Friday, November 12, 2010

Bueng Kan in 1884

Etienne Aymonier
1883-84 the French explorer Étienne Aymonier traveled through the northeast of Siam, including a travel up the Mekong river. He wrote down about his travel later in the tree-volume book Le Cambodge, all of which are available in an English translation published by White Lotus books. While I already had the volume on the Khmer ruins in Isan, the translator himself stumbled on my blog and made me aware that the volume titled Isan Travels: Northeast Thailand's Economy in 1883-1884 has both very valuable information on the administration in Isan before the thesaphiban reforms as well as a short description of Bueng Kan. Thus the paragraphs on the area which will soon become the latest province give a good historical perspective, so I quote the most relevant parts here.

On Friday, February 1, leaving Ban Tha Kaï (or Khaï) at 6 A.M., Top and Kim stopped after one and a half hours in Ban Beng Khan, on the left side, where they had to change pirogues and oarsmen. This village, where they spent the whole day, was opposite the confluence of the Nam San, an unimportant tributary of the Nam Khong. I will report here the information that the locals gave my two Cambodians about this watercourse and the region it irrigated. [...]
The inhabitants of Ban Beng Khan also gave my men information summerizing quite precisely the adventure that happened in 1882 to Dr. Neis, the report of which the courageous explorer has since given in Le Tour de Monde. [...]

Map of Bueng Kan area
A few paragraphs before Aymonier mentions that the rapids of Keng Sadok marked the boundary between the Mueang Phon Vi Saï (Phon Phisai) and Sayahbouri (Chaiburi, near Tha Uthen), thus the village of Bueng Kan itself belonged to Phon Phisai whereas Bung Khla district to Chaiburi, the boundary between the two provinces was probably about the same as between the two districts nowadays. Too bad I have no complete lists of the many changes done in the administration during the thesaphiban reforms of Prince Damrong, but I'll try to write up a detailed administrative history of the area of Bueng Kan province later.

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