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Dutch East India Company

Name of the first multinational corporation in the world, established in 1602 by the States-General of the Netherlands, to carry out trading activities in the Far East and South Asia. In Dutch the company is called the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, abbreviated with the initials V.O.C. which are represented in their logo, a large capital V with an O on the left and a C on the right leg. Under this name, the company set up a number of permanent overseas trading posts, its first one in 1603, in Banten (Bantam), West Java, thus consolidating its influence and power along the Asian trade routes. In 1604 the Dutch came to Ayutthaya for the first time hoping to set up an overland trade route to China with the help of local merchants, but this aspiration was never carried out. In 1608 the V.O.C. established a factory (a warehouse and office of an overseas commercial enterprise) in Ayutthaya and the Dutch quarter on the banks of the Chao Phraya River became known as the most elegant and the grandest of all in the kingdom. The next year, in 1609, the V.O.C. established a second trading post in the southern seaport town of Pattani. On 12 June 1617 a treaty was signed granting the Dutch a trade monopoly in fur. The fact that the V.O.C. was protected by its naval fleet and that its overall trade was thriving placed it in a strong position with considerable bargaining power. Thanks to this influence they were also granted a trade monopoly in tin from Nakhon Sri Thammarat. But in 1636 restrictions were placed on the V.O.C.'s trading activities due to the Picnic Incident, an event in which a dozen Dutchmen had breached palace safety rules and behaved obstinately and maliciously against some Siamese whilst intoxicated. By the middle of the 17th century, trade with Ayutthaya had become very lucrative and the V.O.C. had positioned itself as part of a trade triangle, on the one hand exporting goods such as hides, tin and rice, whilst on the other hand importing goods from the various Asian ports, such as silver from Japan and textiles from India. By 1669, the V.O.C. was the richest private company in the world, with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees and a private army of 10,000 soldiers. However, when by the end of the 17th century Japan imposed a ban on the import of Ayutthayan hides, it triggered Ayutthaya to also allow Chinese merchants to trade in fur, breaching the Dutch trade monopoly. This was a turning point that resulted in the end of the trade triangle and signaled the decline of the Dutch trade post in Ayutthaya which was closed in 1741 due to substantial financial losses. Trade however continued and in 1747 the factory was reopened. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Ayutthayan kings sometimes required the assistance of V.O.C. soldiers, who served on Dutch warships escorting the cargo fleet lest they were attacked by pirates or trade rivals, to serve as mercenaries in the Siamese army in exchange for trade privileges. Siamese kings are also known to have relied on V.O.C. craftsmen to help build Western-style ships for them. Prior to the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767 the V.O.C. moved its personnel and goods out of the kingdom and their settlement became a stronghold for Chinese mercenaries in the Burmese war against Ayutthaya. Due to the decline of the market for sugar from Indonesia, increased global competition and saturation of the European markets, the V.O.C. got into financial trouble, became bankrupt and in 1800, the company was formally dissolved. Also United East Indian Company.