Historical Research: Arjarn Tony Moore/ Khun Clint Heyliger

Pra Chao Suua - ( The Tiger King )

   Pra Chao Suua was born in 1662 and began his reign in 1702 at the age of forty. His reign was very short lasting only seven years. The King had a passion for all sports - hunting shooting, fishing, but most especially Muay Thai (Thai Boxing). The sport had ha reached the height of popularity. Siam was at peace with Burma and her other neighbors, and Muay Thai became the favorite pastime of the population.

   Fighting camps developed and numerous tournaments were promoted. He was fond of going out in disguise attending village Muay Thai matches, where he could display his skill and ability as a boxer. Numerous nobles and feudal lords owned or managed boxing camps and organized bouts between different camps. Burmese, Thais, Cambodians, Karennis Mons and others actively competed against each other. Pra Chao Suua modified some of the techniques to improve Muay Thai, some of the strategies used today are said to have been developed and based on the "Tiger King's " style of boxing.

   On one such occasion, he attended a village Muay Thai match and successively challenged two champion boxers. He defeated them both, one after the other and was paid two Ticals by the ringmaster. He left the village still undetected. As King he erected many temples and repaired the older ones, notably the temple of P’rabat. He improved the canal known as Klong Mahajai between Bangkok and Tachin, so that the canal could be used for trade ships traveling from the coast to Bangkok.

   During an inspection trip of the river (Klong) surveying his work, the steersman of the royal barge, carelessly ran aground. According to the law of his time, this offense was punishable by death. The King, being in a gracious mood, caused a mud image of the steersman to be made and decapitated this instead. This did not satisfy the steersman, who pleaded piteously for his own death, lest the law of the land be brought into contempt. The King had no option than to carry out the steersman’s wish and beheaded him. The King had a shrine erected on the bank of the canal in memory of the steersman.

   The King was also known for his fits of fury. Once when hunting elephants he sent his sons ahead to build a causeway across a marsh. When the King and his retinue crossed the causeway, the king’s elephant sank into the mud. he flew into one of his fits of rage accusing , the two Princes of plotting against him and would have had them flogged had not the chief queen interceded on their behalf.

   During his reign Siam was affected by the most fearful famine and drought. The rice was exhausted and the river was covered in an evil-smelling green slime. Most of the fish died and the few that lived were poisonous to eat. Sickness and disease broke out throughout Siam. The King fearing a rebellion announced that the god, Indra had come to him at the City gates and told him that the green scum on the river was a panacea for all the diseases in Siam. The people rushed to the river to anoint themselves with the slime, after fifteen days, heavy rains fell causing the waters to overflow.

   The disease and famine soon came to an end. Shortly after this the King took to drinking. Worn out by heavy drinking, his short reign came to an end, he died in 1709 aged forty seven. he is best remembered by Thailand’s Nak Muay (Thai Boxers) for his skill and bravery in the ring.

King Taksin

After the shattering defeat which had culminated in Ayutthaya's destruction, the death and capture of thousands of Thais by the victorious Burmese, and the dispersal of several potential Thai leaders, the situation seemed hopeless. It was a time of darkness and of troubles for the Thai nation. Members of the old royal family of Ayutthaya had died, escaped, or been captured by the Burmese and many rival claimants for the throne emerged, based in different areas of the country. But out of this national catastrophe emerged yet another saviour of the Thai state : the half-Chinese general Phraya Taksin, former governor of Tak. Within 15 years this determined warrior had defeated not only all his rivals but also the Burmese invaders and had set himself up as king.

 

Since Ayutthaya had been so completely devastated. King Taksin chose to establish his capital at Thon Buri ( across the river from Bangkok ). Although a small town, Thon Buri was strategically situated near the mouth of the Chao Phraya River and therefore suitable as a seaport. The Thais needed weapons, and one way of acquiring them was through trade. Besides, foreign trade was also needed to bolster the Thai economy, which had suffered extensively during the war with Burma (now Myanmar). Chinese and Chinese -Thai traders helped revive the economy by engaging in maritime trade with neighboring states, with China, and with some European nations.

