|THE PORTUGUESE IN AYUTTHAYA
The Portuguese settlement or Campos Portugues was located in the southern area
off the city island of Ayutthaya at present Samphao Lom sub-district (1). It was situated
on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, opposite the Japanese trading post and was
bordered by canals on the other three sides.
The settlement, covering an area of over half a square kilometre, was probably the
biggest western community in Ayutthaya with a population estimated at 3,000 people.
Most of them were militia, shipbuilders and merchants. There were three Roman
Catholic churches in the village being: The Church of San Petro for the Dominican sect
(Ban Jacobin), the Church of San Paolo for the Jesuit sect (Ban Jesuit) and a church for
the Franciscan sect. The settlement was destroyed during the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767.
Portugal was the first western nation, which came in contact and developed friendly
relations with Ayutthaya during the reign of King Rama Thibodi II (r. 1491 - 1529).
After the Portuguese obtained possession of large tracts of territory in India, their
interests turned further east. Four Portuguese vessels, under the command of Lopes de
Sequiera, arrived at the coast of Malacca in 1508. de Sequiera with the intention to
open a trade relation, ensued although in a dispute with the Malay Sultan in which some
Portuguese were killed. Having a too weak a force to attack Malacca, de Sequiera
In June 1509 Don Alfonso d'Albuquerque, the Viceroy of Portuguese India, arrived with
a considerable force. Malacca was attacked, captured and became a Portuguese
possession on 10 August 1511. Albuquerque, having learnt that Malacca was vassal to
Siam (2), sends an envoy to Ayutthaya to explain matters. Duarte Fernandez was
designated to present a letter addressed to the King of Siam. He left on a Chinese junk
sailing to Ayutthaya. Fernandez arrived in Ayutthaya in 1511 and was well received. No
objection appears to have been raised to the occupation of Malacca. He returned
accompanied by a Siamese Ambassador.
A second Portuguese envoy, Antonio de Miranda de Azevedo, visited Ayutthaya, by
the overland route, about 1512.
A third envoy from Albuquerque, named Duarte de Coelho, proceeded to Ayutthaya in
1516 and concluded a treaty with Siam. The treaty foresaw in supplying Siam with
firearms and ammunition. The Siamese agreed to guarantee religious freedom as well as
to facilitate the efforts of the Portuguese in establishing settlements and engaging in trade
at Ayutthaya, Tenasserim, Mergui, Patani (3) and Nakhon Sri Thammarat. King
Ramathibodi II, demonstrating his religious tolerance, permitted de Coelho to erect a
wooden crucifix in a prominent place in Ayutthaya.
As many as 300 Portuguese nationals subsequently settled down in Ayutthaya; some
were traders, others military experts. Portugal appointed a trade representative in
Nakhon Sri Thammarat and Pattani to conduct trade in rice, tin, ivory, gum benjamin,
indigo, sticklac and sappanwood. Over the years the number of Portuguese increased.
In 1538 King Chairacha (r. 1534-1546) - feeling the expansive policy from
neighbouring Burma - engaged in a military cooperation with the Portuguese. A
company of Portuguese soldiers - about 120 men - was put at his service for his
personal protection and as military advisers, instructing the Siamese in musketry.
Tabeng Shwe Thi ascended the throne of Taungu after the death of his father in 1530.
This monarch was determined to conquer his neighboring dominions Ava, Prome and
Pegu and to unite it with Taungu. During the war with Pegu he came into conflict with the
Siamese. King Tabeng Shwe Thi occupied the town of Chiengkrai or Chiengkran (now
called Gyaing, in Moulmein district of present Myanmar), at that time subjected to Siam.
King Chairacha assisted by his Portuguese soldiers, attacked the Burmese, and drove
them out of his dominion (4). The Portuguese did such a good service during the military
campaign that the Siamese King rewarded them with various commercial and residential
privileges (5). A piece of land in the southern part of Ayutthaya was granted to the
Portuguese as their official residence.
In 1567 the first Roman Catholic missionaries Friar Jeronimo da Cruz and Sebastiâo da
Canto, both Dominicans, arrived in Siam, apparently as chaplains for the Portuguese
soldiers, which presence increased. They established a parish in Ayutthaya, although
short lived as da Cruz together with two new missionaries were killed in the Burmese
attack of Ayutthaya in 1569. 
In 1584, after the declaration of Independence from Burma by King Naresuan the
Great, a group of Roman Catholic priests of the Franciscan Sect had come to build their
church in the Northern area of the Portuguese Village.
At the beginning of his reign (1606) King Ekathotsarot (r. 1605-1610/11) sent an
ambassador to the Portuguese Viceroy in Goa to renew the bonds of friendship between
Siam and Portugal. 
Friar Balthasar de Sequeira was the first Portuguese Jesuit to come to Siam at the
request of the Portuguese merchant Tristan Golayo. He arrived in Ayutthaya between 19
and 26 March 1607 with the task of starting a new mission. He lasted only two and a-
half years in Ayutthaya and then returned to Goa. He died on his way back in
Phetchaburi in November of 1609 (6). 
