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King Taksin Day

Translated by Dr. Somboon Duangsamosorn and Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn

Significance of King Taksin Day

King Taksin Day is celebrated to mark the Coronation of “Phraya Vajiraprakarn” who was elevated to “Somdech Phraboromaracha IV” and is more commonly known as King Taksin.

King Taksin won the country’s independence from Burmese invaders within a period of seven months, after which he moved his army from Chanthaburi to Thonburi, where he was crowned king on December 28, 1768. He established Thonburi as his capital.

Historical background of King Taksin Day

On the 15th day of the 5th Lunar month in the Year of the Tiger in the reign of King Boromakos, in the year 1096 Chulasakaraj (an old Thai calendar), which corresponds to Sunday, 17th April 1734, the birth of a boy named Sin was recorded in Ayutthaya.

He was the son of Hai Hong who, who according to evidence from China, sailed from Chowcho city and was called Tsin Yong or Sen Yong, on his arrival in Ayutthaya he changed his name to “Yang”.

The boy’s father later became a tax collector and received the nobleman’s title of Khun Patthana.
The boy’s mother was Nok Iang, whose documents from China recorded her former name as “Lua Yung” or “Nok Yang”.

The boy was brought up by a nobleman named Chao Phraya Chakri, who held the position of Chancellor of Ayutthaya at that time.

When Sin was nine years old, he was sent to study with the Reverend Thongdee at Wat Kosawas.
Here, he studied the Khom alphabet which soon enabled him to master the Thai language and to read Buddhist scriptures.

When his topknot ceremony was performed, he became a Royal Page in the service of King Boromakos.
He worked mainly with Luang Sakdi, who was the son of Chao Phraya Chakri and secretary to the king.
At the king’s behest Sin studied as many languages as possible, and soon he could speak fluent Chinese, Vietnamese and Hindi.

On reaching 21 years, he was ordained as a monk.
He remained in the monkhood for three years, after which he returned to the court where he dazzled everyone with his knowledge of protocol, etiquette, and duties in the service of the king. Satisfied with Sin’s performance, the king appointed him as a Royal Officer to report on the work carried out by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice.

In 1758, when King Boromakos had passed away, King Utomporn ascended to the throne.
He had been king for just three months when the title “Somdech Phraboromaracha III” was passed on to his elder brother, Somdech Phrachao Ekathat.
The latter presented Sin with Royal Insignia and sent him to the northern provinces to assist Phraya Tak who was the governor of Tak.
Following Phraya Tak’s death, Sin inherited the name and title.

In 1764, the Burmese army attacked the southern region of Thailand. Led by General Muang Maha Noratha, the Burmese army was victorious and marched on to Petchaburi.
Here, the Burmese were confronted by Thai soldiers led by two generals, Kosadhibodhi and Sin, who was then Phraya Tak.
The Thai army beat the Burmese back to Singkhorn Pass.

In 1765, when the Burmese attacked Ayutthaya, Phraya Tak defended the capital, for which he was given the title “Phraya Vajiraprakarn of Kamphengpetch”.
But he did not have a chance to govern Kamphengpetch because war broke out again.
He was immediately called back to Ayutthaya to protect the city.
For more than a year, Thai and Burmese soldiers fought fierce battles during the siege of Ayutthaya.
It was during this time that Phraya Vajiraprakarn experienced many setbacks which led him to doubt the value of his endeavours.
In one incident, Phraya Vajiaprakarn took his soldiers out of the beleaguered city and captured the Burmese camp, but the city commander did not send any reinforcement, so the victory was in vain and the Burmese soon regained their camp.

In another incident, Phhraya Vajiraprakarn together with Phraya Phetchburi took the fleet out in an encounter with the Burmese. Phraya Vajiraprakarn saw that they were outnumbered by the Burmese and ordered Phraya Phetchburi not to fight.
Phraya Phetchburi did not obey the order and was killed in the battle.
As a consequence, Phraya Vajiraprakarn was accused of deserting Phraya Phetchburi.

