Ayutthaya: Capital of a Kingdom, Part 12
The Aftermath of the Fall
On the 8th April 1767 Ayutthaya, the Golden Capital of Siam, fell to the invading Burmese. It was a time of great destruction and horror as the Burmese armies looted, plundered and razed the once beautiful capital. Those that could, fled the butchery and horror to escape towards the south. Seasoned military commanders of the Thai forces, thinking it better to "live to fight another day", also led their exhausted troops away from the burning city and fought their way through the encircling Burmese lines.
After being sworn in as governor of the city of Taak at Wat Khao Gaew, Sin gained the noble title of Phya Taak. But friends and followers, not wishing to forget his given name, referred to him as Phya Taak Sin, which was ultimately condensed to Taaksin.
After Taaksin was crowned King, the Great of Thonburi, on 28 Dec. 1768, he made heroic efforts to unify Siam an expel the Burmese invaders for good.
Such was the case with a 33 year old commander known as Taaksin , whose career had followed a path of monastery education, the Buddhist priesthood and government service. When the Burmese began their invasion of Ayutthaya, Taaksin volunteered to defend the city with 500 of his followers. But when he realized the fall of Ayutthaya was inevitable, he led his troops south to the sea coast province of Rayong, where he would plot the ouster of the Burmese from Siam.
Taaksin Unites Factions
After the fall of Ayutthaya, the Kingdom of Siam fragmented as petty nobles and warlords staked territorial claims. Also, although the Burmese armies had abandoned the destroyed city of Ayutthaya, they were still occupying massive areas of Siam including the Lanna city of Chiangmai in the north. Declaring themselves "independent" were the rulers of Pitsanuloke, Utaradit, Nakornratchasima and Pimai. Taaksin, however, knowing that Siam was ultimately lost if it remained fragmented, went about the business of subduing these rebellious rulers and bringing their forces to his personal banner. Only by presenting a united front could the Siamese hope to push the Burmese from their national homeland.
Taaksin was actually born under the name Sin or Sihn as the son of a noble Thai lady and a Chinese father. He became a circuit judge after leaving the priesthood and eventually took the position of deputy governor of Taak Province, just south of Chiangmai. After the death of the incumbent, Sin was promoted to full governorship of the Province and was given the noble rank of Phya Taak. But his many friends and acquaintances didn't wish to forget his former name so they referred to him at Phya Taaksin, a name that stuck and became condensed years later, when he would become known as King Taaksin the Great of Thonburi Siam, when Thonburi was the capital.
Taaksin Establishes Thonburi
From his temporary base in Rayong Province, Phya Taaksin initially intended to re-establish Ayutthaya, but soon realized that was not a viable proposition. Instead, he established a new capital at Thonburi because this town was fortified and close to the sea on the great Jao Phraya River. So it was, in 1768 in Thonburi, that Phya Taaksin was acclaimed by his followers and crowned King Somdej Phraboromraja IV . His subjects however, would always know him as "King Taaksin" or King Taak .
Ousting the Burmese
Driving the occupying Burmese from the Kingdom of Siam was no easy task. It took years to accomplish and there were many bitter and bloody battles as the fortunes of war ebbed to and fro. Siamese troops had regained the northern cities of Lumpang and Lumpoon but Chiangmai was still held by the Burmese. Although the ordinary people remained loyal to the rightful ruler of the Lanna Kingdom, their ancient walled city was occupied and garrisoned by the armies of Burmese Military Commander Bo Supala.
In 1775, the Lanna Thai Ruler of Chiangmai requested assistance from his sovereign, King Taaksin, to force the Burmese from his city. King Taaksin not only rendered assistance but also personally led the military campaign to liberate his northern province. Lanna soldiers, joined by the Siamese coalition forces from the south, besieged Chiangmai City on all four sides. King Taaksin commanded as the city was attacked, cannoned and squeezed with the threat of starvation. Finally, and to the great joy of the Lanna and Siamese people, the Burmese Commander, Bo Supala, relinquished the city.
Bo Supala, followed by his army garrison, fled Chiangmai through Chang Puak Gate (White Elephant Gate at what is now the beginning of Chotana Road) and hastened northward while King Taaksin and his victorious armies entered Chiangmai and received a rapturous welcome from the people. It was indeed a happy event.
Burmese Commander Recognizes Future Siamese King
The following year, 1776, the Burmese attacked again this time from the west, having come through the Mae Lamow Pass. Their target was the city of Pitsanuloke. The city was besieged, taken and the populace expelled. Siamese troops relentlessly attacked and ambushed the Burmese. Sometimes an attack was successful, sometimes not, but the Burmese were not in a strong enough position to hold Pitsanuloke and their strength was being eroded. Leading the
Before the governorship of Taak, Sin led a battle against the Burmese as governor of Kampaengpet on 3 Jan. 1766 AD.
As King of Siam when Thonburi was the capital, Taaksin conquered independent territories, effectively expanding the borders of Siam and providing a united front against the Burmese invaders.
Taaksin led his troops to Chantaburi after Auytthaya collapsed. Legend holds that his troops abandoned food and kitchen supplies to increase urgency to take over the city.
Siamese forces was a brilliant commander named Jao Phraya Chakri and on a day of truce, called for by the Burmese Commander Maha Sihsura, the two military generals met for discussions. The Burmese general was so impressed by Jao Phraya Chakri that he remarked "some day that man could be King of Siam". He was correct! Jao Phraya Chakri went on to become the founder of Bangkok and King Rama 1st of Siam.
Taaksin Gone But Not Forgotten
Sadly, all was not well with King Taaksin. He had led and reunified his people, commanded his armies and, to a large degree, forced the Burmese from sovereign Thai territory. However, fifteen years of war had wearied him and he simply had had enough. Withdrawing into himself, he could neither rule nor command any longer and lost the support of his people. In 1782 King Taaksin's spirit departed this world but he is remembered (see the statue in Taak City) with great affection as King Taaksin the Great Liberator of Thailand. Ayutthaya was gone but, thanks to King Taaksin, the Kingdom of Siam lives on.