The Koh Chang Yutthanavi Day
The last week of January every year is a commemoration of the brave Thai Royal Navy forces who risked their lives in the island of Koh Chang for the total independence of Trat from French colonizers.
Also known as Koh Chang Yutthanavi Day, people of Trat celebrate the courage of their heroes through different exhibitions, merit-making or chanting rituals, and tribute rites.
Koh Chang is an island district in Trat province, lying to the east of the Gulf of Thailand’s seaboard which is approximately 310 kilometers from Bangkok and close to the Cambodian border. It means “Elephant Island” not because of elephants (there are no elephants in Koh Chang), but because of the shape of its peninsula.
Today, Koh Chang is known for its mountainous terrain, tropical nature, scenic rainforests, flourishing coral reefs, and even waterfalls. It has Mt. Khao Salak Phet as its highest mountain peak at 743 meters altitude. It is the most popular among the 52 islands of Trat province, including Koh Laoya, Koh Wai, and Koh Kud.
It is also famous for its big town markets, bigger than those of the usual marketplaces found in Thailand. Main reason is because it is very close to Cambodia, so traders—mostly Chinese—chose the region as a strategic area for commerce and business.
However, before World War II broke out, everything is different. Koh Chang was very little known. It only has a few families who live through growing and farming coconuts plus other types of fruits. It was 1941 when Koh Chang became so popular to what it is now.
When the Indochina war broke out, the French troops attempted to conquer Trat again. In the early morning of January 17, 1941, everything was perfect—the weather conditions and the sea were calm and smooth. The French squadron attacked the island but to their surprise, the Thai Royal Navy was already in position, thus creating a clash in the seas now known as the Battle of Koh Chang.
The battle lasted for almost five hours. The French squadron was about to retrieve but it started the Thais’ air attacks started. It caused their ship, Lamotte-Picquet, to be hit by aerial bombs but didn’t sink. On the other hand, Thai forces suffered from total devastation but to their surprise, they were able to defend their territory. The French forces retreated and Trat is still part of Thailand.
Now, the Battle of Koh Chang is very well remembered by the Thais, especially the people of Trat. Every year they commemorate their fighter’s bravery through programs in the Koh Chang Yutthanavi Memorial, Laem Ngop.