Henri Mouhot’s records on Kampot

In 1859 the famous traveller Henri Mouhot arrived on boat in the port of Kampot. It was on his second journey coming from Bangkok via Chantaburi. He gave a description of the Kampot of his time in his publication. It is remarkable for it represents one of very few pieces of written information on Kampot around the mid 19th century.

At that time nowadays Kampot didn’t exist; the settlement Mouhot mentions was situated at the western banks of the Teuk Chhou River.

After arriving in Kampot, Mouhot saw the king of Cambodia on one of his ships on Kampot River (Teuk Chhou River). The king was accompanied by one of the famous pirates of the time. Mouhot described the circumstances as follows:

“Behind the king’s boat, in no apparent order, and at long intervals, followed those of several mandarins, who were not distinguished in any particular manner. One boat alone, manned by Chinese, and commanded by a fat man of the same nation, holding in his hand a halberd surmounted by a crescent, attracted my attention, as it headed the escort. This man was the famous Mun Suy, chief of the pirates, and a friend of the king. I was told that, two years before, he had been compelled, owing to some iniquities not very well known, to fly from Amoy, and had arrived at Komput with a hundred followers, adventurers and rovers of the sea like himself. After having remained there for some time, keeping the whole place in terror, and extorting by menaces all he could from the market people, he conceived the project of seizing upon and burning the town, and putting all the inhabitants to the sword, intending then to retreat with his spoils, if not strong enough to hold his ground. Fortunately the plot was discovered, and the Cambodians from the neighbourhood were armed and assembled in readiness to defend the place.
Mun Suy, not liking the aspect of affairs, embarked with his band in his junk, and fell suddenly on Itatais. The market was sacked in a minute; but the inhabitants, recovering from their surprise, repulsed the pirates and drove them back to their vessel with the loss of several men.
Mun Suy then returned to Komput, gained over by presents first the governor and afterwards the king himself, and ever since has carried on his piratical acts with impunity, making his name dreaded by all around. Loud complaints arose from the neighbouring countries, and the king, either overawed by the pirate, or for protection against the Annamites, appointed him commander of the coast-guard. Henceforth, therefore, he became a licensed robber, and murder and rapine increased to such a degree, that the King of Siam sent a naval expedition to Komput to capture the malefactor and his gang. Two only were taken and executed. As for their leader, he was hidden, they say, in the palace.”

Mouhot, Henri:
Travels in the central parts of Indochina,
London 1864
Volume I, p. 184-187

Know…

This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Kampot / Cambodia’. Read here the whole article on Kampot.

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Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

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