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|Part of the Franco-Siamese War|
French warships bombarding the Siamese fort at Paknam.
|French Republic||Kingdom of Siam|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Edgar Humann||Phraya Chonlayutyothin|
7 artillery pieces
|Casualties and losses|
1 steamer grounded
1 aviso damaged
1 gunboat damaged
1 gunboat sunk
1 gunboat damaged
The Paknam Incident was a military engagement fought during the Franco-Siamese War in July 1893. While sailing off Paknam through Siam's Chao Phraya River, three French ships were fired on by a Siamese fort and force of gunboats. In the ensuing battle, France won and proceeded to blockade Bangkok which ended the war.
Conflict arose when the French Navy aviso Inconstant and the gunboat Comete arrived at Paknam and requested permission to cross the bar into the Chao Phraya. The French were on their way to Bangkok, further up the river, for negotiations. When the Siamese refused, the French commander, Rear Admiral Edgar Humann, disregarded the Siamese demands and instructions from his own government. Before the action Humann had been ordered not to cross the bar because the Siamese were well-prepared for battle. Siamese forces included seven 6-inch disappearing guns of the recently built Chulachomklao Fort. The Siamese also sunk several junks and a cargo ship in the river, creating only one narrow passage which the French had to traverse.
Five gunboats were anchored just beyond the sunken junks. They were the Siamese gunboats Makut Ratchakuman, Narubent Butri, Thun Kramon, Muratha Wisitsawat, and Han Hak. Two were modern warships while the others were older gunboats or converted river steamers. A sea mine field of sixteen explosives was also laid. Many Europeans served in the Siamese military at this time: a Dutch admiral commanded the fort, and the gunboats were commanded by a Danish Vice Admiral granted the royal title of Phraya Chonlayutyothin.
The French chose to cross the bar just after sunset on 13 July. Their objective was to fight their way past the Siamese defenses but only if fired upon. The weather was overcast and raining. By this time the Siamese were on high alert and at battle stations. The French ships were towed into action by the small mail steamer Jean Baptiste Say. At 18:15 the rain stopped and the Siamese gunners observed the French ships passing the nearby lighthouse. A few minutes later, the French were off Black Buoy when they entered the range of the fort. Siamese gunners were ordered to fire three warning shots, if they were ignored, then a fourth would signal their gunboats to begin firing.
At 18:30, the fort opened fire with two blank rounds but the French continued on, so a third, live, warning shot was fired and hit the water in front of the Jean Baptiste Say. When this warning was ignored a fourth shot was fired so the gunboats Makhut Ratchakuman and Muratha Wasitsawat opened up at 18:50. Inconstant returned fired on the fort while the Comete engaged the gunboats. A small Siamese boat filled with explosives was sent out to ram one of the French ships, but it missed its target. Combat lasted about twenty-five minutes.
Ultimately Rear Admiral Humann forced his way through the Siamese line, ramming and sinking one gunboat in the process. Another was hit by shell fire. Ten men were killed and twelve others wounded. The French suffered as well. While towing the warships past Paknam, the Jean Baptiste Say was hit several times by cannon fire. Her commander was forced to cut the tow line and ground his ship on Laem Lamphu Rai while the Inconstant and Comete proceeded onto Bangkok. Three Frenchmen were killed and two others were wounded. Comete received more hits than the Inconstant but the damage was not serious. The Siamese fort was not damaged.
The following morning, Jean Baptiste Say's crew was still on board their grounded vessel so the Siamese sent a boat and captured the steamer. They then attempted and failed to sink her. The prisoners were treated badly according to reports and put in a Bangkok prison. A day later, the French gunboat Forfait arrived at Paknam and sent a boat full of sailors to recapture the mail steamer but when they boarded, the Siamese occupants successfully repelled the attack. When Rear Admiral Humann arrived off Bangkok, he established a blockade, trained his guns on the royal palace and on 3 October 1893, a treaty was signed, ending the war.
- Clare Smith, Israel, The Unrivaled History of the World: Nineteenth Century, Werner Company, Chicago (1893), p. 1862
- Hogan Edmond, Albert, Pacific blockade, Clarendon Press, Oxford University (1908), pp. 138-139