Franco-Siamese War

Last updated
Franco-Siamese War (1893)
Art of Paknam incident.jpg
French ships Inconstant and Comète under fire in the Paknam incident, 13 July 1893
Result French victory; Entente Cordiale
Kingdom of Luang Phrabang ceded to French Indochina

Flag of France (1794-1958).svg French Republic

Flag of Thailand 1855.svg Kingdom of Siam
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Auguste Pavie
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Jean de Lanessan
Flag of Thailand 1855.svg Chulalongkorn
Flag of Thailand 1855.svg Devavongse
Flag of Thailand 1855.svg Bhanurangsi
Flag of Thailand 1855.svg Andreas du Plessis de Richelieu

The Franco-Siamese War of 1893 was a conflict between the French Third Republic and the Kingdom of Siam. Auguste Pavie, French vice consul in Luang Prabang in 1886, was the chief agent in furthering French interests in Laos. His intrigues, which took advantage of Siamese weakness in the region and periodic invasions by Vietnamese rebels from Tonkin, increased tensions between Bangkok and Paris. Following the conflict, the Siamese agreed to cede Laos to France, an act that led to the significant expansion of French Indochina.


This conflict succeeded the Haw wars (1865–1890), in which the Siamese attempted to pacify northern Siam and Tonkin.


Punch Magazine cartoon showing the "French wolf" looking across the Mekong towards the "Siamese lamb" The French Wolf and The Siamese Lamb.jpg
Punch Magazine cartoon showing the "French wolf" looking across the Mekong towards the "Siamese lamb"
A cartoon from the British newspaper The Sketch shows a French soldier attacking a Siamese soldier depicted as a harmless wooden figure, reflecting the technological superiority of the French troops. Franco-Siamese War Cartoon.jpg
A cartoon from the British newspaper The Sketch shows a French soldier attacking a Siamese soldier depicted as a harmless wooden figure, reflecting the technological superiority of the French troops.

The conflict started when French Indochina's Governor-General Jean de Lanessan sent Auguste Pavie as consul to Bangkok to bring Laos under French rule. The government in Bangkok, mistakenly believing that they would be supported by the British government, refused to concede territory east of the Mekong and instead reinforced their military and administrative presence. [1]

Events were brought to a head by two separate incidents when Siamese governors in Khammuan and Nong Khai expelled three French merchants from the middle Mekong in September 1892, two of them, Champenois and Esquilot, on suspicion of opium smuggling. [1] [2] Shortly afterwards, the French consul in Luang Prabang, M. Massie [ who? ], feverish and discouraged, committed suicide on his way back to Saigon. [1] [2] Back in France, these incidents were used by the colonial lobby (Parti Colonial) to stir up nationalistic anti-Siamese sentiment, as a pretext for intervention. [2] [3]

The death of Massie left Auguste Pavie as the new French Consul. In March 1893 Pavie demanded that the Siamese evacuate all military posts on the east side of the Mekong River south of Khammuan, claiming that the land belonged to Vietnam. To back up these demands, the French sent the gunboat Lutin to Bangkok, where it was moored on the Chao Phraya next to the French legation.


When Siam rejected the French demands, de Lanessan sent three military columns into the disputed region to assert French control in April 1893. Eight small Siamese garrisons west of the Mekong withdrew upon the arrival of the central column, but the advance of the other columns met with resistance. In the north, the French came under siege on the island of Khoung, with the capture of an officer, Thoreaux. In the south the occupation proceeded smoothly until an ambush by the Siamese on the village of Keng Kert resulted in the killing of French police inspector Grosgurin. [4]

Killing of Inspector Grosgurin

Inspector Grosgurin was a French inspector and commander of a Vietnamese militia in Laos. Like Auguste Pavie, he had been engaged in several exploratory expeditions in the region. [4] :18 [5] He was a member of one of the French armed columns dispatched in April 1893 by Lassenan to cross the Annamite Range into the Lao area of Khammuan (modern Thakhek) [2] and to occupy the disputed territory. The column was at first successful in evicting the Siamese commissioner at Khammuan by 25 May. [4] [5]

Shortly afterwards on 5 June, the Siamese commissioner organized a surprise ambush on the village of Kien Ket, where Grosgurin, confined to his sickbed, had encamped with his militia. [4] [5] The commissioner had apparently been instructed by Siamese government representatives to "compel their [French troops] retirement, by fighting, if necessary, to the utmost of their strength". [2] [6] The ambush resulted in the razing of the village and the killing of Grosgurin and 17 Vietnamese. [6]

The incident and the death of Grosgurin became known as the "Affair of Kham Muon (Kien Chek)" and was ultimately used as a pretext for strong French intervention. [2] [7]