End 1613, begin 1614 we see our Portuguese mercenaries back in action during a
Burmese attack on Tavoy and Tenasserim. The Siamese reinforced with Portuguese
soldiers were able to drive out the Burmese from Tennaserim with considerable loss and
The arrival of the Dutch in the region although, will have a serious impact on the Iberian
trade and the relationship with the Siamese Court. From 1624 onwards there is a wind
of change into the Siamese friendship with the Portuguese.
In 1624 Don Fernando de Silva, a Spanish captain attacked the passing Dutch VOC
yacht “Zeelandt” in Siamese territorial waters at night (See essay "Paella and Silk:
Spanish encounters with Ayutthaya"). King Songtham of Siam (r. 1610/1611-1628)
ordered then the Spaniards to be attacked. A fierce battle ensued wherein 150
Spaniards were killed, the remaining Spaniards were thrown in prison and their ships
confiscated. The Spanish-Dutch incident brought Siam on the brink of war with Spain.
The Portuguese got treated the same way as the Spaniards. Portugal lost their favorite
status in Siam and could no more obtain proper access to the Siamese Court .
The Jesuit chronicle of events for 1627-28 mentions that Spanish galleons, on the return
from Macao, pursued a semi-piratical career for several months, capturing Siamese
vessels with valuable cargoes, by way of reprisal for the injuries inflicted on Spaniards in
Siam. These pirate actions of the Spaniards made, that at the time of King Songtham's
death at the end of that year, a state of war existed between Siam and Spain. The
Siamese considered the Portuguese “at par” with the Spaniards and many Portuguese
for this reason were languishing in Siamese prisons.  The increased hatred of the King
and his mandarins against the Iberians made them confiscate in 1630 a Portuguese ship
loaded with Chinese goods from Macao under command of Casper Suarez. The
Portuguese were kept in strict captivity during three years and made to go begging in the
In July 1633, the Portuguese in Malacca sent Captain Sebastian Moutos d’Avilla as
ambassador to Ayutthaya to request the release of the Portuguese prisoners. He was
received with little honor at the court, but the king agreed with the request and released
the prisoners. Although seeing that his petition was going to be refused, he fled in
September with all the prisoners down the Chao Phraya. He was pursued but could
escape to sea and left Siam in enmity. Van Vliet wrote that the discontent of the king
about the sudden departure, was so great, that from that moment he hated the
Portuguese just as much as the Spaniards; also because in that same year they blocked
the river of Tenasserim with two frigates, prevented Cantonese junks from coming to
Siam and committed hostilities. 
In 1655 Fr. Tomaso Valguarnera, a Jesuit priest from Sicily, arrived from Macau and
remained in Siam for 15 years. He was appointed Visitator of the Japanese and Chinese
Province and left in 1670 the mission to return in 1675. He died in Ayutthaya in 1677.
He built the Jesuit residence and San Paolo Church within the Portuguese settlement,
just across the river from the Japanese settlement. He founded also the "Collegio San
Salvador". Valguarnera was an architect and rebuilt the city walls of Ayutthaya on
request of King Narai.
In 1684 Lisbon sent a Portuguese embassy to Siam. The embassy was led by Pero Vaz
de Siqueira, the son of the Portuguese ambassador to Japan. He was primarily tasked to
establish commercial ties between the two countries, as well as to try to restrict the
French missionaries of the "Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris" in Siam, Tonkin
and Cochin-China, in favour of the “Padroado”. Due to the influence of Constantine
Phaulcon and his pro-French stance the last issue was not even brought forward. The
embassy lasted from March to June 1684 (7). 
In March 1684 (8) a Siamese embassy was sent to Lisbon. Arriving in Goa in August,
finding the Portuguese fleet left for Lisbon, the embassy had nearly to wait a year in Goa.
On 27 January 1686 it embarked at Goa but was shipwrecked off Cape Agulhas, the
southernmost tip of Africa on 27 April 1686. Survivors returned from Cape Good Hope
to Ayutthaya in Sep 1687 via Batavia. 
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 little over 4,000 people in the Portuguese settlement.
The Burmese coming up from the southwest attacked Ayutthaya, at the beginning of
April 1760. The Portuguese settlement was the first to receive the attack. A part of it
was burned, but the settlement offered such strong resistance that the enemy was forced
to retreat. 
In the following years the Burmese subdued all the north of the country and at the end of
1765 came again to lay siege to Ayutthaya, destroying everything in their way.
Throughout 1766 up to the beginning of 1767 they tightened their grip on the capital. In
March 1767 the Portuguese settlement and the Catholic Church to the south of the city
were isolated and surrounded. The community fought bravely, but they were few and
short of ammunition. Their situation was hopeless. On 21 March a Jesuit and a
Dominican, being the parish priests of the Portuguese settlement, surrendered to the
Burmese together with their community. For two days their churches and property were
protected in order to persuade the French Bishop Brigot with his people to surrender.
