Dutch history in Thailand - Thailand

Dutch history in Thailand

Baan Hollanda: a piece of Dutch history in Thailand

Baan Hollanda (credit สมบูรณ์ ศุภฤกษ์กุลชัย)
In the ancient city Ayutthaya, 2 hours outside of Bangkok you can visit Baan Hollanda. Baan Hollanda is an information center with a permanent exhibition on the history of Dutch-Thai relations.

Thailand and the Netherlands have established relations already in the 17th century as the Dutch came to the kingdom of Siam looking for interesting trade opportunities. The Dutch first established formal trade relations with the kingdom of Siam in 1604. In 1608, King Ekathotsarot granted permission to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to open a trading post in Ayutthaya. In 1634, during the reign of King Prasat Thong, a VOC factory and trading office was built on land bestowed by the Siamese King as reward for Dutch naval aid in Ayutthaya's war against Pattani. Here trading goods could be loaded and unloaded.


Former trading post of the Dutch East India Company (credit สมบูรณ์ ศุภฤกษ์กุลชัย)
The current Baan Hollanda building is located on the same site of the former trading post of the Dutch East India Company. The name Baan Hollanda comes from the words Baan, which means house in Thai and the word Hollanda, which comes from the word Wilanda which was used by the Siamese in the past to mean those from the Netherlands, or the Dutch.

The current Baan Hollanda building was opened in 2004, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of relations between Thailand and the Netherlands. Former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, accompanied by former Prince Willem-Alexander and Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, visited the site of the Dutch settlement in Ayutthaya where the Fine Arts Department had been excavating the remains of the VOC lodge.

The important chronicles by VOC employees, such as Joost Schouten, Jeremias van Vliet and Engelbert Kaempfer beared witness of their profound interest in and knowledge of Siam. Their transcripts are all translated into English and available in Thailand. The 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vingboons produced a number of detailed maps of Ayutthaya (or Iudea, as he called it). You can learn more in detail how the Dutch lived and worked here as well as take a close look into replicas of maps, paintings and sections of chronicles at the exhibition at Baan Hollanda.

More information of Baan Hollanda, please visit https://baanhollanda.org.


Kanchanaburi War Cemetery (credit Pornchalitda Dahlan)
The construction of the Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway and the Siam–Burma Railway, claimed the lives of many Allied prisoners of war during the Second World War. The POWs were forced by the Japanese to build the 415-kilometre stretch of railway line between Camp Nong Pladuk in Thailand and Thanbyauzayat in Myanmar (Burma). Construction began on 16 September 1942 and took 16 months. After the railway line was completed, it was frequently severely damaged by Allied bombers and the prisoners were forced to repair and maintain it. Because the labour camps were situated alongside the railway, the Allies’ bombs killed and injured many of the forced labourers.

Large numbers of prisoners perished every day due to the hazardous conditions. In total some 15,000 forced labourers died during the construction of the railway line. Among them were nearly 3,000 Dutch nationals, as well as 7,000 British nationals, 131 Americans and 4,500 Australians. Most of the Dutch prisoners were Royal Netherlands East Indies Army personnel and Dutch civilians from the former Dutch East Indies. In addition, 100,000 Thai, Indonesian, Burmese and Malaysian forced labourers died.

Initially the dead were buried along the railway. Later the remains of most of the victims were moved to official war cemeteries: Chungkai and Kanchanaburi in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Burma. The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand contains the graves of a large number of Dutch victims who died during construction of the Death Railway. The remains of 5,084 Australian, British and Dutch prisoners of war are also buried there. 1,896 graves contain the remains of identified Dutch nationals, but it is unknown how many Dutch victims are buried here, as many of the graves are unmarked.

Every year on 4 May the Netherlands commemorates everyone from the Kingdom of the Netherlands who perished in the Second World War and those who perished in war and peace operations in which the Netherlands was involved.

Thailand also holds commemorations. There are ceremonies at the Don Ruk and Chungkai war cemeteries in Kanchanaburi each year on 4 May. After the bugle call (Taptoe-signaal) by the Royal Thai Army, two minutes of silence are observed, and then the Dutch national anthem Wilhelmus is played. Wreaths are then laid on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Ministry of Defence, representatives of Dutch organisations in Thailand, veterans organisations and the families of those who died.

Learning package Burma Railway

The embassy has funded a learning package (A short Documentary film) about the Burma-Siam Railway for education purposes. Any schools that are interested in receiving it can contact us at ban-pcz@minbuza.nl.