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Bangkok enclave celebrates its Portuguese past

Kudichin displays to visitors a little-known chapter of Thai history

The Santa Cruz church, the center of the Portuguese settlers' community (Photo by Ken Barrett)

BANGKOK -- King Taksin had a problem shortly after he assumed the throne of Siam in 1767. He had driven out the Burmese invaders after they sacked the capital of Ayutthaya, but so terrible was the destruction that the city was an uninhabitable expanse of smoking ruins.

Taksin's predecessor, Ekkathat, had been found dead of starvation in the forest. The country's unruly provinces, always loosely governed from Ayutthaya, were beginning to break away under the leadership of ambitious governors and rogue monks.

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