As it turned out, the Catholic Church and seminary, as well as the Jesuit and Dominican
churches, were all plundered. On the night of April 7th-8th the Burmese entered and set
fire to Ayutthaya. Some Portuguese were taken to Burma as hostages by the Burmese
invaders. The rest followed King Taksin the Great to settle down in an area of Thon Buri
called Kudijeen and worked as Thai-Portuguese translators for the state until the
Bangkok period. 
There is still a very small Portuguese community in Bangkok that descended down from
the Ayuthaya period. Most of them married into Thai and changed their surnames to
Thai but some still use Portuguese. Such families are 'Na Silawan' (da Silva), 'Yesu' (de
Jesus), 'Renangkul' (de Reina) and so on. 
|Text & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - July 2009
(1) Free translated the "Capsized Junk" sub-district.
(2) Malacca had been subject to Siam since the time of King Ramkhamheng.
(3) There was a nearly assimilated community of Portuguese-Thai in Pattanni, southern Thailand. In 1973 they were distinguishable solely by physical
characteristics and some unique surnames. Within a generation or two they will thoroughly merged into the larger Thai gene pool. Their language now is
completely Thai, Pattani Malay, and trade Chinese. The story is that they are the remains of a community left behind when the Portuguese abandoned their
trading post at Pattani.(Ref: www.colonialvoyage.com - retrieved 23 July 09)
(4) This success against Burma proved in the end to be a disaster for Siam. It was the original cause of the bitter enmity between the two countries which
later lea to long and sanguinary wars, bringing death, famine and unspeakable misery to both countries.
(5) The ruins of the houses and the church given by King Phrajai to the Portuguese can still be seen at Ayutthaya.
(6) Baltasar de Sequeira was already 56 years old at that time and had spent twenty-nine years on the Indian mission. He had come to India as a scholastic,
a third year theologian. His assignment to Siam came about in this way. When King Naresuan the Great of Siam died in 1605, he was succeeded by his
brother Ekhatotsarod. At the beginning of his reign King Ekhatotsarod sent an ambassador to the Portuguese Viceroy in Goa to renew the bonds of
friendship between Siam and Portugal. The ambassador of King Ekhatotsarod carried not only official letters to the Viceroy, but also private letters to some
Portuguese who had been in Siam and were known to the King. Among these was a Mr. Tistao Golayo, a good friend of the King while he was still only
prince. Mr. Golayo decided to go back to Siam, and since he was a friend of the Society, he asked the Provincial to send some Father of the Society with
him. The Provincial was happy to have this good occasion of opening a new mission and chose Fr. Baltasar de Sequeira for the task. Sequeira was the only
Jesuit available, already rather old and in poor health. He lasted only two and a-half years in Ayutthaya and then started back to Goa. However, he died on
his way in the city of Phetchaburi in November of 1609.
(7) Michael Smithies in a review of the book "The Embassy of Pero Vaz de Siqueira to Siam (1684-1686)" by Leonor de Seabra posted as a special to
"The Nation" - article named "How Lisbon wooed Siam" published on 15 Dec 2008 writes that "All he [Pero Vaz de Siqueira] could obtain was the
guarantee that the French would have no religious jurisdiction over the Portuguese colony in Siam. Even this was not to last”. Pietro Cerutti, S.J. in
the article “The Jesuits in Thailand - Part I (1607 - 1767)” states that the Jesuits of Ayutthaya made their submission to the Vicar Apostolic already in 1681.
If the latter is correct then the Missions Etrangères de Paris had already jurisdiction over the Jesuits and Dominicans in Ayutthaya in 1684. (Issue to be
cleared out at a later stage)
(8) This date is discussed in a review by Michael Smithies of the book "The Embassy of Pero Vaz de Siqueira to Siam (1684-1686)" by Leonor de Seabra
posted as a special to "The Nation". Smithies suggests here that the Siamese embassy probably left in 1684 soon after the departure of Pero Vaz's embassy,
but not in March, more likely June or a little later (Ref: How Lisbon wooed Siam - 15 Dec 2008).
 A Brief History of the Catholic Church in Thailand - Fr. Surachai Chumsriphan (2002).
 The Jesuits in Thailand - Part I (1607 - 1767) - Pietro Cerutti, S.J.
 Van Vliet’s Siam - Chris Baker, Dhiravat Na Pombejra, Alfons Van der Kraan & David K. Wyatt (2005).
 A History of Siam - William A.R. Wood (1924).
 Michael Smithies’ review of the book "The Embassy of Pero Vaz de Siqueira to Siam (1684-1686)" by Leonor de Seabra posted as a special to “The
Nation” - article named “How Lisbon wooed Siam” published on 15 Dec 2008.
 A Siamese Embassy lost in Africa 1686 - Michael Smithies (1999).
 Bangkok Post - 05 April 2008 - Ancient cultural melting pot.
 Ayuthya: Campos Portugues - www.colonialvoyage.com - retrieved on 23 July 2009.
|(San Petro Church - graveyard)
|(San Petro Church - graveyard)
|(San Petro Church - ruins)
|(View of the covered graveyard)
|(Skeletal remains in drawer)