Bang Rak Population
Bang Rak is now one of the more densely populated districts of Bangkok. It wasn’t that way in the beginning. Just how many people were there is anybody’s guess. People have different estimates.
In one assessment, P. Ouyyanont says the population slowly grew because of an influx of war prisoners and Chinese immigrants in the early Rattanakosin period. Rapid growth only came in the 1880s and 90s, mainly from the Chinese. As more and more people came Bangkok got bigger and bigger. People spread out into the surrounding areas and more districts were created.
But back then, there weren’t really any districts. The Bang Rak District Administration wasn’t formally established until 1912. There weren’t any censuses or anything of the sort either. The first census by the government was in 1909/10. All we really know is that in 1855, Bangkok’s population was numbered in the tens of thousands.
Most people lived on and by the water at first. Shops and houses were all on the water. As historian Marc Askew described it:
“The first land-based settlements clustered along waterways near the wat [temple] which served religious, educational and recreational functions. These “Bang’ [which may be translated as “water hamlet”] settlements formed a loose network around the terrestrial urban core of the palace and its moats. Given that rights to occupy land (and transmit land to offspring) stemmed from the king, settlement on land followed the progressive granting of land to the nobility and other royal servants, as well as the foundings of temples. While the great mass of the urban population continued to live on the water until at least the close of Rama IV’s reign, the movement onto land was pioneered by the nobility building palaces and the establishment of temples. After 1855 European traders settled along the southern reaches of the river and were soon occupying houses and shops on land. More important to the ecology of the emerging land-based city than the farang [westerners], however, were various distinctive ethnic and occupational communities. The ethnic mosaic which comprised settlement groups such as the Chinese at Sampeng, the Indians of Pahurat, the Vietnamese of Wat Yuan, the Khmer of Samsen spread in a loose pattern of “Yarn” (districts) around the city wall. The clustering of Bang and Ban (villages) was the earliest pattern of settlement.”
The royalty and nobles built palaces and temples on land and when foreigners came, they settled on land as well. Later, everybody started to move onto land.
The amount of people living in Bangkok was still pretty difficult to calculate. Most of the difficulties stemmed from the Chinese. They migrated in the tens of thousands to build their fortunes. Many stayed and some returned to China. Many died.
Life expectancy was not high. Cholera and smallpox claimed the lives of many. Such variables make the population even more difficult to calculate.
Results from the 1909-10 and 1913 census give us some idea of the number of people living in Bang Rak and other areas.
As you can see above, the population of Bang Rak in 1913 was still pretty low.
Moreover, the population was ethnically diverse as shown in the data from the 1919-20 census:
- Thais, 225,729
- Chinese, 116,431
- Indians, 14,193
- Europeans and U. S. A., 1,447
- Vietnamese 716
- Cambodian 523
- Burmese 511
- Japanese 232
- Other 64
Presently, Bang Rak is bustling with people of different nationalities, religions and beliefs. Chinese, Americans, Europeans, Thais and many other groups are still there..