Luang Uthai Satchavethee also received
royal-given surnames from Rama V.
Prachankiriket province, Koh Kong, was seized by the French
in 2436 B.E. (1893) and added by them to Khmer territory.
Many years after that, Luang Prompakdii's family moved to
live on the island of Koh Mak, as I have already related.
I have set down this
compilation of the history of Koh Mak as a memoire for the
younger generations of the island-to give high respect to
our Kings, Rama IV and Rama V, who wisely used diplomatic
skill to secure Chanthaburi and Trat from the grasp of the
French colonial hunters and ensured that Thailand has
remained an independent nation to the present day; and also
to give respect to the ancestors of Koh Maak, to Luang
Prompakdii (Plian Taveteekul), Luang Panom Tao, and Khun
Wongsirirak (from whom Wongsiri's family is descended).
I believe it is most
likely that the pattern of land ownership on the island will
change in the future, passing into the hands of outsiders to
some extent. I made a promise to Khun Mae Sa-nguan
Suttitanakul, my mother, that I would try to search for
information to write about the history of the island-with
love, and with the feelings which come from ties of blood.
Finally, I must not end
without extending thanks to Khun Jakrapad Taveteekul, who
contributed by keyboarding the Thai original of this draft,
and then to Khun Somchai Suttitanakul, my beloved brother,
who helped me with my researches. From these efforts, this
booklet came to life.
Koh Mak Resort
April, 2536 B.E. (1993)
Updated by Jakrapad Taveteekul
www.kohmak.com Reproduced by kind permission