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  1. #1
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    King Naresuan the Great Day

    KING NARESUAN THE GREAT DAY

    Translated by Mr. Thanapol (Lamduan) Chadchaidee and Dr. Edward P. Vargo

    Significance

    King Naresuan the Great Day commemorates the occasion on which King Naresuan the Great defeated the Burmese Maha Uparaja, known in Burmese as the Einshemin, in a duel on elephants.

    Background

    Surprisingly, since the victory of King Naresuan the Great over the Burmese Maha Uparaja on 25 January 1592, the Thai kingdom was not invaded by its enemies for the next 150 years. Later, the Royal Thai Armed Forces set this date as Royal Thai Armed Forces Day. However, before going deep into the detail of King Naresuan the Great Day, let us take a look at an excerpt from the Thai Royal Chronicle which states that:



    “King Naresuan, then the Prince of Siam, proclaimed the independence of Siam while pouring water on the ground from a golden jug, thus terminating relations between Ayutthaya and Pegu (Hongsawadi). The Prince then led his army over the Sittaung River. He was approaching the Burmese capital, he learnt that Nandabureng had won a victory against the Prince of Ava and was returning to
    Pegu . The Prince realised that it was not the right time to attack Pegu, so he returned to his country, bringing back 10,000 Thai prisoners who had been deported to Pegu by the Burmese during the war. Informed of the situation, Maha Uparaja appointed General Surakamma as front line Commander and he himself followed in hot pursuit of Naresuan’s army. The two sides met at the Sattaunng River. After Naresuan crossed the river, there was an exchange of fire at the river bank With a 2.25-meter-long musket, Naresuan shot Surakamma dead, on the back of his elephant, thus forcing the Burmese to retreat in desperation.”



    The musket was later given the name, “The Musket of the Battle at the Sittaung River”. It has been considered part of the regalia of Siam till the present day.

    Another excerpt says: “The Burmese made several attempts to subdue Siam, but all in vain. Since this brought shame and indignation to the Burmese ruler, the Burmese wanted to take revenge against Siam. this story also appeared in a Burmese anecdote which mentioned that King Nandabureng was very unhappy with the rising power of Siam. Since his large army had been defeated twice, it would become even more difficult for him to re-subjugate Siam. Thus, after three months had passed since the defeat of Maha Uparaja in the second invasion against Siam, the Burmese King called a meeting of his Generals to find ways to suppress Siam which might inspire Cambodia and Laos to follow suit. Finally, King Nandabureng himself led the third invasion against Siam with a large army on a Sunday in November 1586, while Maha Uparaja was instructed to take care of the Burmese capital.



    Having realised the great Burmese third invasion, Prince Naresuan instructed his men to store food supplies in the capital while the northern towns of Siam were evacuated. Upon arrival at the Siamese Capital, the large Burmese army immediately launched a series of attacks, but they suffered heavy losses every time and had to retreat. Although the Burmese invaders decided to lay siege to Ayutthaya, the siege turned out to be fruitless due to a large waterway which made it possible for the defenders to transport food supplies and mobilise troops freely. The siege lasted for 4 months. Instead of leading to the surrender of the Thai defenders due to starvation, the siege caused the Burmese themselves to suffer food shortages and diseases that took a heavy toll in lives. When Prince Naresuan became aware of his enemy’s vulnerability, he attacked the Burmese camp day and night. King Nandabureng, disheartened by the heavy losses, confronted by famine and disease, and fearing worse troubles when the rainy season began, called off the siege in May, 1587. During the retreat, Thai troops inflicted even greater losses upon the Burmese. During the siege, Prince Naresuan led his men to fight the enemy bravely. At one time, he decided to scale the camp wall of Nandabureng himself. With a sword in his mouth, he led his men to scale the camp, but they met with fierce resistance, he then fell down unhurt. The sword used on that day is known as the ‘Camp-Scaling Sword’”.



