The statue will be of Phraya Wichit Songkhram in a seated position. Cast in bronze, the statue will be 2.55m tall and up to 1.99m across, Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana announced at the Phuket City Municipality offices in Phuket Town on Friday (Nov 8).
The base for the statue will be 2.3m square and 1.8m high, and the area around the statue to be developed for the monument will cover 164 square metres, Mayor Somjai explained.
Built at a cost of B8.7 million – B7.5mn for the statue and B1.2mn for the base and surrounding area – the monument will be installed on the southeast corner of the grounds of Wichit Sangkharam Temple on Narisorn Rd.
The temple was chosen as the site as it was built by order of Phraya Wichit Songkhram at the time that Phuket Town was first being developed under his guiding hand.
The statue is being created by renowned Thai artist Sunti Pichetchaiyakul, who is best known for creating the sculpture of King Rama 9, Bhumibol Adulyadej, at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States, where King Bhumibol was born.
The statue is being created from a photo of Phraya Wichit Songkhram taken in 1849.
Born in 1836, Phraya Wichit Songkhram served as Governor of Phuket from 1849-1869, and died in 1890 at the age of 54.
“The monument is being built through the collaboration of the Phuket Provincial Office, Phuket City Municipality, Wichit Sangkharam Temple and Phuket people, in order to show respect to the man who created Phuket Town 170 years ago,” said the announcement.
“The monument will be an important place to learn about Phuket history in the future,” it added.
The foundation stone for the monument will be laid on at the auspicious time of 9:09am on Nov 22, and the statue will be installed at 9:09am on Feb 28.
Government officers and monks will be present for the formal ceremonies held to mark both events.
Phraya Wichit Songkhram is also known as Thad Rattanadilok Na Phuket, an esteemed family name that lives in Phuket and the surrounding provinces.
He was the son of the former Governor of Phuket “Phra Phu Ket (Kaew)”.
Both are honoured by the main roads Wichit Songkram Rd and Phra Phuket Kaew Rd, which link Phuket Town with the Kathu valley, which was once the heartland of tin mines in Phuket.
Phraya Wichit Songkhram’s name in full was Phraya Wichitsongkram Ramrithidet Lohasetrak Phithak Siamrat Simatayanuchitpiphakdi Phiriyapichit Jangwang, also given the common nickname “Wiset”.
Also known as Thad Rattanadilok Na Phuket and Phraya Phu Ket Lohasetrak, Phraya Wichit Songkhram was the descendant of Rattanadilok Na Phuket family.
He served as Governor of Phuket Town from the late reign of King Rama III until the early reign of King Rama V.
After his father passed away, Phraya Wichit Songkhram was nominated as the Governor of Phuket and bestowed the title “Phra Phu Ket (Thad)”.
Following the “Ang Yi” rebellion of Chinese mine workers in 1876, Phraya Wichit Songkhram had a new, fortified, Governor’s Residence built in Tha Reua, near the Heroines Monument, effectively moving the island’s administrative capital from Thalang.
The site of that residence is now called Ban Phraya Wichit Songkram, and was registered as a National Heritage Site in 1985.
That residence also became the reason against building a U-turn flyover on Thepkrasattri Rd to alleviate traffic congestion in the area. (See story here.)
Looking to move the island’s capital further south, Phraya Wichit Songkhram ordered the development of the area that was at that time called Thung Kha, which is now known as Phuket Town.
He invited Chinese people from Bangkok to establish businesses in Phuket, so Phuket could develop rapidly.
As Phuket’s economy boomed, Phraya Wichit Songkhram could send large tributes of taxes collected to Bangkok.
In return for his outstanding contribution, he was given 10,000 rai of land near Toh Sae Hill, which is now known as the old government quarter in Phuket Town where Phuket Provincial Hall and other main government offices are located today.