Page:Statesman's Year-Book 1899 American Edition.djvu/1353

This page needs to be proofread.


acknowledge the sovereignty of Siam, and send revenues to Bangkok. The Laos (Shan) States of Chiengniai, Lakuii, Lam[)oonchi, Nan, Free, and others stand in a similar position towards the (tovcninicnl in I'angkok.

The trans-iNlekong i)ortion of the State of Lnaiig Praliang is now nnih-r Freneh jiroteetion. The reinaiiuh-r is stiil Siamese.

The Siamese dominions are divided into 11 ))rovinecs or districts, each having a Commissioner, deriving authority direct from the King, and having under him subordinate governors over the various parts of his district. Until 1895 the administration of the country was divided 1)etween the Ministers of the North, South, and Foreign Affairs. It was then brought under the single authority of Prince Damrong, as Minister of the Interior, under whose administration great im]»rovenu'nts have been already made, Severai of the tributary districts are administered by their own ])rinces ; but of late years centralisation has greatly increased. Commissioners, chosen by the King, are now regularly sent from Bangkok to these tributary provinces, both to those in the north, as Chiengmai, and those in the south, as Singora, and others, with very full powers.

Area and Population.

The limits of the Kingdom of Siam have varied much at different periods of its history, most of the border lands being occupied by tribes more or less independent. The boundary between IJurma and N.W. Siam was delimited in 1891 by a Coinmission, and, by the treaty of September, 1893, the Kiver Mekong was constituted the lioumlary between Siam and the French posses- sions ; on a 25-kilometre strip on the west .side of the river, France is at liberty to erect stations. The total area, including the country betw'een the Mekong and the Annam hills, now acknowledged to belong to France, is estimated at about 300,000 square miles, about 60,000 square miles being in the Malay Peninsula. In January, 1896, an arrangement was agreed to between the British and French Governments, by which they guaranteed to Siam the integrity of the territory embraced in the basins of the Menam, Meklong, Pechaburi, and Bangpakong rivers, together with the coast from JMuong Bang Ta])an to Muong Pase, including also the territory lying to the north of the Menam basin, between the border, the Mekong river, and the eastern watershed of the Me Ing. The territory appiopriated by France in 1893-6 covers about 110,000 s(|uare miles, leaving 200,000 sfpiare miles as the area which remains to Siam. The numbers of the population are still more imperfectly known than the extent of territory, and the difficulty of any correct result is the greater on account of the Oriental custom of numbering only the men. The latest foreign estimates give the population of the Kingdom, before the French annexation, as follows, in round numbers : — 2,500,000 Siamese; 1,000,000 Chinese; 2,000,000 Laotians; 1,000,000 Malays; im- migrant Burmese, Indians, and Cambodians bringing the total up to about 8,000,000. The total population of Siam as it now stands may be estimated at 5,000,000. The Chinese population is, however, rapidly increasing, and in 1896 was estimated atrbetween 3 and 4 millions. The most populous region is the Menam valley. Bangkok, the capital, has over 250,000 inhabitants. Siam is called by its inhabitants Thai', or Muang-ThaT, which means 'free,' or

  • the kingdom of the free.' The word Siam is probably identical with Shan,

applied in Burma to the Lao race, as well as to the Shan proper and the Siamese-

In recent years the results of Western civilisation have to some extent been introduced, and with the assistance of several Belgian lawyers, great advance has been made in the administration of ju.stice in the native courts and in the International Court which tries suits of foreigners against natives.