Part 11.                                             

An English mans story while travelling through Thailand..

Siamese fight against the Haws II :

Everything seemed in confusion, but of course I could not interfere with the General's plans. However, I asked for twenty day's supplies of rice, and I saw a number of men pass before me carrying the right quantity. We started from M. Sawn for M. Kao, and the Nam Ett, which looked a stream of some proportions, invited examination, so Collins and I determined to go down on rafts. The people told us it would be impossible, but we determined to see for ourselves. The Chao Ratch Wong , the eldest son of the Chief, was amused with the notion and accompanied us, and it was well that he did so. 

We started all right, but we had not gone many miles before we found the river choked with rocks and we had to lift the rafts over them; as we proceeded the rocks were more difficult to pass over, still we struggled on, and at last came to a narrow gorge with a fall of thirty feet. To pass this was certainly impossible to rejoin the camp; the Chao entered into the fun with much spirit. By nightfall, foot-sore and weary, we got to a village, and the Chao soon had us comfortably lodged with a good fire.

The next day we caught up the camp and moved on to M. Kao. Here one of the routes to M. Lai branched off, but most of the men had branched off too, I suspected. Phya Pichai connived at their running away. At M. Kao we made new rafts and went down the river to Sobp Pon; we had made one march from this when it was reported there was not a grain of rice in the camp. This was terrible, but I felt convinced it was a maneuver of Phya Pichai to prevent our going to Sobp Ett. The disagreeable fact remained, there was not a grain of rice, and we distributed all we had among the men. We were half-way between Sobp Ett and M. Sawn, and there was nothing for it but to return, and on the second day we met men with supplies, making it very evident that it was not the result of accident that our supplies had run short.

I had serious talk with Phya Pichai . I asked him if we were to make an effort to reach M. Lai or not; if he thought not, we could stop at once; but if he thought it advisable to proceed, then there must be no more tomfoolery, and we must go straight on. To all of which he agreed. The season was past advancing, and the rainy season had already begun, making the marches very heavy, along paths, swarming with leeches, that had not been used for years. On account of our rice running short we had to change the whole Programme, and return to M. Ngawi on the Nam to ascend it to Sobp At. Collins went up the river as far as the boundary of Luang Phrabang at M. Ahin, and it was arranged that we must meet at Luang Phrabang not later than the 1st of June . Meanwhile Phya Pichai, the Chao, and I went over a very rough path, and reached Teng pretty well played out. With the exception of Phya Pichai and myself every one of the party had fever.

M. Teng is a magnificent plain of upwards of sixty square miles, at the head of the Nam Nua, a tributary of the Nam U. It has played an important part for ages, and was a refuge for rebels against the kings of Annam. About the middle of the plain on the river is an old fortification, Chieng Leh, overgrown with jungle. It was here that when Haw came first under Lawli that Luang Phrabang sent some Lus, who killed Lawli and drove off the Haw. The Haw have built a stockade on a small eminence to the north-east. The Chao and all the camp were sick, their condition not being improved by the storm at night, which was terrific. 

They therefore moved off to a village called Nawng Luang, while Phya Pichai accompanied me to the Haw stockade. At the stockade, which was merely a bamboo palisade with platforms at the corners about twelve feet high, Pu Ye Pao, the confidential man of Chao Lai, met us. He and the Black Flags were in a good humor, and I invited them to meet us at the camp of Nawng Luang. The rains were very heavy, and as all the men were ill there was nothing for it but to see about returning. So we had rafts made to go down the Nam Nua. By waiting a few days we gave the sick the chance of recovery, and also let Chao Lai know that this year we could not visit M. Lai. He sent down two of his favorite sons, Kumm Kui and Kumm La, with presents of excellent ponies for the Chao, the Commissioner, and myself. I handed mine over to the Chao.

The Chao of Lai's letter was very satisfactory; he said he was always loyal to Siam, and that he prevented Annam from encroaching on Sipsawng Chua Tai, who ever since the Haw came was always making efforts in that direction. An active agent for Annam was a man calling himself Kai Tong, whom Chao Lai had treated as a son, but who treacherously went to Annam and got assistance from Teduc. He then attacked Chao Lai , who called in the assistance of the Black Flags.