All through the Burmese siege of Ayutthaya, Phraya Vajiraprakarn was in charge of guarding the city.
Once, when its safety seemed particularly threatened, Phraya Vajiraprakarn shot the cannon without asking permission from the city council.
He was reprimanded and was, in fact, awaiting punishment when he decided that it was better to fight than to wait and witness the fall of Ayutthaya.
He gathered about 500 men, broke through the Burmese lines, and escaped to Phichai Camp from where he marched south-east to build up an army to free Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in 1767, in the reign of Somdech Phrachao Ekathat, the last king of Ayutthaya, after a long war of one year and two months.
From then on, the country was split into several powerful camps or clans named after their leaders as follows:

1. The Suki Pranai Kong clan which was set up by Burmese under the command of General Suki Pranai Kong. The Burmese appointed Thongin to collect tribute for the Burmese.
2. The Phraya Phitsanulok clan which was led by Phraya Phitsanulok, who established his rule in the city of Phitsanulok.
3. The Chao Phra Fang clique which was led by Chao Fang, in the city of Sawangkhaburi.
4. The Chao Phraya Si Thammarat camp which was established by Chao Nakorn, who was also known as Palat Nu.
5. The Chao Phimai clan of which Kromamuen Thepphiphit was the leader who established his headquarters in Phimai city.
6. The Chao Phraya Vajiraprakarn group which had converged on Chanthaburi.

In Chantaburi, Phraya Vajiraprakarn trained his army, gathered food supplies and weapons, and established a fleet within three months.
He entered Thonburi through the delta of the Chao Phraya River at Paknam and stormed the Three Bodhi Tree camp which was the headquarters of the Burmese clique.
General Suki Pranai Kong died in the battle and Thongin was executed.
This marked the victory of Phraya Vajiraprakarn over the Burmese within a period of seven months in 1767.
On his victorious return to Thonburi, Phraya Vajiraprakarn was crowned King and bestowed the title “Somdech Phraboromaracha IV.”
But the people continued to call him King Taksin.
The coronation took place on December 28, 1768 which corresponds to the 4th Day of the Waning Moon, First Month of the Lunar Calendar in the Year of the Rat, Chulasakaraj 1130.

After he had made Thonburi his capital, King Taksin set out to conquer the various groups in the provinces, and united them to form the Thonburi kingdom in the next three years, from 1768 to 1770.

King Taksin passed away in 1782 (in the Year of the Tiger, Chulasakaraj 1114) at the age of 47 after a reign of 15 years.
Today he is known as a capable ruler who fought for the freedom of the country, which has remained independent ever since.

The Thai people, who acknowledge his contribution with gratitude, have honoured him with the name “King Taksin the Great” and have built a monument in his memory at Wongwien Yai, inaugurated on April 17, 1954.

Every year on December 28, government officials, and people from all walks of life observe King Taksin Day in memory of this Great King.

Wars Fought to Protect and Expand the Kingdom During the Thonburi Period

The 15-year reign of King Taksin the Great was marked by a series of wars.
After the establishment of Thonburi as the capital, the Burmese repeatedly tried to occupy the kingdom.
A total of nine major battles was fought during this period. The Burmese were defeated at Bang Kung, Samut Sakhon Province; Sawangkhalok; Phichai; and at Bang Kaew, Ratchaburi.
Further battles were fought in the northern provinces to free Lanna Thai.
The greatest battle of all took place at Chiangmai where the Burmese hold over the city was especially strong.
A last Burmese attack on Chiangmai in 1776 was repelled by the Thai army after Somdech Phraboromaracha IV ordered the city to be evacuated.
This feat showed the king’s genius at strategy, and the ruler’s strength of leadership.

During this period, while fighting for the independence of the kingdom, King Taksin also succeeded in expanding its territory. He won back some of the satellite states the kingdom had ruled during the Ayutthaya period, for example Cambodia, Nang Rong, Champasak, Luang Prabang, and Vientiane.
The kingdom prospered and grew almost double in size.

The Construction of the Monument to King Taksin at Wongwien Yai, Thonburi, Bangkok.

“In 1934 Thongyoo Puttapat, a member of Parliament from Chonburi initiated the project by proposing the construction of a monument in honour of King Taksin.

In 1935 the Government accepted the proposal and selected Wongwien Yai as the site for the monument. Khun Samahanhitakadi was appointed chairman of the construction committee.

In 1937 the Department of Fine Arts displayed seven models of the proposed monument at a fair organised to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Thai constitution.
Visitors to the fair were urged to select the model of their choice and were invited to donate money.
The monument which can be seen today at Wongwian Yai emerged as the winning model with a total of 3,932 votes.

