The Protestant cemetery in Bangkok – a look at part of Thailand’s recent history

 

The Protestant Cemetery Bangkok

The Protestant Cemetery Bangkok

In 1857 an appeal by the British legation in Bangkok was granted by King Mongkut – that a grant of land be made to enable the Protestant community to establish a cemetery. The foreign population was growing and, given the climate and diseases present in this tropical land, mortality was high.

Originally accessible only by river

The cemetery is located on the now busy Charoen Krung, some 2 kilometres south of the Saphan Taksin. However this first main road built in Bangkok was not constructed until 1861 and the initial method of accessing the cemetery was by boat on the Chao Phraya river
A visit will give a visible story of Bangkok’s history over the last two centuries and the part foreigners had to play in it.

A little known place but an historical gem

Today it is easy to pass the place, a high concrete wall hides the cemetery from the Charoen Krung traffic. However, once you enter through the metal gate, you will see an eclectic grouping of graves on either side of a wide concrete path which stretches down to the river.


There used to be a river landing, but now there is a protective wall which partially stops the flooding which has been a major problem over the years – now two pumps help avoid the majority of the problems, which are located near the small chapel by the river wall.

Over 1,800 interred including those of the Jewish faith

Over 1,800 people are interred, mostly foreign Protestants of many nationalities, together with Thai and Thai Chinese converts. Included are diplomats, business luminaries, missionaries, crews and passengers of naval disasters, foreign advisors to the King’s of Siam, victims of crime, epidemics and some who are known but to God. It is shocking to see how young many were, often victims of cholera, dysentery, malaria and drowning.

Marble mausoleums , grand statues and handsome tombs lie next to simple concrete markers

There are also Jewish graves, as there was no Jewish cemetery until a petition was granted in 1997. This cemetery is now adjacent the Protestant one.
The cemetery is governed by a committee of businessmen, including the rector of Christchurch on Soi Convent ( where the cemetery records are kept), under the chairmanship of the British consul.

Some of the graves are grouped by race such as the Chinese, and some of the Jewish graves are together, but in general the plots are mixed – showing perhaps the unity of death.


The older graves are located towards the river end but some are very recent.Just after the cemetery’s foundation Siam signed the Bowring treaty (1855) with Great Britain, which gave unequal rights to British subjects in Siam; they could be judged by their own courts, have favourable concessions on import duties and so forth. The treaty was followed by similar to the other great powers. Thus the foreign population grew quickly, and the demand for Siam to modernize with foreign advisors in the army, the navy and other government offices. All the unequal treaties had ceased by 1927, but the period of their existence was the time of most interments in the cemetery.

The sad memorial to 5 adults, 7 children and 3 unborn, killed in a car accident in 1978 whilst on missionary work.

The sad memorial to 5 adults, 7 children and 3 unborn, killed in a car accident in 1978 whilst on missionary work.

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