Khaw / Khor family history (update 3): Early C19th sugar cultivation in Province Wellesley, from Bukit Tambun to Kapitan Perak; Khaw Sim Bee, Na Ranong, father of the Thai rubber industry; Tongkah Eastern Shipping Company and the 1907 economic and banking crisis

18 May 2015: Khaw Sim Bee, Na Ranong,  father of the Thai rubber industry; Tongkah, Eastern Shipping Company and the 1907 economic and banking crisis

Thanks to Lim for news alert on this item: Residents seek stay on condo works at historical site FMT Reporters  | May 17, 2015; Court order sought to prevent city from issuing commencement certificate for luxury project  GEORGE TOWN: Residents of Pykett Avenue are to seek a court order to stop the city council from issuing a commencement of work certificate for a luxury condominium project on the disputed site of a demolished historical building. Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group spokesman Yan C Lee said the residents did not dispute that the 19th century Khaw Sim Bee mansion was a heritage site but the mansion, on 20 Pykett Avenue, here did not have a chance of being heritage-listed before it was torn down. “The building was demolished just before the city was to inspect and evaluate its heritage significance, he said. “The residents will be filing for a stay soon because if MBPP were to issue a commencement certificate, the developer will bulldoze all remaining materials of the demolished building and commence the posh high-density project. “The public drive to have the mansion rebuilt will be lost forever then.” Ten residents of the Pykett Avenue neighbourhood filed an application to the Appeals Board in January to find out why the council rescinded an order previously given for the developer to rebuild the mansion. The residents also seek a review of planning permission for the project....

 Remembering Khaw Sim Bee By WINNIE YEOH Tuesday May 14, 2013
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 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 Thailand “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........

The Programme - Penang Heritage Trust; The “Penang Story Symposium: Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong and Shared History of Malaysia-Thailand Relations: From the Past to Future Cooperation” and ...Here's pdf of the booklet:;
In Penang, the Koe Guan Co. founded by Khaw Soo Cheang earlier had grown to be one of the big shipping companies during British Malaya plying between Penang and southern Siam. The family also pioneered the insurance industry in Malaya by founding the Khean Guan Insurance Company while holding an interest in Tongkah Harbour Tin Dredging Co Ltd and Eastern Shipping Co Ltd.
Khaw Sim Bee and the Na Ranong family: a shared history of Penang and southern Thailand May 24, 2013  By Clement Liang; Penangites may recall catching a glimpse of a road sign bearing the name “Jalan Khaw Sim Bee” while passing Perak Road. This may very well be the only landmark in Penang reminding us of the Khaw family who once commanded a business empire of tin mining, rubber and shipping which straddled Penang and southern Siam. The Khaw family history began with the emergence of one patriarch – Khaw Soo Cheang – who migrated to Penang from Zhangzhou, Fujian in 1822. Khaw started a vegetable farm in Sungai Tiram, near Bayan Lepas, but after several years of unfruitful endeavours on the island, he decided to venture into southern Siam to explore other opportunities such as tin mining as well as shipping and supplying workers to the west coast of Siam down to Penang. His business began to flourish and soon he was appointed the Royal Collector of tin royalties in the Ranong area. He was awarded the title “Luang Ratanasethi” for his honesty and loyalty to the King and made governor of Ranong, the first non-Thai to be granted such a high position in the Kingdom’s history....... Khaw Soo Cheang had six sons. The eldest, Khaw Sim Cheng, died long before his father passed away in 1882. The second son, Khaw Sim Kong succeeded him as the next governor before becoming Commissioner of the Monthon of Chumphon in 1896. The third son, Khaw Sim Chuah passed away in 1880 and was reportedly buried in Penang. His fourth son, Sim Khim, became the governor of Kraburi and the fifth, Sim Teik, became governor of Langsuan. Khaw Sim Bee (1857-1913), the youngest and the most well-known among the siblings, was knighted as “Phraya Ratsadanupradit Mahisorn Phakdi” or “The Grand Cross of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant”, and became governor of Trang, and in 1900, Commissioner of Monthon Phuket or “greater Phuket circle” which included seven provinces: Phuket, Thalang, Ranong, Phang-Nga, Takuapa, Krabi and Satun......... Khaw Sim Bee almost single-handedly saved the economy of southern Siam by introducing rubber plantations at a time when the tin industry was hit by dwindling supplies and falling prices in the early 20th century. He started rubber tree planting in Trang and persuaded local officials to distribute rubber seeds to more farmers. Chinese immigrants who arrived in Phuket to work the tin mines switched to rubber tapping and in turn helped expand the local rubber industry. The rubber was exported through Penang’s port to meet the industrial demands of Britain. Khaw Sim Bee is remembered as the Father of the Rubber Industry in Thailand..... The Khaw family thus contributed to the development of the economy and the modernisation of the administration of southern Siam by introducing talent, technology and institutional innovations from Penang while resisting British political and economic encroachments into the southern hinterland. Their efforts did not go unnoticed, and the clan was given the noble title “Na Ranong” by the King of Siam after the death of Khaw Sim Bee.....

Update 7 April 2014: I checked with Michael Montesano, expert on Thailand. A remarkable coincidence. He is working on a book project that addresses the place of the Khaw family in Thai historiography. They are linked to the Wellesley sugar barons and also to the current Thai finance minister, Kittiratt Na-Ranong.

Update 6 April 2014: I was chatting with Tony Milner about this little history snippet, and he thought of a famous Khaw family in that part of the world. Are they related? Here's some links courtesy of Tony:

27 March 2014: I had a history lesson today. Had dinner with my Aunt. We got around to talking about a book I'm reading: "Land to Till: The Chinese in the Agricultural Economy of Malaysia" by Pek Leng Tan, Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies, 2008. A copy kindly given me by Datuk Uncle Boon. I have been reading it since yesterday and skated through the history, finished the rubber section and on to the palm oil era. Noticed a Khor relative in the current flower trade.

Aunty got talking about how she would go to Province Wellesley when she was young and that our ancestors had coffee and sugar estates. That rang a bell from the history book and found his name cited as a Chinese pioneer of the sugar industry in the early nineteenth century. Been hearing the stories some time, but now I've a name for Great Great Grandfather Khaw Loh Hup, who came over to Malaysia to look after the family estates. The family already had land in China so must have been considered pretty well-off.

On page 50 of the book, it says "The sugar industry was the source of wealth and social mobility for a number of the earlier Chinese immigrants to Penang, such as Khaw Loh Hup and his son, Khaw Boo Aun, Kee Lai Huat (elder Khaw's son-in-law*) and Heah Jin Wee... But the Chinese monopoly was broken by European estates by the 1840s when the upsurge in price of sugar following the emancipation of the slaves in the West Indies aroused great interest among the Europeans in the crop... the growth of Chinese estates was restricted in order to favour the expansion of the European ones...." Aunt says the land came to be bought by Robert Kuok, the latter-day "sugar king."   

*Kee was terribly successful owning land from the northern states into southern Thailand; he married Khaw's only daughter Khaw Bee Gaik and their ancestral home looks worth a visit; (pictures of matriarch Khaw below, "Land to Till" page 53). The Khaw ancestral home is in Bukit Tambun; the shophouse is totally dilapidated, Khaw Boo Aun was Kapitan of Perak 1886-1906;

The Khaw / Khor names are from the same family. Aunt says that somewhere along the line, some birth registrar changed the spelling to Khor for one segment of the family. The spelling makes it quite recognizable as northern Malaysian.