Phuket (pōˈkĭt) [key], island, 206 sq mi (534 sq km), a province of Thailand, in the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of the Malay Peninsula. The town of Phuket is the capital. Flat, with isolated hills, the island was one of Thailand's chief tin-mining regions, but now resort tourism is the main industry. Phuket also produces mainly rubber, coconuts, and pepper. The population is mainly Chinese and Thai; the Chinese mined tin there since ancient times.
Phuket town was founded in the 1st cent. B.C. by colonists from India. European merchants began trading there in the 16th cent. The island, contested by the Siamese and the Burmese during their 18th-century wars, was finally incorporated into Thailand in the 19th cent. Phuket was known to the Malays as Ujong Salang (Cape Salang) and to early European voyagers as Junkceylon. In the 1980s and 1990s it experienced rapid development as tourism expanded. Parts of the island's coast were devastated by the Dec., 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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