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PHUKET

Island has a long recorded history, and remains dating back to A.D. 1025 indicate that the island’s present day name derive in meaning from the Tamil manikram, or crystal mountain. For most of history, however, it was known as Junk Ceylon, which, with variations, is the name found on old maps. The name is thought to have its roots in Ptolemy’s Geography, written by the Alexandrian geographer in the Third Century A.D. He mentioned that in making a trip from Suwannapum to the Malay Peninsula it was necessary to pass the cape of Jang Si Lang.

Phuket was a way station on the route between India and China where seafarers stopped to shelter. The island appears to have been part of the Shivite empire (called in Thai the Tam Porn Ling) that established itself on the Malay Peninsula during the first Millennium A.D. Later, as Muang Takua-Thalang, it was part of a constellation of twelve cities, Phuket’s emblem, by which it was known to others in the those largely pre literate times, was the dog. During the Sukhothai Period, Phuket was associated with Takua Pah in what is now Phang-Nga Province, another area with vast tin reserves. The Dutch established a trading post during the Ayuthaya Period in the 16th Century. The island’s northern and central regions then were governed by the Thais, and the southern and western parts were given over to the tin trade, a concession in the hands of foreigners.

After Ayuthaya was sacked by the Burmese in 1767 there was a short interregnum in Thailand, ended by King Taksin, who drove out the Burmese and reunified the country. The Burmese, however, were anxious to return to the offensive. They outfitted a fleet to raid the southern provinces, and carry off the populations to slavery in Burma. This led to Phuket’s most memorable historic event. A passing sea Captain Francis Light, sent word that the Burmese were en route to attack. Forces in Phuket were assembled led by the two heroines, Khun Ying Jan, wife of Phuket’s recently deceased governor, and her sister Mook. After a month’s siege the Burmese were forced to depart on March 13, 1785. Khun Ying Jan and her sister were credited with the successful defense.

In recognition King Rama I bestowed upon Khun Ying Jan the honorific Thao Thep Krasattri, a title of nobikity usually reserved for royalty, by which she is known today. Her sister became Thao Sri Soontorn.

During the Nineteenth Century, Chinese immigrants arrived in such numbers to work the tin mines that the ethnic character of the island’s interior became predominantly Chinese, while the coastal settlements remained populated chiefly by Muslim fishermen.

In Rama V’s reign, Phuket became the administration center of a group of tin mining provinces called Monton Phuket, and in 1933, with the change in government from absolute monarchy to a parliamentary system, the island was established as a province by itself.

LOCATION AND BOUNDARIES

Phuket is an island connected by bridges to southern Thailand’s Andaman Sea Coast, in the Indian Ocean, lying between 7' 45" and 8' 15" north latitude, and from 98' 15" to 98' 40" west longitude on the map. Thailand’s largest island, Phuket is surrounded by 32 smaller islands that form part of the same administration, with a total area of 570 square kilometers. Measured at its widest point, Phuket is 21.3 kilometers; at its longest, 48.7 kilometers. It is bounded thus: On the North: Lies the Pak Prah Strait, spanned by two bridges running side-by-side, the older Sarasin Bridge, and the newer Thao Thep Krasattri Bridge. On the South: Is the Andaman Sea. On the East: Is Ao Phang-Nga Bay (In the jurisdiction mainly of Phang-Nga Province). On the West: Is the Andaman Sea.

GEOGRAPHY

About 70 percent of Phuket is mountainous; a western range runs from north to south from which smaller branches derive. The highest peak is Mai Tao Sip Song, or Twelve Canes at 529 meters, which lies within the boundaries of Tambon Patong, Kathu District (no roads go there yet). The remaining 30 percent of the island, mainly in the center and south, is formed by low plains. Streams include the Klong Bang Yai, Klong Ta Jin, Klong Ta Rua, and Klong Bang Rong, none of which is large.

CLIMATE

Phuket’s weather conditions are dominated by monsoon winds that blow year round. It is therefore always warm and humid. There are two distinct seasons, rainy and dry. The rainy season begins in May and lasts till October, during which the monsoon blows from the southwest. The dry season is from November through April, when the monsoon comes from the northeast. Highest average temperatures, at 33.4 Degrees Celsius, prevail during March. Lowest averages occur in January, when nightly lows dip to 22 Degrees Celsius.

ECONOMY

Since the early 1980’s the tourist business has been Phuket’s chief source of income. Hotels, restaurant, tour companies, and souvenir shops are much in evidence on the west coast. However, while once all important tin mining has ceased, tourism is by no means the island’s only activity. Agriculture remains important to a large number of people, and covers by far the most part of the island. Principal crops are rubber, coconuts, cashews, and pineapples. Prawn farming has largely taken over the east and south coasts. Pearl farming is also important. Phuket’s fishing port is at all times filled, and processing of marine products, mainly fish, makes a significant contribution to the economy.

With so many healthy industries supplying income, construction has become a major factor in employment. This ranges from massive public works projects, large office buildings and hotels, and housing estates with hundreds of units, down to single family homes, apartments and additions.

POPULATION

Official population as of January, 2006, was 292,351. This figure numbers those who are registered as living in Phuket. Phuket’s attraction as a center of economic activity has resulted in many living on the island whose registration is elsewhere. The total population of Phuket varies considerably depending on the time of year, though it is never less than the figure given above

GOVERMENT

The island is divided into three districts, Thalang in the north, Kathu in the west, and Muang in the south. Thailand’s system of government relies upon a strong central authority, thus the Provincial Governor is a civil servant appointed by the Interior Ministry in Bangkok, as are the Nai Amper, or District Chief. The cities of Phuket and Patong have their own city governments, with elected city councils, the leading members of which serve as mayor. There are also elected provincial, district, and sub-district, or Tambon Councils. The local constabulary is part of the Interior Ministry.