Kiet and Malee with their first three children in 1937. From right, Prapasri, who was born in Paknampo, Kriwan and Chalermsri who was born when the couple moved to Pong and Ngao respectively.

Malee’s life as a forester’s wife

Malee Dibb was born in Phrae, Northern Siam, in May 1915. During her very young age, Malee was sent to Wattana Girls School in Bangkok, to join her elder sister Diane Dawk Eung, who was about nine years her senior. This missionary school founded in 1874, was the first boarding school for girl in Siam. When her sister left the school, the young Malee must have been so lonely that she was sent back to her mother, Mrs Nue, in Lampang. Malee later continued her study at another missionary School, Vitchanaree, in the province.

When she was about sixteen, she accompanied her mother to visit her elder sister, Dawk Eung, and her husband in Paknampo. There, the teenager met her future husband Kiet (Chinese name Kien Teck) Wattananikorn, the son of a Chinese merchant in Pattani, southern Siam, named Sui Jai or Luang Sakolkarntani, an official title bestowed on him by King Vajiravudh. Mr. Kiet at that time worked in a big farm in Wang Pratart (or Wang Phra That), Kamphaeng Phet. This farm was owned by Mr. K.G. Gairdner the father of his friends, Ken and Jim, from Saint Xavier Institution, Penang, which at that time was under direct British rule. Kiet and Malee got married not long after that in 1931.

A few years after they got married, Kiet left Wang Pratart Farm to join the Anglo Siam Co. Ltd., another British forestry company at the time, as a forest assistant in Pong, a small and remote village in Northern Siam. From then on, due to her husband's obligations to the teak company, Malee needed to move with him and settled in various places, which were mostly remote and far from civilization. The following sub-sections will elaborate on the couple's lives and work in these places.