In 1948, after a halt in the construction due to World War II, Mr. Petai Chotinuchit, an MP of Thailanf was awarded the project.
In 1948, Field Marshal P. Phibul Songkram approves a budget of 200,000 baht which, together with donations from the people, amounted to 555,229.69 baht. It was decided that the monument be built one and a half times its actual size.
The monument and its inscription were designed by the Fine Arts Department.
The Department of Public works was to be responsible for the environs of the monument, while Sahakarn Co., Ltd. would build the foundation.

In 1951, Professor Silpa Bhirasri finished the moulding of the statue and officials performed the first casting ceremony of the head on November 30.

On April 17, 1954, His Majesty the King officially inaugurated the monument on the occasion of King Taksin’s birthday anniversary.

Size and Characteristics of the Monument

King Taksin is seen dressed in royal attire, seated on a horse, the right hand holding a sword raised above the head, the left hand holding the reins.
The face is turned towards Chantaburi in the East.
The height of the statue, from the foot of the horse to the top of the hat, is 9 meters; its length is 9 meters from the tail to the mouth of the horse.
The foundation is made of reinforced concrete, measuring 8.90 metres in height, 1.80 metres in width and 3.90 metres in length.
The height of the monument from the ground to the tip of the sword is 15 metres”.

By Thad Ngam

From Siam Rath Review

King Taksin the Great Builder of the Nation

Phraya Vajiraprakarn escaped from Autthaya on Saturday, January 3, 1766, seven months before the fall of Ayutthaya.
Phraya Vajiraprakarn, who had been in charge of protecting the city in the East, was certain that the diminishing lines of his defence would soon be overcome.
In view of the fact that the country had a weak ruler who was not skilled in the affairs of state, the general could foresee that Ayutthaya would fall, and he decided to save his strength to build a new army.
This event in history has been vividly descried as a courageous escape on a rainy night when Phraya Vajiraprakarn broke through the Burmese ranks.
Although the Burmese tried to stop him, they failed. Phraya Vajiraprakarn and his men headed for the East.

Phraya Vajiraprakarn took his army through many districts: Ban Bodhi Sangkarn; Ban Bangdong; Nakhon Nayok; Ban Narerng; Prachinburi; Ban Thongluang; Thapon Tong; Bang Plasoi; Bang Naklua; Na Chomtien; Sattahip; up to Rayong.
Some of these villagers expressed their loyalty to Phraya Vajiraprakarn. In other places the army had to suppress the local population, and finally, Rayong was captured after a brief struggle.

In Rayong, Phraya Vajiraprakarn started peaceful negotiations with Phraya Chanthaboon to allow him to enter Chanthaburi where he planned to set up his headquarters.
But Phraya Chanthaboon, supported by strongman Khun Ram Muensong, opposed Phraya Vajiraprakarn’s request.
Phraya Vajiraprakarn, therefore, formed an allegiance with Thongyoo Noklek, an influential person in Chonburi.
Although the latter’s reputation was bad Phraya Vajiraprakarn was able to strengthen his own position.
After he had befriended Thongyoo and bestowed the title of Phraya Anurajburi Sri Mahasamud on him, Phraya Vajiraprakarn returned to Rayong to prepare for his conquest of Chanthaburi.

The Invasion of Chanthaburi

In the meantime, Phraya Chanthaboon conspired with Ram Muensong to do away with Phraya Vajiraprakarn.
He ordered his men to entice Phraya Vajiraprakarn to take the city by crossing the river at a certain point, where the invading army would be attacked.
But Phraya Vajiraprakarn knew of this ruse, and he told his soldiers not to follow Chanthaboon’s soldiers across the river. Phraya Vajiraprakarn, instead, decided to storm the city.
The night before the attack, he had a big feast prepared for the army after which they broke all dishes in a symbolic gesture, either to take Chanthaburi, or die of starvation.

In the morning of Sunday, January 14, 1767, at three o’clock, Phraya Vajiraprakarn mounted his elephant named Phankirikunchornchatthan, and charged at the city gate.
At the sound of shots from canon and rifles, the mahout pulled the elephant back.
But this angered Phraya Vajiraprakarn and the mahout, realising that he had made a mistake, struck the elephant with his dagger and drove him to destroy the city gate.
Phraya Vajiraprakarn’s soldiers cheered and charged on the enemy who all fled the scene.
While Phraya Vajiraprakarn entered the city, Chanthaboon escaped to Buddhaimart.
In 1772, Chanthaboon was captured, but Phraya Vajiraprakarn spared his life.

