Like other foreign settlements in and around Ayutthaya, the Japanese settlement
was a separate village governed by its own leader (or nai). Many Japanese became mercenaries in the service of the kings of Siam.
The most famous of the Japanese mercenary leaders in Ayutthaya was Yamada Nagamasa, who received the rank and title of Okya Senaphimuk from the Siamese king. He and his followers played a crucial role in the fierce succession conflicts that took place from 1628 to 1629 and led to the usurpation of the throne by Okya Kalahom, or King Prasat Thong, who reigned from 1629 to 1656.
In his Diary of the Picnic Incident, Jeremias van Vliet, then director of
VOC’s Siam factory, wrote about “pressure from these bald-headed villiains” , referring to the Japanese samurai.
According to Van Vliet’s Description of the Kingdom of Siam 1638, King
Prasat Thong, who one cracked down on the Japanese community in Ayutthaya, called those who had fled away back again after a short time in fear of their revenge. And when their number rose to between 70 and 80, the king gave
them a fine tract of land to live on and bestowed titles of honour on the three most prominent Japanese, appointed these men as chiefs over the others, and placed them under one of his mandarins.
In late 1636, there were still about 70 to 80 samurai, whom the king
employed as mercenaries, living in Ayutthaya’s Japanese quarter, which adjoined the VOC compound. Most of the samurai had Siamese wives,with whom they had children.And since there were also some Japanese merchants residing in
Ayutthaya, the total population of the Japanese quarter many have been about 400 to 550.
Dhivarat added that the Japanese intermarried with locals, and soon the
community was predominantly mestizo. A famous LusoJapanese mestizo was Maria Pina de Guimar, who married Greek adventurer Constantine Phaulkon in the 1680s.
Opposite the Japanese village stood the Portuguese settlement, overlooking
the Chao Phraya River on the west and having canals on the other three sides. Covering an area of over half a square kilometer, the settlement had three churches of three Catholic orders: The Franciscans in the north of the
settlement, the Dominicans in the centre and Jesuits to the south.
Dhivarat said that the Portuguese settled in Siam in the first half of the
16th century, not long after first arriving to trade with Siam from 1510 to 1511. The Portuguese not only traded there but also became much in demand as mercenaries, thanks to their knowledge of firearms and modern warfare.
Apparently, the land of the Portuguese settlement was granted to the
Portuguese as a reward for their help for King Chairacha, who reigned from 1534 to 1547, in the battle of ChiangKran. During that campaign,according to Portuguese traveler Fernao Mendes Pinto, 120 Portuguese fought for the
In the mid-16th century, there were around 130 Portuguese in Ayutthaya.
However, the population of the Portuguese settlement must have grown as more mestizo children were born. By the late 17th century Nicolas Gervaise, a French priest, reported that there were 700 to 800 households in the
Portuguese camp, and Father Tachard was told by Constantine Phaulkon that there were in 1685 a title over 4,000 people in the Portuguese settlement. In Thai history, the Portuguese are famous not only for their ships, guns and
soldiers but also their introduction into Siamese cuisine egg-based desserts such as foi thong by Maria Guimar.
The ruins of the Dominicans church of St.Peter and St.Paul, also called Sao
Domingos, were excavated by the Fine Arts Department in the mid-1980s with funding from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foudation in Lisbon. Many skeletons, coins, rosaries, crucifixes and Dutch clay pipes were found during the
excavations. There used to be three churches in all in the Portuguese village, but the Dominicans church is the only one that has been excavated.
The skeletons uncovered were mostly those of mestizons from intermarriages.
The Portuguese stayed long in Siam, from the early 16th century until the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. Some Portuguese were even taken to Burma as hostages by the Burmese invaders. The rest followed King Taksin the Great to
settle down in Thon Buri, Dhivarat added.
Historian Bulong Srikanok of the Fine Arts Department said that the
Portuguese language was used as the official language for trade and diplomacy by the Siamese from the reign of King Ramathibodi II (1491 to 1529) until Siam signed the Burney Treaty with Britain in 1826. That treaty was in
three languages – Portuguese, Chinese and English.
According to her, all high-level officials in Ayutthaya could use the Portuguese language fluently.
Father Tachard, who came with the French mission, reported that Siamese nobles were able to converse in Portuguese. During their voyage to Siam, the French Jesuits spent eight months learning Portuguese so that they could
communicate directly with the Siamese nobles.
As Portugal was believed to have adopted a policy to convent the Siamese through intermarriage, there were many mestizons born to Portuguese fathers
and Mon, Siamese or Chinese mothers in Ayutthaya. After the fall of Ayutthaya, many of their descesdants settled in an area of Thon Buri called Kudijeen and worked as Thai- Portuguese translators for the state until the Bangkok
period. These translators were called Lam Kudijeen, Bulong added.
By the river on a private-owned dockyard in Tambon Klong Suan Phlu, Phra
Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district, once stood the Dutch settlement.
As part of the celebrations marking 400 years of Dutch-Thai relations (1604
to 2004), the Fine Arts Department began an archaeological excavation in the area in October 2003, and found traces of the main building, ceramic shards(Chinese, Vietnamese, Siamese), glassware, Dutch pipes, Chinese coins,
cowrie shells and many other items.
Dhivarat said that this site was the Dutch United East India Company’s
trading agency from around 1635 to 1765. The land was given to the Dutch in 1634 by King Prasat Thong as a reward for having helped Ayutthaya fight Pattani.
The Dutch first came to Ayutthaya in 1604, hoping for passage to China on a
Siamese ship. Although disappointed in this matter, the Dutch stayed on in Ayutthaya, opening a factorij (trading company) in 1608.
Importing silver, Indian textiles and other goods, the Dutch United East
India Company, or VOC, exported from Siam forest produce, such as deer skins, sapan wood (a dyewood), eagle wood (an aromatic wood), ivory, wax and benzoin, along with rice, tin and ray skins.
According to a journal kept by Dutch doctor Gijsbert Heecq (or Heeck), in
1655 the Dutch lodge or factorij), comprised several buildings, storehouses or godowns, a garden and a graveyard. The head of the Dutch settlement at any given time was of course the head merchant, or opperhoofd, of the VOC
trading office in Ayutthaya.