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King Naresuan the Great is known as a hero to Siamese people who give him the utmost respect and praise as a warrior king. While he was still a young prince he declared independence for Siam and restored Ayutthaya to the Siamese people less than 20 years after Ayutthaya was sacked during the reign of his grandfather and uncle (1569). He recruited and appointed qualified commanders as administrators. He went to 27 different battle fields as of 20 years old until his death at 50. Most of the time he was away from the capital so did not have time for marriage.

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 that time, Naresuan was nine years old when the historic Kingdom of Ayutthaya was in bondage to the Burmese. Thus, the boy prince spent his formative years in Burma, amidst his enemies, thus 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.

At sixteen Prince Naresuan 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 sent three armies to suppress the revolt. The first and second armies led by Burmese Princes 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. 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.

Scenes of battle in the day of Prince Naresuan

The success of Prince Naresuan 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 monk Kaan Shong, 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.

Almost a century later another Siamese monarch to have bestowed upon him the title of “The Great”, came when the Burmese exacted their revenge by laying waste to the beautiful capital city of Ayutthaya, which by now, because of its infinite splendour, had become known as the “Venice of the East”. In the year of 1767 thousands of Siamese were put to the sword, their glorious capital reduced to ruins. As the forces of the Burmese King, Hsinbyushin of the Alaungpaya dynasty ran amok through the Golden Capital of Siam, rivers of blood flowed through the great city’s streets, and much of the capital’s art, architecture and literature of that period were lost forever. Nothing was spared; as the heat from the flames intensified, the gold from the glittering spires and countless Buddhist vessels melted, mingling with the blood of the slain Siamese.

One of the few to have survived this bloodbath, was a young Siamese Army commander by the name of Taak Sin. He fled south to Rayong, where he set about planning how to rid forever his country of the Burmese invaders. Realising that Ayutthaya had been razed to the ground, he set about establishing the new capital city of Thonburi, on a safer site, due to its sturdy fortifications and proximity to the sea.

Taak Sin soon attracted a level of adulation. The offspring of a Siamese mother and Chinese father, Taak Sin had been educated in Buddhist monasteries, with a view to entering either the priesthood or government service. Choosing the latter, he quickly rose through the ranks to qualify as a circuit judge. Some years later, judge Taak Sin was appointed deputy governor to the province and city which, to this day, bears his noble name, Taak. Taak Sin, by 1768, became King Somdej Phrapabomrajaa; but will forever be known as King Taak. His dream of ridding Siam of the dreaded Burmese would prove time-consuming, to say the least.

On one occasion, as the persistent Burmese forces advanced and occupied Chiang Mai, Taak Sin lost all patience with his enemy. The Burmese retreated through Chang Puak Gate and ran toward what is now Chotana Road. Taak Sin’s forces chased the invading army into the countryside, where they were dealt with according to rural law"death by hanging or by machete. King Taak Sin earned the title “King Taak Sin The Great”. Brutal? Of course! How can you imagine today’s Thailand, “The Land of Smiles”, to have survived the attentions of so many potential colonists down the centuries without its armed forces showing no mercy to such invaders?

On the 18th of January, Thailand’s Armed Forces Day, as the people of Thailand show gratitude towards the men and women of their armed forces, they would do well to recall with pride the two warrior Kings who made this day so special, King Naresuan The Great and King Taak Sin The Great.

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