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Thailand's Armed Forces Day

January 25

The son of King Thammaraja who had capitulated to the Burmese after the first fall of ancient Ayutthaya, took the young Naresuan (then a Prince) to Burma as a royal hostage to ensure the continued subservience of his father. At this time, Naresuan was nine years old and the historic Kingdom of Ayutthaya was in bondage to the Burmese. Thus, the boy prince spent his formative years in Burma, amidst his enemies, and became very familiar with their military thinking and tactics. However, throughout all of his captivity, Prince Naresuan never forgot that he was Siamese and consoled himself that, someday, he would try to free his native kingdom from the occupying forces.

When Prince Naresuan was sixteen, with Siam still a vassal state of Burma, he was able to return to Ayutthaya as an exchange hostage but he still had to give military service to the Burmese. During a minor uprising in the Burmese town of Muang Kung of Shan Kingdom, the King of Burma King Nandabayin sent three armies to suppress the revolt. The first army was led by the Burmese Crown Prince Munggayoshawa, the second by Prince Matchinnaung of Toungoo and the third by Prince Naresuan of Siam! The town of Muang Kung straddled a hilltop and was well defended so frontal attacks by the first and second Burmese armies were thwarted. Using his own strategy, Prince Naresuan staged a small, noisy decoy attack on the frontal slopes but led his main army up the ill defended rear climb and captured the town.

The success of Prince Naresuan at the expense of the Burmese princes brought quick jealousies and became a turning point for both Burma and Siam. The Burmese decided that Prince Naresuan was too clever and impudent by far. (He had once remarked, after beating the Burmese Crown Prince at a contest of fighting cocks, "Not only can this cock champion a money bet, it can also fight for kingdoms") They conspired to have the prince killed. After the battle for Muang Kung, Prince Naresuan was to proceed to the Burmese court at Ava but, having learned of the assassination plan from a monk Kaan Shong , indicated that he wanted nothing more to do with the Burmese and their deceits. Instead, at Muang Kraeng of Mon Kingdom, in front of his army and the gathered townspeople, who were ready to join him, Prince Naresuan, at the age of 29, declared independence and restoration for the Kingdom of Siam. In 1584, Prince Naresuan led his army and 10,000 freed people back to Ayutthaya where his father, King Thammaraja was still ruler.

In 1590, at the age of 35, Prince Naresuan became King upon the death of his father (the puppet monarch) and, as King Naresuan, continued in his exploits and battles to drive the Burmese from the Kingdom of Ayutthaya . The final battle was at Nhong Sarai in Supanburi where King Naresuan set an ambush for the Burmese. A small Siamese advance party had been sent forward, drew Burmese attention, and lured them into a waiting trap. During the course of the fighting, King Naresuan spotted his enemy from boyhood, the Crown Prince of Burma and urging his war elephant forward, killed the Burmese Prince with a thrust from his fighting lance. The fierce battles took place on January 25, 1592. Their leadership gone, the Burmese withdrew and, after so many defeats at the hands of King Naresuan, The Great left the Kingdom of Ayutthaya for the foreseeable future.

In 1604 King Naresuan and his younger brother, Prince Egatosrost, campaigned against Ava which had annexed two of Ayutthaya's Shan Protectorates. They led the troops from Ayutthaya to Chiangmai city and continued further. Leaving Chiangmai heading the north, Prince Egatosrost went through Chiang Dao and arrived at Faang, meanwhile, King Naresuan took his troops through the west of Mae Taeng toward Haeng (present-day Wiang Haeng) where he was taken ill caused by a boil on his check.

It turned septic, causing blood-poisoning, from which the king died in 1605. Three days earlier, Prince Egatosrost arrived after the urgent message was sent to him in Faang. King Naresuan's coffin was taken by his younger brother to Ayutthaya. A chedi or pagoda was built in the town of Haang to commemorate King Naresuan's bravery which eventually deterred the Burmese invasions for years and years. The local citizens with Shan minorities call this chedi with the name of Jao Dtai , meaning "The Thai Monarch" and pay respect whenever they come by. Even in the time of peace, the Burmese learned about this ruin chedi of Jao Dtai and therefore sent their soldiers to sneak in and demolish it several decades ago.

King Naresuan died at the age of 50 years, reigning for only 15 years. He went to 29 different battle fields since he was 20 years old. Among these battles, Prince Egatosrost went along they and they fought together 17 times. They spent only 2 years together in the capital before they took off through Chiangmai toward Ava. The King restored independence, dignity and Monarchy to his Kingdom of Ayutthaya.

This is the day on which, collectively, the Thai Military Services honor a great Siamese fighting king of many years ago. The monarch was King Naresuan and it was on 25 January 1592 that he fought a fierce and decisive battle against the invading Burmese armies. To the Thai people, King Naresuan the Great, remains a hero whom the entire nation holds in high regard. January 25 is regarded as an annual Thailand's National Armed Forces day.

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