Part 10.                                             

An English mans story while traveling through Thailand..

Siamese fight against the Haws:

On the 22nd of February we reached the field of battle. The oracles were consulted, and it was decided that ten o'clock in the morning was the right time to fire the first gun to commence the attack on the Haw. We reached Phya Pichai's stockade about eleven o'clock; they were then hard at work, the cannonading was going on vigorously at the Haw stockade at the other end of the plain, distant about two miles. Rossmussan and I moved on to within three-quarters of a mile of the stockade, so that we could get a better view of what was going on. The stockade was about four hundred yards long and two hundred broad, and was surrounded by growing bamboos which made it difficult to see into the stockade. There were seven towers about forty feet high, and judging from the constant puffs of smoke that were issuing, the greatest execution appeared to be going on from them. North, west, and east of the stockade were open rice-fields, to the south was jungle. The Siamese had surrounded the stockade, the north and east were occupied by the Luang Phrabang contingent, and men from Pichai and Sokathai; the west and south by the contingent from Nawng Kai.

The north and west sides were well in view, and it would appear that they were advancing in columns of about fifty men, carrying several white-elephant flags, and each company provided with an Armstrong six-pounder mountain howwitzer. They seemed to be moving to take up their positions behind a temporary palisade that had been constructed by others who had come before, and had advanced bearing shields of double rows of bamboos. These shield were very heavy, and the feet, the parts that it was impossible to protect.

The cannonading went on briskly from each side, but apparently it was only noisy display from the stockade, as there was no evidence anywhere that any particularly large shots were being fired. But with the small arms considerable execution was being done. The Siamese planted themselves within a hundred yards of the stockade and proceeded to make a palisade. Many men were coming from the stockade in groups of twos and trees, some poor fellows, who were wounded, were

riding on ponies or being carried. They seemed indifferent to their wounds, and all appeared in excellent spirits. About two in the afternoon, each side ceased firing, and there was a lull in the operations. About three the firing was resumed more vigorously, and a short time after the news came that Phya Rat was wounded. He had been struck by a shot weighing about two pounds, it had glanced off one of the posts of a Chinese joss-house, near which he was standing, and struck him in the leg. Evening came on, and the stockade had not yet been taken, but the firing was kept up all night, and shouts of defiance from each side could be heard from a great distance. It was known the Haw were inveterate opium-smokers, and that if the firing was kept up they would be kept from sleeping and fagged out. The Siamese loss for the day was serious, about fifteen men belonging to Phya Pichai's stockade were killed and twenty wounded, while Phya Rat's loss consisted of not less than fifty killed and wounded.

The Siamese settled down to a regular siege; some charges were made on the Haw stockade, but as one section did not act in concert with the other, they were repulsed with heavy loss. The stockade was daily filling with wounded. Collins and Rossmussan filled the post of doctors, attending and dressing the wounds of about forty men daily. Some of the wounds took hours to dress. Rossmussan had admirable nerve for surgical operations; the way he extracted some of the bullets might have made a doctor stare, but it eventually gave the men relief. One day when all was quiet Rossmussan and I went within four hundred yards of the Haw stockade and observed that the roofs of the towers were made of grass. Rossmussan possessing some knowledge of artillery, immediately suggested to Phya Pichai, who had come to warn us to leave, to use heated shot and thus set the towers on fire.

 The idea was adopted, but the details were to be carried out by the Siamese themselves. Bamboo scaffoldings were erected opposite each tower, about forty feet in height, that being the height of the towers. The howitzers were hauled up to these platforms, the powder was rammed home with grass for wadding, and then a cylinder of wood was introduced, the hot shot poured in and immediately fired off. So far so well, the signal was given. Phya Pichai's gun at the north-east corner responded, and the tower was in flames in a moment. What were the other guns doing? I was told that one of the hot shot fell fizzing into the midst of a crowd of Siamese who were quietly smoking at the foot of one of the scaffolds. 

The Haw saw the danger, and in an incredibly short time they had whipped the roofs off the other six towers. The north-east tower was burnt to the ground and another opportunity lost. Another plan was suggested. The men were to move up in parallel columns and throw ignited firewood before them; in this way the palisade of the stockade would be reached and all would be set ablaze. Some days were spent in collecting a great stack of fire-wood, but as soon as it was all heaped up in front of the first parrallel, the Haw set it on fire, and the Siamese had to fall back under a heavy shower of bullets, which added many to the list of dead and wounded. 

The Haw had a trick of making sorties at night, each man carrying in his hand a small canvas bag holding about two ounces of powder. These they would ignite and throw among the Siamese. The flash enabled them to see their victims, whom they would spear, and then creep back to the stockade. The others would blaze away in the direction of the flashes, and in this way they often killed and wounded one another. 

