Old Danish graves – who cares?

The ground is swampy and soft. The whole area on the banks of the Chaopraya River is only a feet or two above the water level of the majestic river whose glittering waters flow by next to the cemetery.
To scare any snakes away we have brought a stick. Hitting the ground left and right in front of us we walk carefully through the tall grass between the gravestones.
Now and then we stop to read the inscription.
“Født i Nakskov 1868 – Død i Bangkok 1884” one reads – born in Nakskov in Denmark in 1868, died in Bangkok in 1884.
Peder Jorgensen makes a note in his indispensable little black notebook.
“My guess is that he was one of the many young seamen who came here looking for fortune and adventure only to find their untimely death in the malaria infested swamps of Siam at that time,” he says.
“Only sixteen years old,” he says.
For forty year, Peder Jorgensen was a Danish missionary and head of a local school for poor children in Ubon Ratchathani province.
Now, that he has retired and moved back to Denmark with his wife Ruth, Peder Jogensen has made it his hobby to collect evidence of the many known and mostly unknown Danes who like himself spent their active adult lives in Siam.
“It’s an embarrassment the way we mistreat our heritage,” he says, pointing to a broken wooden cross who has been left to rotten away on one of the graves.
The Christian protestant graveyard was given to the foreigners during the reign of Rama 4 and apart the many British graves, most of the other foreigners buried here are Danes, Norwegians and Swedes as well as some other European nationals.
It seems that the Scandinavian Society Siam was at some time in charge of maintaining the cemetery. The duty was maintained by some of the staff of The East Asiatic Company which had its sawmill next to the graveyard.
But for many years no Scandinavian support has been given to maintain the cultural heritage and evidence of the major Danish involvement in the development of Thailand.

About Gregers Møller

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

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