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Kedah

KEDAH. This state, on the west coast of the peninsula, lies between parallels 5 20' and 6 42' N., and is bounded, N. by Palit and Songkla, E. by Songkla and Raman, S. by Province Wellesley and Perak, and W. by the sea. The coast-line is 65 m. long, the greatest distance from north to south is 1 1 5 m. and the greatest breadth 46 m. Off the coast lies a group of islands, the largest of which is Langkawi, well peopled and forming a district of the state.

The total area of Kedah is about 4000 sq. m. The land is lowlying and swampy near the coast except towards the south where the height known as Kedah Hill rises from the shore opposite Penang, flat and fertile farther inland, and mountainous towards the eastern border. The rivers are small, the Sungei Kedah, navigable for a few miles for vessels of 50 tons, andtheS.Muda.which forms the boundary with Province Wellesley, being the only streams worthy of notice. The plains are formed of marine deposit, and in the mountains limeJtone and granite preponderate. The population is estimated at 220,000, of whom about 100,000 are Malays, 50,000 Siamese and Samsams and 70,000 Chinese and Madrassis (Klings). There are ihree towns of importance. Alor Star, the capital, on the Kedah river, 10 miles from the sea, in a flat, unhealthy, but fertile locality, is a well laid out town with good streets, many handsome public and private buildings, and good wharfage for small vessels. The population is about 20,000, of whom more than half are Chinese and the remainder government servants and retainers of the local aristocracy. Kuala Muda (pop. 10,000) and Kulim (pop. 8000) situated in the south, are unimposing collections of small birch houses and thatched bamboo huts; the latter is the centre of the Kedah tin mining industry. The bulk of the population is scattered over the plains in small villages. A good road runs north from Alor Star to the border of the state, a distance of 40 miles, and other roads are being constructed. The state has 185 miles of telegraph line and 75 miles of telephone line. Mails are closed daily at Alor Star for Penang and there is a good internal postal service. The chief industry is rice cultivation. Coco-nut, betel-nut and fruit plantations are many, and the cultivation of rubber has recently been taken up with prospects of success. The estimated area under cultivation is about 300,000 acres. There are rice-mills at Alor Star and at Kuala Muda. The principal exports are rice, cattle and tin. The chief imports are cotton goods, provisions, hardware and raw silk. Accurate trade statistics are not available. The ruler holds the rank of sultan and is assisted in the government by a council and by the British adviser who since the state passed from Siamese to British protection in 1909, has replaced the officer formerly appointed by Siam. The sultan comes of a family long recognized by Siam as having hereditary right to the rulership. The penal and civil laws are administered in accordance with the precepts of Islamism, the official religion of the state. Though much has been done to improve the courts, justice is not easily obtainable. A land registration system is in force but is in a state of confusion, though a land law passed in 1905 gives security of tenure over lands newly acquired. The mining laws are similar to those of Siam. In 1905 the Siamese government advanced two and a half million dollars to Kedah, to pay the debts of the state, which sum was refunded by the British Government on assuming the position of protector. The annual revenue is $1,000,000 and the expenditure about the same. Chief heads of revenue are opium and land tax. Many revenue monopolies, created in the past, have not yet expired; but for this the revenue would be greater than it is. There is no army. In 1906 the police service was reorganized under British officers, resulting in great improvement to this department. The state is divided into a number of administrative districts under Malay officials. Each district comprises several mukim or parishes, the imam of which exercise both spiritual and temporal control. There are schools in the chief towns, but education has not yet been seriously undertaken.

Kedah was founded by colonists from India in A.D. 1200, about which time the Siamese had subdued Nakhon Sri Tammarat and claimed the whole Malay Peninsula. When the rise of Malacca shook Siamese authority in the peninsula, Kedah oscillated between them, and on the conquest of Malacca by the Portuguese, fell to Siam, though the capital was raided and burnt by the Europeans. The ruler and his people were converted to Islam in the 15th century. In 1768, the Siamese kingdom being disorganized, the sultan of Kedah entered into direct political relations with the Hon. East India Company, leasing the island of Penang to the latter. Further treaties followed in 1791 and 1802, but in 1821 Siam reasserted her control, expelling the rebellious sultan after a sanguinary war. The sultan made several fruitless efforts to recover the state, and at length made full submission, when he was reinstated. In 1868 an agreement between Great Britain and Siam was substituted for the treaties of the East India Company with the sultan. The present sultan succeeded in 1881, and for 14 years governed well, but in 1895 he began to contract debts and to leave the government to his minions. The result was chaos, and in 1905 the Siamese government had to intervene to avert a condition of bankruptcy, adjusting the finances and reorganizing the general administration to such effect that when, four years later, the state became a British dependency, a government was found established on a sound basis and requiring nothing but the presence'of a firm and experienced officer as adviser to maintain its efficiency and assist its further advance.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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