Paknam incident

As a result France demanded reparations and tensions with the British over control of Siam came to a peak. [8] The British sent three navy ships to the mouth of the Chao Phraya, in case evacuation of British citizens became necessary. [1] In turn the French went one step further in July 1893 by ordering two of their ships, the sloop Inconstant and the gunboat Comète, to sail up the Chao Phraya towards Bangkok, without the permission of the Siamese. They came under fire from the fort at Paknam on 13 July 1893. [9] The French returned fire and forced their way to Bangkok. [2] :209–210

With guns trained on the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the French delivered an ultimatum to the Siamese on 20 July to hand over the territory east of the Mekong and withdraw their garrisons there, to pay an indemnity of three million francs in reparation for the fighting at Paknam, and to punish those responsible for the killings in the disputed territory. [2] When Siam did not immediately comply unconditionally to the ultimatum, the French blockaded the Siamese coast. [2]

In the end the Siamese submitted fully to the French conditions after finding no support from the British. [3] In addition, the French demanded as guarantees the temporary occupation of Chantaburi and the demilitarisation of Battambang, Siem Reap and a 25 kilometre-wide zone on the west bank of the Mekong. [2] The conflict led to the signature of the Franco-Siamese Treaty, on 3 October 1893. [2]

Franco-Siamese trial

Following the killing of Grosgurin, the Commissioner of the Kammuon District, Phra Yot, was acknowledged by his government to have been the responsible official, although was he initially acquitted of wrongdoing in a trial in March 1894. [6] [10] A "Franco-Siamese Mixed Court" was subsequently convened in June 1894. [6] The court determined that Phra Yot had brought extra forces to surround the house in Kien Ket occupied by the ill Grosgurin, outnumbering his small Vietnamese militia; that Grosgurin and those Vietnamese who had not managed to escape had been killed and the house subsequently set on fire on the orders of Phra Yot. [7] [11]

In a joint agreement between the Siamese and the French, Phra Yot was condemned to 20 years of penal servitude. [6] The solicitor for the defense was the Ceylonese lawyer William Alfred Tilleke, who was later appointed Attorney General of Siam and granted a peerage by the king. [7] [12] [13] The Royal Thai Army fort Phra Yot Muang Khwan in Nakhon Phanom Province on the border between Thailand and Laos commemorates Phra Yot. [13]


The Siamese agreed to cede Laos to France, significantly expanding French Indochina. In 1896, France signed a treaty with Britain defining the border between Laos and British territory in Upper Burma. The Kingdom of Laos became a protectorate, initially placed under the Governor General of Indochina in Hanoi. Pavie, who almost single-handedly brought Laos under French rule, saw to the officialization in Hanoi.

The French and British both had strong interests in controlling parts of Indochina. Twice in the 1890s, they were on the verge of war over two different routes leading to Yunnan.[ citation needed ] But several difficulties discouraged them from war. The geography of the land made troop movements difficult, making warfare more costly and less effective. Both countries were fighting a difficult conflict within their respective colonies.[ citation needed ] Malaria was common and deadly. Ultimately, the imagined trade routes never really came into use. In 1904, the French and the British put aside their many differences with the Entente Cordiale, ending this dispute in southeastern Asia.

France continued to occupy Chanthaburi and Trat up until 1907, when Siam ceded to it the provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap and Sisophon.

Related Research Articles

Evidence for modern human presence in the northern and central highlands of Indochina, that constitute the territories of the modern Laotian nation-state dates back to the Lower Paleolithic. These earliest human migrants are Australo-Melanesians — associated with the Hoabinhian culture and have populated the highlands and the interior, less accessible regions of Laos and all of South-east Asia to this day. The subsequent Austroasiatic and Austronesian marine migration waves affected landlocked Laos only marginally and direct Chinese and Indian cultural contact had a greater impact on the country.

French Indochina Federal state in Southeast Asia

French Indochina, officially known as the Indochinese Union from 1887 and the Indochinese Federation after 1947, was a grouping of French colonial territories in Southeast Asia until its demise in 1954. It consisted of three Vietnamese regions of Tonkin (north), Annam (centre), and Cochinchina (south), Cambodia, Laos and the Chinese territory of Guangzhouwan. The capital was Saigon, with the exception of a few decades in Hanoi (Tonkin) from 1902 to 1945.

Chulalongkorn King Rama V

Chulalongkorn, also known as King Rama V, reigning title Phra Chula Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua, was the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. He was known to the Siamese of his time as Phra Phuttha Chao Luang. His reign was characterized by the modernisation of Siam, governmental and social reforms, and territorial concessions to the British and French. As Siam was threatened by Western expansionism, Chulalongkorn, through his policies and acts, managed to save Siam from colonization. All his reforms were dedicated to ensuring Siam's survival in the face of Western colonialism, so that Chulalongkorn earned the epithet Phra Piya Maharat.

