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Tuesday May 14, 2013

Remembering Khaw Sim Bee

SOME 300 descendants of Khaw Sim Bee, gathered in Penang to commemorate the 100th death anniversary of the man remembered as the ‘Father of Thailand’s Rubber Industry’.

Sim Bee introduced rubber cultivation in the early 20th century in Trang.

The family also left behind two beautiful mansions in Penang, the Asdang House (the current site of Mayfair condominium) and Chakrabongse House in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.

The houses were demolished in 1993 and in the 1970s respectively.

The family also donated the Ranong Ground (where the Dewan Sri Pinang now stands) in Jalan Padang Kota Lama in late 19th century to the people of Penang for recreational purposes.

The family’s historian Teik Gim, who is a sixth-generation Khaw, gave a presentation on the family’s background during a conference titled ‘Penang Story Symposium: Khaw Sim Bee na Ranong and Shared History of Malaysia-Thailand Relations: From The Past To Future Cooperation’ on Saturday.

He said the family patriach Khaw Soo Cheang arrived in Penang in 1810 from Fujian, China, before going to Thailand in 1822.

He had six sons — Sim Cheng, Sim Kong, Sim Chua, Sim Khim, Sim Teik and Sim Bee.

Teik Gim also said that Sim Kong and Sim Bee were the high commissioners of Monthon (country subdivision) Chumphon and Monthon Phuket respectively.

Meanwhile, Sim Khim and Sim Teik were the governors of Kraburi and Langsuan respectively, carrying the title Phrayas while Sim Cheng and Sim Chua were assistant governors of Ranong with the title Luangs.

Teik Gim further elaborated on Sim Bee’s achievements which included being appoin-ted the Governor of Trang in 1890 and sub-sequently the High Commissioner of Monthon Phuket in 1900 with the title of Phraya Rasadanupradit Mahesorn Pakdi.

Sim Bee established the family trust Koe Guan Kong Lun in 1905, the Tongkah Harbour Tin Dredging Company, the Eastern Shipping Company, the Eastern Trading Company (all three in 1907) and the Eastern Smelting Company in 1908.

Before that, the family also had other businesses like the Khean Guan Insurance Com-pany which was set up in 1885.

Teik Gim also gave an insight into the decline and fall of the family enterprise during the 1907 economic and banking crisis.

“The impact of the global recession contri-buted to the fall.

“Over-exploitation of the Khaw business group in 1907 when it launched three major corporate ventures also created tension in the company,’’ he said.

The Eastern Trading Company wound up in 1908 followed by the Khean Guan Insurance Company in 1916 and Eastern Smelting Company in 1911.

The Eastern Shipping company with 40 vessels was then sold off in 1922 after winning a landmark suit against the then British colonial government.

The conference was also attended by Thailand Deputy Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na Ranong who is a direct descendant of Sim Bee’s older brother, Sim Kong.

Kittiratt, whose Chinese name is Khaw Cheng Thong, said Sim Bee’s work was very much remembered by everyone in Thai-land

“He was the one who helped built a highway from Trang to the other cities.

“He also introduced a railway system in the southern part of Thailand,” the 55-year-old Kittiratt said at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Farquhar Road.

He added that his father Bian Kheng had studied in Penang Free School and worked in Penang for a while before going to Thailand.

He also said descendants from Thailand, Malaysia, and other parts of the world would gather once a year in Ranong, Thailand, in April.

A total of 10 descendants and historians presented their papers during the symposium which was co-organised by Penang Heritage Trust (PHT), Royal Thai Embassy (Kuala Lumpur) and Royal Thai Consulate-General (Penang) in collaboration with Think City Sdn Bhd.

Other speakers included Ambassador attached to the Thailand Foreign Affairs Ministry Isorn Pocmontri, PHT president Khoo Salma Nasution, Thai Peranakan Association vice-president Pranee Sakulpipatana, Sim Bee’s great-granddaughter Lim Kwee Phaik and Penang Institute Penang Studies Programme head Dr Wong Yee Tuan.

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