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Bowring Treaty

Treaty signed on 18 April 1855 between the United Kingdom and Siam, which renewed an earlier accord of 1926 and further liberalized foreign trade between those nations. It is named after the then British governor of Hong Kong, Sir John Bowring, who in 1855 spearheaded a British delegation to Siam, which was received by King Rama IV in the former Phra Thihnang Anantasamahkom Throne Hall, then located within the compound of the Grand Palace, and resulted in the treaty. The Treaty of Friendship and Commerce allowed free trade by foreigners in Bangkok and fixed import duty at three percent for all articles, except for gold and opium, which were exempt of taxes, whereas export article could be taxed only once; it permitted Britons to buy and own land in the Siamese Kingdom, as well as for a British consulate with full extraterritorial powers to be established in the Siamese capital. Besides the collection of the above mentioned taxes, the Siamese only further obtained the right to prohibit the export of certain food produce whenever these were deemed scarce. Yet, alarmed by the First Opium War between China and the British Empire and the consequent results of the Treaty of Nanking in which China transferred Hong Kong by cession to the British, as well as by a Second Opium War lurking, Siam ‒not in a position to oppose British military superiority was forced to agree to the conditions of this unequal treaty, which however allowed for Siam to remain independent and which is now also accredited with having attributed to the economic development of Bangkok, as it created the framework and right environment in which multilateral trade in the Far East and Southeast Asia could further operate freely.


John Bowring