Book Launch Highlights Danish Role in Siam’s Battle Against France at Paknam

The “Paknam Incidence” on 13th July 1893 was commemorated yesterday at the Chula Chomklao Fort at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River South of Bangkok with the launch of a historical book about the battle “Franco Siamese Crisis 1893”.

The book was presented with an impressive range of speakers with historical expertise. Among the VIP was also Danish Consul Stig Vagt-Andersen in respect for the heroic determination of the Danish officers serving under King Chulalongkorn on that fateful night 117 years ago.

The French Ambassador had also been invited, the audience was told. The Embassy had been reminded several times and the invitation resend. Finally yesterday, as the organizer of the event was on his way to the book launch, the French Embassy had contacted him and asked if he would be so kind to resend the invitation translated into French!

See photos from the launch below.

The “Franco Siamese Crisis 1893” book has been printed in only 3000 copies. It has a unique abundance of rare photos and prints from mainly French archives and is likely to be a collectors item within shortly. All the images in the book have been reproduced from the originals and not from other reproductions. This had been possible, because of the European tradition of collecting books and rare print and thus these images had been preserved until today.

The historical experts went through the many facets of the incident starting with the back drop in imperialism, capitalism and nationalism, ending with the details of how Admiral Richelieu had rushed to Bangkok on the Paknam Railway – one of his own ingenious infrastructure projects – and requested permission from the King to take the Royal Thai Maha Chakri steam boat and ram it into the leading French gun boat. But the King had denied this action and consequently the two French ships could anchor up outside the French representation in Bangkok – and a full blown war against France was avoided.

In total, 8 Thai sailors lost their lives in the battle at Paknam as the French ships retaliated the few round that were fired from the newly purchased Armstrong guns. More ammunition was on its way, but was stuck at Singapore as was the case with dynamite intended for arming water mines.

After the intrusion, France demanded a heavy price from Thailand in compensation for the damages to the French pilot ship, which Captain Carl von Holck, the Danish Commander of the Chula Chomklao Fort had managed to sink. The east side of the Mekong River in Cambodia and Laos was lost to France and a huge amount in gold was paid. Still, France kept a military presence in the Chantaburi province for 14 years “to ensure that Siam would honour their commitments.” It was only when King Chulalongkorn with the assistance of another Dane in Siam H.N. Andersen, was able to have a picture of himself together with the Russian Tzar published in a Paris newspaper that things lightened up. Given that turn of event, the British and the French agreed that Siam should be an neutral territory separating their two empires. But it took another three years before the last French soldier left Thai soil.

The book launch returned several times to the outstanding service of Phraya Cholayuthyothin – or Admiral Richelieu as the Danes would call him and Consul Vagt-Andersen was introduced to the audience as “a Dane who loves Thailand as much these days as  Phraya Cholayuthyothin did in his.”


Interested to buy a book, please contact
Prachul Fort Society
Exhibition Building of Naval History, Pom Phra Chul
Suksawad Road T. Leamfahpa A. Prasamut Chedi
Samut Prakan 10290
Tel: 089-200-8766, 02475-6260
Fax: 02-661-2371


In Thai
ถ. สุขสวัสดิ์ ต. แหลมฟ้าผ่า อ. พระสมุทรเจดีย์
สมุทรปราการ 10290
โทรศัพท์: 089-200-8766, 02475-6260
โทรสาร: 02-661-2371

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Gregers Møller

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