King Taksin then set about reining in a number of rebellious Thai princes and reasserting central control over the entire kingdom including the tributary kingdoms. The short reign of King Taksin has all the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy -- complete with palace intrigue, betrayal, and treachery. Two soldiers under Sin, named Phra Phi Chai and Mek, were instrumental in his future. Sin was appointed ruler of the city of Kam Phaeng Phet at the same time the Burmese forces were attacking the city of Sri Ayudhya and the surrounding kingdom. As the ruler of Kam Phaeng Phet,o Phra Ya Tak Sin placed his trustworthy friend Mek in charge of Tak City and took his army along with Phra Ya Phi Chai to assist the Royal Forces against the Burmese attacking the city of Sri Ayudthaya.

Phra Ya Tak Sin was able to get his army to the battle front but was restricted in his attempt to end the battle because King Ekathad had issued orders not to use the big canons, fearing that the loud noise would disturb his wives. Phra Ya Tak Sin pondered the situation and concluded that he would have to retreat and regroup before he could defeat the Burmese. He assembled 500 of his bravest soldiers and broke through the Burmese lines heading in a south-eastern direction. With Burmese forces in pursuit, he passed through the cities of Sri Maha Pho, Nakhornayok, Paedriew, and Bang Pla Soi, ending up in Banglamung where he rested his army in what is today called Pattaya/Naklua. In this location he concentrated his modest army and went on to attack the city of Rayong and Chanthaburi.

Before attacking Chanthaburi his forces were ordered to eat their last meal and discard their eating utensils. It was either victory or die in the fight. However, Chanthaburi was taken and became the stronghold for the resistance forces.

After Sri Ayudthaya was lost, the Burmese Army appointed "Suki Phanaikong" as the Commander in Charge of the area at Pho Sam Ton Camp. Suki created much havoc for the area inhabitants, who were then prisoners of war. The Thai women were abused and ravaged. A Thai named Thong In sold out to the Burmese and was put in charge of the prisoners of war, and coerced many into assisting the Burmese army.

When Tak Sin finally assembled a larger army at Chanthaburi he mounted an attack on the Pho Sam Ton Camp. The attack was successful and both Suki and Thong In were killed during the battle, which finished at the end of the year 2310 B.E. The many who did not die or manage to escape back to Burma were taken prisoner.

At the end of the war, Tak Sin established the city of Thonburi as the capital instead of Ayudthaya, and ascended the throne through conquest taking the name "King Taksin". He later assumed the title of His Majesty King Taksin the Great. King Taksin’s victory at Chanburi was crucial in his campaign to defeat the Burmese in Ayudhya. King Taksin's prowess as a general and as an inspirational leader meant that all attempts by the Burmese to reconquer Siam failed. The rallying of the Thai nation during a time of crisis was King Taksin's greatest achievement. However, he was also interested in cultural revival, in literature and the arts.

He was deeply religious and studied meditation to an advanced level. The stress and strain of such much fighting and the responsibility of rebuilding a centralized Thai state took their toll on the king.

Following an internal political conflict in 1782 King Taksin allegedly became insane and started to regard himself as the second coming of Buddha. Whether true or not, he was deposed by his ministers, who then executed him in the custom reserved for royalty -- by shackling his hands and feet with gold restraints, sewing him into a velvet sack so that no royal blood touched the ground, then beating him to death with a Sandalwood club. During the Ayutthaya period a surprising number of Thai kings are reported to have become insane and were eliminated. As in previous cases, many heirs to the king were also executed. General Chakri a close and trusted aide of the former King Taksin succeeded him to the throne. King Taksin's achievements have caused prosperity to bestow on him the epithet "the Great".

 

Phraya Pichai (Dab Hak)

Phraya = (Title) Pichai = (Name and Cities name) Dab = (Sword) Hak = (Broken / breaking)

   Phraya Pichai Daab Hak (Phraya Pichai of the broken sword) who was also known as Thongdee Fan Kao was from Thongyung Province which is known today as Uttarradit. When Phraya Pichai was a young boy he loved to practice Muay Thai and would always be running away without his parents knowing, to train in the art. He trained with many teachers of that time.

