Thian Hee was also known by his aristocratic title Phraya Sarasinsawamiphakh. Thian Hee (Chinese: 黄天喜) (1848–1925) was born in Thailand to a Thai mother and Chinese father. He came from a line of wealthy rice traders and pharmacists who had immigrated from Hainan Province, China to reside in the largely mercantile Thonburi province across the river from Bangkok. At a young age he was taken to America by a missionary to pursue his studies. He is noted as being the first Thai to have studied in America. He finished his studies in medicine at Columbia University in 1871. He returned to Thailand as the country's first ever medical doctor.
He was a prominent military doctor and accompanied the army on expeditions to Laos under Chao Phraya Surasakdi Montri during the Haw Wars of 1865-1890. Malaria proved to be a more formidable foe than the Haw and Thian Hee was largely occupied with administering quinine to infected troops. A photograph now on view at Vimanmek Palace depicts Thian Hee handing the last bottle of quinine to the commanding general to prove the scarcity of their supplies. Amongst his activities in Laos as part of an occupational force was the imposition of a partially successful ban on the practice of using witch doctors and witchcraft to heal the local populace of illnesses.
Thian Hee later returned to his family profession as a rice trader and became one of the country's most influential merchants. He acted as a financial advisor to Queen Savang Vadhana often filling the role of a go-between investor between the Palace and the largely insular Chinese merchant community. He also amassed wealth as a co-founder of Siam Cement a conglomerate now listed as the second largest company in Thailand. As an act of gratitude to the missionary who had supported him as a child, Thian Hee funded the construction of Thailand's first Presbyterian church - Suebsamphanthawong Church-in 1902 on his own plot of land in Silom. In 1925, following his death, he was enterred next to the Church in a mausoleum in the family cemetery which still remains to this day.
Thian Hee was the founder of the illustrious Sarasin family. He was the father of Pote Sarasin who became the first secretary general of SEATO and the 9th Prime Minister of Thailand. Thian Hee's father was a Chinese pharmacist who had immigrated from Hainan in the 19th century.
Thian Hee's official title was Phraya Sarasinsawamiphakh. The title phraya is now obsolete however it is the second highest feudal title a person can be given and is the equivalent of Marquis in the West.
- Wimonphan, Pitathawatchai (2000), Sarasinsawamiphak, Bangkok