Whatever happened he would never consent to Kaitong being allowed anywhere near Sipsawng Chu Tai. He was an old man, or he would have come himself; as it was, he sent his favourite sons, Kumm Kui and Kumm La, his other sons remaining with him in case of danger, as there had recently been a great on the Nam Tao (Red River) with the French and Chinese. Finally, he said that if ever he should go to Lai he would be very glad to welcome us. The sons were pleasant young men, and I was glad to meet them. On the 24th of May, the Queen's birthday, there was a general gathering of the clans, and the Chao and Phya Pichai were busy settling about future work.

I had to be thinking of starting so that I might reach Luang Phrabang not later than the 1st of June , the date agreed upon with Mr. Collins. I reached it in time. On the 26th I took leave of my new-found friends, wishing them au revoir, but I did not again see them, though I was at Teng, for then they were in chains, and I felt ashamed to show myself. There is a very peculiar custom in Indo-China which, in the case of Europeans, invariably occasions trouble. 

A distinction is made between territotial jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction; thus if a man of Nawng Kai settled in Luang Phrabang, he paid tax to the Governor of Nawng Kai because he was a Nawng Kai man, and to the Luang Phrabang Chief he paid territorial tax, the amount of which was usually double that of the other. If he did not leave his territory he paid to one official the territorial tax, and to another official a poll-tax; this latter he was bound to pay, no matter where he wandered to. The Nawng Kai people settled in Luang Phrabang pay two rupees a year to the Governor of Nawng Kai . Their children become Luang Phrabang people.

A still worse institution was that of some individual holding jurisdiction over territory that belonged to different kingdoms. Thus the Chao of Lai was the Governor of territory portions of which were under China, Siam and Annam (called Sue Sam Fai, or tributary in tree directions). This gave rise to great complications. Lai was established in the fifties, when the Chief of Luang Phrabang, Chao Luang Serrm, sent one thousand men to help in the settlement.

The present old Chief of Luang Phrabang invested the Chao of Lai (since dead) with powers for the administration of that portion of Sipsawng Chu Tai which lies on the right bank of the Nam Te ("Black River"), and the Chao of Lai was always in trouble through resisting any Annamite attempts at encroachment. Since the advent of the Haw, up to that time all had been peaceful and quiet, and Luang Phrabang collected the revenues even from the Annamite settlers, for, as the old Chief told me, had they not paid the tribute they would not have been allowed to settle. When Wieng Chan rebelled, there was a period of trouble for these countries, for then the Siamese drove out the Annamites, again following the old traditions for meeting difficulties of this nature by expelling the population.

Kaitong, whom Chao Lai had such an objection to, was a curious character in his way. His name was Wang Wang Ling, and he was born in Kwang Tung in 1840. His father, whose name was Sing Wang, came from Canton. Wang Wang traded on the Nam Te, and Chao Lai took him into his confidence. Presently he went down to Annam, and had an audience of King Teduc , who gave him papers making him Governor of Teng. But when he attempted to return Chao Lai opposed his coming. 

He spent some years in trying to get into the country of which he was appointed Governor, and sought assistance from Teng Hung (probably Hanoi). Eventually he reached Teng, but on the night of arrival he was surrounded by Chao Lai's soldiers, and narrowly escaped with his life. He then repaired to Ponsai, where he met a Lao official, and after consulting the bones of a fowl, which he killed for the purpose, discovered that the spirits directed him to the Siamese Commissioner . He was known to the old Chief, who suggested that his head should be cut off, as it was he who had brought the Haw into the Luang Phrabang districts, and caused so much misery.

Siam was determined once for all to do away with the Haw, whose ramifications extended in all sorts of places. With this intention an expedition was organized under Phya Surisak Munntri, and sent to operate in the country under the jurisdiction of Luang Phrabang, and another under Prince Phrachak was sent to Nawng Kai. Never in the history of Siam were such opportunities given for accomplishing great things for the benefit of the country, and never was the exercise of tact and ability called into requisition as on this occasion.


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