Anouvong Chao Anouvong

Chao Anouvong, or regnal name Xaiya Setthathirath V, , led the Lao rebellion (1826–28) as the last monarch of the Kingdom of Vientiane. Anouvong succeeded to the throne in 1805 upon the death his brother, Chao Inthavong, Xaiya Setthathirath IV, who had succeeded their father, Ong Bun or Phrachao Siribounyasan Xaiya Setthathirath III. Anou was known by his father's regal number until recently discovered records disclosed that his father and brother had the same regal name.

Rama III King Rama III

Nangklao or Rama III was the third monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri, ruling from 21 July 1824 to 2 April 1851. He succeeded his father, Rama II, as the King of Siam. His succession was unusual according to the traditions because Nangklao was a son of a concubine rather than that of a queen. His accession was perceived by foreign observers as having usurped the prior claim of Prince Mongkut, who was a legitimate son of Rama II born to a queen, Srisuriyendra. Under the old concept of Thai monarchy, however, a proper king must emulate Maha Sammata in that he must be "elected by the people." Ironically, Prince Mongkut may have later contributed to this misconception, when he feared that his own accession might be perceived by foreign observers as a usurpation.

Samut Prakan Province Province of Thailand

Samut Prakan is one of the central provinces (changwat) of Thailand, established by the Act Establishing Changwat Samut Prakan, Changwat Nonthaburi, Changwat Samut Sakhon and Changwat Nakhon Nayok, Buddhist Era 2489 (1946), which came into force 9 May 1946.

Khuang Aphaiwong Prime Minister of Thailand

Khuang Aphaiwong, also known by his noble title Luang Kowit-aphaiwong, was three times the prime minister of Thailand: from August 1944 to 1945, from January to May 1946, and from November 1947 to April 1948.

Somdet Chaophraya Sri Suriwongse Regent of Thailand

Somdet Chaophraya Borom Maha Sri Suriwongse, whose personal name was Chuang Bunnag, was a prominent 19th century Thai figure who served as the regent during the early years of the reign of King Chulalongkorn.

Military history of Thailand

The military history of Thailand encompasses a thousand years of armed struggle, from wars of independence from the powerful Khmer Empire, through to struggles with her regional rivals of Burma and Vietnam and periods of tense standoff and conflict with the colonial empires of Britain and France. Thailand's military history, dominated by her centrality in the south-eastern Asian region, the significance of her far flung and often hostile terrain, and the changing nature of military technology, has had a decisive impact on the evolution of both Thailand and her neighbours as modern nation states. In the post-war era, Thailand's military relationship with the United States has seen her play an important role in both the Cold War and the recent War on Terror, whilst her military's involvement in domestic politics has brought frequent international attention.

French protectorate of Laos former country

The French protectorate of Laos was a French protectorate in Southeast Asia of what is today Laos between 1893 and 1953—with a brief interregnum as a Japanese puppet state in 1945—which constituted part of French Indochina. It was established over the Siamese vassal, the Kingdom of Luang Phrabang, following the Franco-Siamese War in 1893. It was integrated into French Indochina and in the following years further Siamese vassals, the Principality of Phuan and Kingdom of Champasak, were annexed into it in 1899 and 1904, respectively.

Siamese–Vietnamese War (1831–1834) Then Cambodia became a colony of Vietnam under the Nguyen.

The Siamese-Vietnamese War of 1831–1834, also known as the Siamese-Cambodian War of 1831–1834, started when Siam (Thailand) tried to conquer Cambodia and Southern Vietnam, but was repelled by Vietnam.

Lao rebellion (1826–1828) Anouvongs Rebellion

The Lao rebellion, also known as Anouvong's Rebellion or Lao–Siamese War, was an attempt by King Anouvong of the Kingdom of Vientiane to end the suzerainty of Siam and recreate the former kingdom of Lan Xang. In January 1827 the Lao armies of the kingdoms of Vientiane and Champasak moved south and west across the Khorat Plateau, advancing as far as Saraburi, just three days march from the Siamese capitol of Bangkok. The Siamese quickly mounted a counterattack, forcing the Lao forces to retreat. The Siamese continued north to defeat Anouvong's army. His rebellion had failed, which led to his capture, the destruction of his city of Vientiane in retaliation, a massive resettlement of Lao people to the west bank of the Mekong River, and direct Siamese administration of the former territories of the Kingdom of Vientiane. The rebellion was a watershed moment in the history of Southeast Asia, as it further weakened the small Lao kingdoms, perpetuated conflict between Siam and Vietnam and ultimately facilitated French involvement in Indochina in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The legacy of the Lao rebellion is controversial. It is viewed in Thailand as a ruthless and daring rebellion that had to be suppressed, and has given rise to the folk heroes such as Thao Suranari and Chao Phaya Lae. In Laos, King Anouvong is now revered as a national hero who died in pursuit of complete independence, even though he both lost his life in an ill-advised revolt against heavy odds and virtually guaranteed that the Lao-speaking provinces across the Mekong River would remain as part of Siam.