Phraya Vajiraprakarn stayed in Chathaburi to build a fleet to free the kingdom from Burmese occupation.
At that time, the noblemen and soldiers in his army began to call him “King,” and as he had been formerly the Governor of Tak, the people honoured him with the name “King Tak”.

When Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese on April 8, 1767, King Tak had been in Chanthaburi for four months.
The news of the fall of Ayutthaya spread like wild fire and the country was in turmoil.
Governors who did not directly come under the rule of the Burmese formed themselves into power groups or cliques, each hoping to rule the country.
King Tak thought that it was time to take the power in his hands and rebuild the country.
King Tak moved his fleet from Chanthaburi to Chonburi where he dealt with Phraya Anurajburi, who had become dangerous and was known to have tortured many innocent people.
King Tak executed him and installed a new governor, after which he continued his journey to Oaknam, where he moved along the estuary of the Chao Phraya River to Samut Prakan.
He captured Thonburi, which was the stronghold of Thongin, who fled to the Three Bodhi Tree Camp. Here, General Suki was defeated by King Tak’s army.
King Tak freed the country from Burmese occupation once again in a battle which took place on November 7, 1767, seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya.

King Tak’s first accomplishment after the victory was to order the remains of King Phratinang Suriyatamarindra to be excavated and carried in procession for a state funeral at the Three Bodhi Tree Camp.

Disunity in Thailand

It has been said that the Burmese after sacking Ayutthya wrought destruction on their way back.
They plundered the country, hundreds of kilograms of gold from Buddha statues were melted down and adults were taken prisoners.
Stories have been told how the Burmese tied the hostages together like cattle by piercing holes above their heels and dragging them away.
Ayutthaya and the nearby provinces had to bear the brunt of the attacks by the retreating Burmese soldiers.

Cities which had not come under the control of the Burmese declared themselves free.
The country was soon divided into six powerful cliques, all of which were aspiring to become kingdoms. The names of the camps were as follows :

1. The Shki Pranai Kong clique which was led by General Sukayee who had been in Thailand for many years. His headquarters at the Three Bodhi Tree Camp served also as a centre for collecting taxes and sending Thai labour to Burma. (This was the first group to be defeated by King Taksin)
2. The Phraya Pitsanulok clique was controlled by Chao Phraya Pitsanulok, whose name was Ruang. Pitsanulok was never occupied by the Burmese, so when the Burmese retreated after King Taksin’s victory, the group emerged as one of the strogest, because Pitsanulok was never occupied by the Burmese, so when the Burmese retreated after King Taksin’s victory, the group emerged as one of the strongest, because Pitsanulok had formerly been the city of the Deputy king.
3. The Chao Phra Fang clique which was named after the patriarch of Sawangkhaburi, north of Pitsanulok. The patriarch always wore dark brown robes and had many followers. When a white elephant was discovered in Sawangkhaburi, it was taken to be an auspicious omen, and Chao Phra Fang declared himself King.
4. The Chao Phimai clique. Its leader, Kromamuen Thepphiphit, who was the half brother of King Somdech Phratinang Suriyatamarindra, had been banished to Lanka when Chao Fa Utomporn was placed on the throne. During the war, Kromamuen Thepphiphit returned to Thailand and set up his kingdom in Phimai.
5. The Chao Nakhon clique which was led by Chao Nakhon Si Thammarat who was also known by the name “Nu.” As the Burmese did not attack the South, Nu took the opportunity of setting up his Kingdom.
6. The Chao Taksin clique which was led by Phraya Vajiiraprakarn, the Governor of Tak who defended Ayutthaya, broke through the Burmese lines, and fled to Chanthaburi. Of all the cliques, Chao Taksin’s was the weakest, because he was neither born of high rank nor of royal blood.

Chao Taksin started out as a newly appointed nobleman who built up an army of some 1,000 Thai and Chines soldiers, but he was a brave and determined general who was able to win over the other cliques.
His attempt at unification of the kingdom began with the destruction of the Three Bodhi Tree Camp, In due course, Chao Taksin defeated all the other cliques to unify the country.