    The most significant part of the anecdote for Thai history continues as follows:

    “At dawn on Monday, the second day of the waning moon of the second lunar month (25 January 1592), Prince Ekatotsarot, made full preparations to counter the Burmese attack. After being informed that his General, Phraya Sri Sai Narong had been outnumbered by the enemy, the Prince ordered the General to flee for his own safety. In this respect, the Prince deserves great admiration. When he heard the sound of guns that indicated the fighting between the Burmese and the General’s armies, the Prince consulted with his Generals on what to do if General Phraya Sri Sai Narong were being defeated. The Generals suggested that reinforcements should be dispatched to assist the General, but the Prince disagreed with the idea, reasoning that the reinforcements would be crushed altogether. Rather, Prince Naresuan preferred to use retreat as a tactic to lure the Burmese out to be crushed later.



    Not seeing through the feigned retreat of the Thai troops, the Burmese followed in hot pursuit. The two Siamese Princes found the whole Burmese army advancing against the Thai troops in haste and disorder. At that time, both Prince Naresuan’s elephant, Phraya Chaiyanuphab, and Prince Ekatotsarot’s elephant, Phraya Prabtraichakra, happened to be in musk. Thus, when the two animals saw their rivals, they gave chase furiously, taking the two Princes, accompanied only by their immediate attendants, into the midst of the Burmese army.

    To his surprise, Prince Naresuan saw the Burmese Maha Uparaja whom he had known well during childhood, close by him, also mounted on an elephant. Undeterred by his own disadvantage, Prince Naresuan called out, “Brother Prince, leave the shelter of that tree. Come out and fight with me, for the honour of our names and the wonder of future ages’.



    In fact, at that time Naresuan, the beloved Prince of Ayutthaya, was in the midst of the enemy. If the Burmese Maha Uparaja had given a word, the two Siamese Princes would have been either killed or captured, and Ayutthaya would have been easily subdued.

    Thinking of his royal dignity and his own acquaintance with the Siamese Prince, Maha Uparaja accepted the challenge and drove his elephant by name of Phatthakor toward Naresuan’s elephant. Phraya Chaiyanuphab, in a period of musk, immediately attacked his approaching rival furiously, and thus put his master into a disadvantageous position. The Burmese Prince dealt a fierce blow with his halberd at Naresuan’s head. Fortunately, Naresuan bent in time to avoid the blow, but his leather cap was cut through. When the elephants broke away, Prince Naresuan at once dealt a blow with his halberd at the right shoulder of the Burmese Prince. The ill-fated Prince fell dead on his own elephant’s neck.



    At the same time, Prince Ekatotsarot himself had engaged in single combat with the prince of Zaparo, whom he also slew on his elephant’s neck. When the Burmese troops realised that their Princes were dead, they fiercely attacked the Siamese Princes. Prince Naresuan was wounded in the hand from a gun shot. By that time, a large Siamese army had managed to force their way through the Burmese ranks, the two Princes were rescued, and the Burmese had to retire.

    The halberd used that day was later named the “Halberd Defeating all Enemies,” while the leather cap was named the “Cut through Cap.” The victorious elephant was given the name, “Conqueror of Hongsawadi.”



    This elephant-fight has been regarded as a miraculous event of great triumph for the Siamese, because the Thai kingdom was never again invaded by any aggressor for 150 years after day. During this period, the Thai monarchs subjugated their foreign enemies and expanded the Siamese territory. Therefore, the believes King Naresuan deserves to receive the royal rank “Great.”

    Some excerpts from the anecdote have been mentioned to remind the young generation of the great King and of how Thai monarchs have always sacrificed themselves for the betterment of their citizens. The elephant-fight between the two great Princes took place on 25 January, 1592. As mentioned above, the Royal Thai Armed Forces have set this day as Royal Thai Armed Forces Day.

    Suggestions for Cultural activities to commemorate the event :

    1. Academic seminars for the public’s better understanding of the royal
    activities and the important role of King Naresuan;

    2. Exhibitions on royal life and royal dedication;

    3. Other suitable activities such as:

    - Making-merit dedicated to the late kings,
    - Decorate office buildings and houses with national flags,
    - Wreath-laying,
    - Staging performances in honour of the monarch.

    4. Other activities appropriate to the occasion.


  2. #2
    Non expat WujouMao's Avatar
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    Waiting for King Naresuan 4 to be released in Thai Cinema's. The only time you're likely to see it with English subs

  3. #3
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    Boon Mee's Avatar
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    Head over to Don Chedi and get some more King Naresuan history. Very interesting...

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