A Haw was captured one night, he was already mortally wounded and only lived one day. Tigers were also giving trouble at this time. When there was most noise they made their appearance, and once they carried off two men. Add to all this that at night when I, thoughwell clothed and dry, shivered with cold, these poor people lay on the wet ground without any covering; their daily rations too were only a few ounces of rice, besides whatever they could pick up in the forest, yet there was never a murmur heard or word of complaint. During the night they would straggle into the stockade in twos and trees looking for something to eat. Again you might hear them calling out to one another to return to the Haw, who were the authors of all their troubles, showing as much indifference as though they were deer-stalking.

The General, Phya Rat, was not much better off.. Had he not been wounded it is possible he would have taken the stockade with a rush, for he was plucky enough, and I think the men would have followed him, but he was totally incapacitated. The days were sometimes hot, and there was a plague of flies; wounded as he was, he had no protection from the heat or from the flies, so I gave him my tent, as I could well do without it. I tried to persuade him to raise the siege and fall back on Chieng Kwang, where he could make fresh arrangements for supplies, telling him that the Haw would certainly run away in his absence, and all he had to do was to take necessary precautions against their return. The proposal shocked him; he thought the chance of capturing the Haw should not be lost. I told him as things were there was no possibility of capturing them. They could hold out for a year, as they were well stocked with provisions, whereas his unhappy followers had nothing to eat. He was very obstinate, and expressed his determination to hang on.

There was great danger of a body of Haw coming from Sobp Ett, in which case his men would have certainly been dispersed with unfortunate results to themselves. I proposed that he should allow me to go to M. Lai by way of Lawn and Sobp Ett, and allow Phya Pichai to accompany me, as he was the Commissioner of Luang Phrabang, and those places were under his jurisdiction. This was agreed to, and after being twenty days at Tung Chieng Kumm, we moved off, carrying with us all the wounded of Phya Pichai's stockade. When we arrived at Ban Le, we halted for a few days to see what could be done for the wounded, and then arranged to send them on to Luang Phrabang. Rossmussan fell ill, so he accompanied the sick and wounded to Luang Phrabang. We kept about fifteen marines with us as an escort.

We halted some days at a large Meo settlement. There was a close connection between these fellows and the Haw of Tung Chieng Kumm. Taking advantage of the outlawry proclaimed against the Kamuks, they worked upon their fears to induce them to join them, and help them in clearing the forest for their cultivation. Now the king had sent a proclamation from Bangkok pardoning all Kamuks who had taken part in a previous rebellion, and in consequence of this upwards of two hundred head-men had come in to give in their submission to the Commissioner and the Chao .

 The Chao reinnstated them and gave to each a piece of white calico as a symbol of pardon. The next year a number of these unfortunate men were massacred in cold blood; they silently held up the white calico, the symbol of pardon, but that availed nothing, on account of the hatred of their assailants to the donor, the blows only rained down more fast and furious. The late Hobahat of Luang Phrabang, who unfortunately was killed when the Haw made a raid upon the place, was, as well as his father, the former Hobahat, very unpopular in Luang Phrabang. They seemed to have made it their special object to break down the old associations with the tribes of Kamuks, in this way directly opposing the Chief, and certainly doing no good to any cause, whatever may have been their opinions. 

They harassed the men, and one day at Ni Ngawi, when the Kamuks were building a house, a bamboo accidentally struck one of the relations of the Hobahat, who had placed himself there for the Hobahat, who had placed himself there for the purpose of provoking a quarrel. The Kamuk who caused the accident was executed, and the others immediately rose in rebellion. The Hobahat made his escape on a raft. His brother perpetrated the massacre referred to above; he imagined ha was revenging the fact of his brother having to fly for his life, and took a special delight in recounting the horrible details of how the unhappy creatures on their knees, helplessly pleading for their lives, were ordered to stretch out their necks that their heads might be chopped off. 

The Haw appeared about the same time, and the misery of the people spread far and near, It is said five thousand Kamuks in one band settled in Chieng Mai, and by them the teak forests were worked. Upwards of twenty thousand settled in Nan; but more than half the population were killed or died from starvation. On arriving at M. Sawn, we found there five hundred militia, who had been settled there about six months, and who had consumed all the supplies, without making the slightest effort to get more. M. Sawn is important as having been more than once the scene of conflicts between the different bands of Haw robbers, who finding no opposition fell out among themselves, as is always the case. Here the black Flags of Chao Lai defeated those of Tung Chieng Kumm. There were two routes to M. Lai, and we adopted that by Sobp Ett, though it was longer, as we thought it better to find out the truth about the Haw, who it was said had established themselves there. At the same time letters were sent to Chao Lai by Phya Pichai, and the eldest son of the Chief of Luang Phrabang, to let him know that we would pay him a visit.


Copyright 1998 USMTA Inc.   All rights reserved. Revised: October 16, 2004.