   One day Phraya Tak (General Taksin) was holding a Muay Thai contest in the town of Tak during a town festival. Now a young man of twenty years, Nai Thongdee Fan Kao asked the ring master to find him a match. The towns people having never seen the boxer before suggested that he take an opponent who had little experience so that it would make an exciting fight, but Nai Thongdee insisted that he would fight the most skillful boxer in the town.

   A famous boxing master of Tak, Arjarn Nai Hao, who nobody dared to challenge, gladly agreed to take the fight, knowing that those who had challenged the master before had been soundly and thoroughly beaten, why should this young upstart be any different? A huge crowd gathered to see the young boxer Nai Thongdee fight the invincible Nai Hao.Throughout the bout Nai Thongdee showed brilliant Muay Thai style.

   Seeing a resounding victory over Nai Hao after witnessing such a formidable display, Phraya Taksin showed no hesitation in asking Nai Thongdee to join his army. On many occasions, Nai Thongdee would display his talents in the Muay Thai ring before Phraya Tak (later to become King Taksin the great of Thonburi). His skill and bravery in the ring and the fact that no other boxer could defeat Nai Thongdee, were very pleasing to Phraya Tak who appointed him to be his personal bodyguard.

   The Emperor of China Kao Tsung, was alarmed by the military might of the Burmese. From 1766- 1769, the Emperor sent his armies four times to subdue the Burmese, but all four invasions failed. Siam was under the control of the Burmese since the sacking of Ayutthaya, but had to withdraw the bulk of its army from Siam to ward of the Chinese invasions, leaving behind only a small contingent. General Taksin taking advantage of the situation, organized his force and revolted.

   General Taksin; At first was a guerrilla leader with only five hundred followers but within fifteen years his dominion was to embrace all of Siam. During the revolt Taksin managed to escape to Rayong on the East coast of Siam. Here with the help of Phraya Pichai, now his Commander-in-Chief, raised an army and declared all out war on Burma. The action was to eventually regain freedom for the Siamese people.

   Phraya Pichai or (Nai Thongdee), under the guidance of General Taksin and using guerrilla tactics, won back many small towns and villages from the Burmese. It was during one of the many battles, that Nai Thongdee was to become famous. In 1773 an army under celebrated Burmese General Bo Supia was sent to capture the City of Pichai. Nai Thongdee led the Thai army and fought him at Wat Aka and Phraya Sura Sri helped him battle the Burmese. The Burmese general was driven into retreat while sustaining great losses to his troops.

   In the heat of the battle which Nai Thongdee fought with Sang maa daab (two handed swords) and after many fierce engagements he slipped and used one of his swords to control himself by pointing it into the ground, as he leaned on the sword it broke in half. Nai Thongdee used his Muay Thai techniques. One daab and one broken one, he led his army to victory forcing the Burmese back across the border.

   As a result of this battle he was known as ‘Phraya Pichai Daab Hak’ (Daab Hak) meaning broken sword. Eventually after fifteen years of war the Siamese under ‘King Tasking the Great ‘ had forced the Burmese army back and Siam regained all of its original frontiers.

   When King Taksin died, the new King Rama I of the Chao Phraya Chakri Dynasty (the present day rulers), he declared his new capitol Bangkok. As a reward for his loyalty and service to his country King Rama asked Phraya Pichai if he would continue his good work as the kings bodyguard. (In these times the law of the land stated that once a King died, his bodyguards and loyal servants should die with him), but King Rama offered to take an acceptation for Phraya Pichai.

   However, Phraya Pichai was so saddened by the death of his beloved King Taksin that he ordered the executioner to do away with him, despite King Rama's kindness, Such was the loyalty that Phraya Pichai had for King Taksin. Instead he asked King Rama to raise his son and in time that son could become King’s personal bodyguard in his fathers place.

   Phraya Pichai was executed on his own order when he was 41 years old. A monument built to the memory of Phraya Pichai in 1969. The bronze image of the great warrior stand proudly in front of the Parliament Building in Uttarradit and serves to remind each generation of the amazing man’s courage and loyalty to his King and the Thai nation. The epitaph reads "In memory and loving honor for the pride of our nation".

    

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