The Port of Bangkok lies about 40 kilometers from the Gulf of Thailand on the Chao Phraya River. It has been the capital of Thailand (then known as Siam) since 1782. Since the early 1970s, the Port of Bangkok has undergone unparalleled growth. The Port of Bangkok is a cultural, political, and economic center for not only the country of Thailand, but for much of Southeast Asia. A popular tourist destination, visitors to this global city find a mix of neon signs, spicy foods, saffron-robed monks, traditional Thai architecture, noisy markets, traffic congestion, and a lush tropical ecology. In 2000, over 6.3 million people lived in the metropolitan area of the Port of Bangkok.
The Port of Bangkok is important to the local and national economies. A center for commerce, it handles large volumes of imports and exports. Industries in the Port of Bangkok produce house wares, handguns, auto parts, and antiques. While agricultural was the most important source of income for many years, the modern Port of Bangkok is an important manufacturing center producing textiles, computers, and electronics. Tourism is also an important source of income for the Port of Bangkok.
Before the Ayutthaya Kingdom came into power, the Port of Bangkok was a small trading town and port. From the middle 14th to the 18th Century, the capital of Siam was Ayutthaya, and the city welcomed foreigners, allowing them to establish villages outside the city. Ayutthaya (meaning the "City of Kings") was founded by King U Thong in 1351 on an island in the Chao Phraya River.
By the late 14th Century, the Ayutthaya Kingdom was one of the strongest powers in Southeast Asia. However, the kingdom was not a single state. It was a network of self-governing entities that owed allegiance to the king under the mandala system. The separate principalities were ruled by members of the royal family or were independent yet subservient Malay states. If the king died without an heir, rival forces marched on the capital to claim the throne.
In the middle 16th Century, the Burmese Kingdom of Tounggoo grew and began to expand. By 1569, Ayutthaya had become a vassal state to the Tounggoo, and many of its princes were taken to Tounggoo. When Prince Naresuan came back to Ayutthaya, the kingdom once again rose in power. After King Naresuan defeated the Burmese, Ayutthaya started expanding to the north and south and into modern Cambodia where it sought foreign trade.
By the middle 17th Century, the Ayutthaya Kingdom was strong and rich. Siamese kings were absolute monarchs and moral models for the people. The only group outside the rigid social and political system was the Buddhist monks, which any man could join. The monasteries became the centers of education and culture for Siam.
When the Burmese burned Ayutthaya in 1767, General Chao Phraya Chakkri, founder of the Chakkri Dynasty, moved Thailand's capital to the Port of Bangkok and assumed the throne as King Rama I. He modeled the new Port of Bangkok on Ayutthaya, building a Grand Palace complex and the Wat Pho temple within a 7-kilometer long city wall. The Port of Bangkok grew throughout the 19th Century, with many new wats serving as schools, hospitals, libraries, and religious centers. During this period, the river and a network of canals were the Port of Bangkok's roads.
In the middle 19th Century, King Rama IV (the king portrayed in the fictional work Anna and the King of Siam) developed the Port of Bangkok further. He improved the Grand Palace, laid out several new streets, constructed a new city moat, and built a long canal that gave small boats a more direct route and by-pass.
Under the reign of Rama V (King Chulalongkorn) from 1868 to 1910, the Port of Bangkok underwent a program of public works. Royal residences were improved, and modern roads and bridges were created. Much of the old Port of Bangkok wall was demolished to build roads. Social reforms also took place, and public administrative buildings arose. The great Wat Phra Kaeo temple, containing the Emerald Buddha, was constructed. The first state railway, connecting Bangkok and Phra Hakhon Si Ayutthaya, opened in 1900.
Rama VI (1910-1925) continued the public works program, establishing a university, creating a large public recreational area (Lumphini Park), and adding a system of locks to the Port of Bangkok's waterways. Rama VII (1925-1935) decentralized municipal administrative functions. In 1937, the?Port of Bangkok was divided into two municipalities: Krung Thep and Thon Buri. About the same size in land area, most of the population lived in Krung Thep.
The modern Port of Bangkok was first constructed in 1938 to provide access to the Port of Bangkok by large ocean-going vessels. During World War II, the Japanese occupied the Port of Bangkok, and the Port of Bangkok suffered extensive Allied bombing. World War II interrupted port construction, but the Port of Bangkok was completed after the end of the war. In 1951, the Port of Bangkok dredged and deepened the river course to the port and purchased modern loading/unloading equipment. Also in 1951, the Port Authority of Thailand was created as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
After World War II, the Port of Bangkok experienced unprecedented growth and the subsequent problems of traffic congestion, housing shortages, stressed water supplies, and pollution. During the Vietnam War, the Port of Bangkok became a popular tourist destination for US military personnel.
In 1961, the Royal Thai Government realized it needed a deepwater port to accommodate larger vessels that could not get into the Port of Bangkok. In 1979, the Sattahip Commercial Port, some 76 nautical miles south of the Port of Bangkok, opened for business. Still, the waterborne transportation industry in the Port of Bangkok has continued to grow since 1951, when conventional and bulk cargoes were handled at the West Quays. In the 1970s, the Port of Bangkok was modernized, and the East Quays were built with multi-purpose berths and container-handling facilities. The East Quays have been operating since 1977.
Container traffic at the Port of Bangkok has increased every year since 1977. By the late 1980s, severe congestion led to further development of the East Quays and expansion of the berth-side cargo handling and storage areas so that the Port of Bangkok could handle as many as 1.3 million TEUs of cargo per year. Computerized systems were adopted to increase efficiency.
By the 1980s, the Port of Bangkok was a cosmopolitan center with a well-known nightlife and a busy daytime atmosphere. Throughout that decade, the Port of Bangkok enjoyed a rapidly growing economy that was only slowed by the 1990s economic crisis in Asia.
In 1991, the new deep-water Port of Laem Chabang was opened with a multi-purpose terminal, and the Sattahip Commercial Port was returned to the Royal Thai Navy. Realizing that the Port of Bangkok had limited potential for further growth, it placed a limit of one million TEUs on the Port of Bangkok to encourage ships to use the services at the Port of Laem Chabang. In 1997, the Port of Laem Chabang became Thailand's major port, handling a million TEUs of containerized cargo.Today, the Port of Bangkok is one of Asia's most popular tourist destinations and an important center for commerce and business in Southeast Asia. In recent years, the Port of Bangkok has received many foreign immigrants. While Chinese make up the largest share of new Bangkok residents, immigrants also come from India, Japan, the United States, Europe, Taiwan, South Korea, and many other nations.
The Port Authority of Thailand has played an important role in developing the modern economy of the city and country. It plays a major role in developing Thailand's export industry and trade economy. It is a major producer of income for the country and recognized both nationally and internationally as a world-class port management organization.