Auguste Pavie French diplomat and explorer; active in French Indochina

Auguste Jean-Marie Pavie was a French colonial civil servant, explorer and diplomat who was instrumental in establishing French control over Laos in the last two decades of the 19th century. After a long career in Cambodia and Cochinchina, Pavie became the first French vice-consul in Luang Prabang in 1886, eventually becoming the first Governor-General and plenipotentiary minister of the newly formed French colony of Laos.

Tilleke & Gibbins is a regional law firm in Southeast Asia, with offices in Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, and Yangon. The firm's core practices are commercial transactions, mergers and acquisitions, dispute resolution, litigation, and intellectual property law.

Vientiane Capital and chief port of Laos

Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1573 due to fears of a Burmese invasion but was later looted then razed to the ground in 1827 by the Siamese (Thai). Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic growth in recent times, is now the economic center of Laos. The city had a population of 820,000 as at the 2015 Census.

Kingdom of Luang Phrabang former country

The Kingdom of Luang Phrabang was formed in 1707 as a result of the split of the Kingdom of Lan Xang. When The kingdom split, Muang Phuan became a tributary state of Luang Prabang. Then as the years passed, the monarchy weakened even more, that it was forced to become a vassal various times to the Burmese and the Siamese monarchies.

Paknam incident

The Paknam Incident was a military engagement fought during the Franco-Siamese War in July 1893. While sailing off Paknam on Siam's Chao Phraya River, three French ships violated Siamese territory and were fired warning shots by a Siamese fort and a force of gunboats. In the ensuing battle, France won and blockaded Bangkok, which ended the war.

William Alfred Goone-Tilleke (1860–1917) was a Ceylonese-Siamese lawyer, entrepreneur and aristocrat. He was the founder of the law firm Tilleke & Gibbins, a privy councilor and second Attorney General of Siam (1912–1917). In Siam he was also known as Phraya Attakarnprasiddhi.

Mekong expedition of 1866–1868 19th century exploration and scientific expedition of the Mekong River

The Mekong expedition of 1866–1868, conceived and promoted by a group of French colonial officers and launched under the leadership of captain Ernest Doudard de Lagrée, was a naval exploration and scientific expedition of the Mekong River on behalf of the French colonial authorities of Cochinchina. Its primary objective, besides scientific documentation, mapping, and the mission civilisatrice, was an assessment of the river's navigability in order to link the delta region and the port of Saigon with the riches of southern China and upper Siam. Ambitions were to turn Saigon into a successful commercial center such as British controlled Shanghai at the mouth of the Yangtze River.

The Holy Man's Rebellion, took place between March 1901 and January 1936. It started when supporters of the Phu Mi Bun religious movement initiated an armed rebellion against French Indochina and Siam, aiming at installing their leader, sorcerer Ong Keo, as ruler of the world. By 1902 the uprising was put down in Siam, continuing in French Indochina until being fully suppressed in January 1936.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Stuart-Fox, Martin (1997). A History of Laos. Cambridge University Press. pp. 24–25. ISBN   0-521-59746-3.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Simms, Peter; Simms, Sanda (2001). The Kingdoms of Laos: Six Hundred Years of History. Psychology Press. pp. 206–207. ISBN   0700715312 . Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  3. 1 2 Ooi, Keat Gin (2004). Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor . ABC-CLIO. pp.  1015–1016. ISBN   1-57607-770-5.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Dommen, Arthur J. (2001). The Indochinese Experience of the French and the Americans: Nationalism and Communism in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Indiana University Press. p. 18. ISBN   0-253-33854-9.
  5. 1 2 3 de Pouvourville, Albert (1897). "L'affaire de Siam, 1886-1896". Chamuel{{inconsistent citations}}Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 The Peoples and Politics of the Far East (1895) by Sir Henry Norman, p.480-481
  7. 1 2 3 "The Case of Kieng Chek Kham Muon before the Franco-Siamese Mixed Court. Constitution of the Mixed Court and rules of procedure". Bangkok?. 1894. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  8. Chandran Jeshurun, The British foreign office and the Siamese-Malay states 1890-97. Cambridge (1971) pp 112, 113.
  9. Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn Archer; Bellot, Hugh Hale Leigh (1907). Commerce in War by Llewellyn Archer Atherley, p.182 . Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  10. "archive" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  11. "archive" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  12. "Official history of Tilleke & Gibbons". Archived from the original on 2010-06-05. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  13. 1 2 Loos, Tamara (2006). Subject Siam: Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand. Cornell University Press. pp. 59–60. ISBN   0-8014-4393-8 {{inconsistent citations}}CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Further reading