The Achievements of King Taksin

King Taksin was born in 1734, in the year of the Tiger.
His father, Hai Hong and his mother, Nok Iang, lived in front of the residence of Chao Phraya Chakri, the Chancellor of State who brought up their son in his home.
It is believed that the boy brought good luck and wealth to him.
Chao Phraya Chakri, therefore, called the boy. “Sin.”
At the age of 9, Sin was sent to study with the Reverend Thongdee at Wat Kosawas.
At the age of 13, he became a Royal Page of King Boromakos. Chao Phraya Chakri also sponsored Sin’s ordination.
When Sin returned to the King’s service, he was promoted to Deputy Governor of Tak, approximately at the same time that King Rama I (Chakri Dynasty) became Governor of Ratchaburi in the reign of King Ekathat.
When Chao Phraya Tak passed away, Sin became the Governor of Tak.

In a commentary on the history of Thonburi, its author, Phanchandanumas (or Cherm) asserted that “he (Sin’s father) was originally a ‘Cheng” Chinese and a cart merchant by profession, and in a book written by Mahasophit, it was foretold that a cart merchant’s son would be the next rule.”

When the Burmese attacked Ayutthaya in 1767, Phraya Tak already known for his prowess, was chosen to defend the capital. Phraya Tak was appointed Governor of Kamphaengphet when the post became vacant, and later he was named Chao Phraya Vajiraprankarn, but continued to be called by the name, Phraya Tak.

In the battlefield, Phraya Tak registered many victories, but there were also many setbacks and disappointments.
The first time he attacked the Burmese camp that beleaguered Ayutthaya, he scattered the Burmese army, but the commander of the capital did not send any reinforcement, and Phraya Tak had to return to the safety of the city walls.

In a second well-known incident, Phraya Tak fired the cannon to repel the Burmese trying to storm the city gate, for which the military council was trying to punish him.
In a third case, Phraya Phetchburi, commander of the Royal Fleet. did not heed Phraya Tak’s advice when they fought together against the enemy.
Although they were outnumbered by the Burmese, instead of looking for a safe place, he met the Burmese fleet head on.
Phraya Phetchburi, who was on the second ship, was killed in a powerful explosion.
Therefore, Phraya Tak was accused of deserting Phraya Phetchburi.
Full of frustration, Phraya Tak realised that the defence of Ayutthaya was also a lost cause.
As defeat was certain, he gathered some 1,000 Thai and Chinese soldiers who broke through the Burmese lines and escaped to the West by the Waning Moon on a Saturday night, the Fourth Day of the Second Month of 1766, and set up his headquarters in Chanthaburi.

King Taksin Unites the Country

After his victory at the Three Bodhi Tree Camp, King Taksin returned to Thonburi and attended to the affairs of state.
He took care of the starving population and distributed rice to the poor.
Those who had run away to live in the forests returned to the city in 1768.
In the same year, the Burmese fleet once more attacked Thailand at the Chinese camp of Bang Kung. King Tak himself came to the defence of the beleaguered camp.
This strengthened King Tak’s position, for many small towns came to him for protection and accepted his rule.
He began to dream of a unified country.

In 1768, King Taksin decided to wage an offensive on the Pitsanulok clan with the belief that a defeat of a big town like Pitsanulok would be one step towards unification.
A battle was fought at Koey Chai district in Nakhon Sawan, where a newly-appointed general, Luang Kosa (Yant) confronted King Tak, who received a gunshot wound in his shin and had to retreat.
Phraya Pitsanulok celebrated the victory of his general and declared himself King.
King Pitsanulok, however, died of a tumour in the neck soon afterwards.
Phra Inthorn ruled the clan after him but did not crown himself king, as he was still shattered by the sudden death of his brother.
Phra Inthorn was really a ruler and, as the group’s power declined, Chao Phra Fang of neighbouring Sawangkaburi took Pitsanulok in a single battle, executed Phra Inthorn, and returned to Sawangkaburi with many hostages.

Victory over Phimai and Coronation

Another big group came into prominence at the same time, namely that of Kromamuen Thepphiphit, the half-brother of King Boromakos who took refuge with Phraya Nakhon Rachasima.
Phraya Nakhon suspected the young prince of usurping power and planned to get him out of the way.
Phraya Phimai, who was loyal to the Ayutthaya dynasty, saved the young prince.
He consequently executed Phraya Nakhon and his brother, Luang Peng, and put Kromamuen Thepphiphit on the throne of Phimai.

After having failed in his conquest of Pitsanulok, King Tak made an attempt to conquer Phimai, where he confronted the new rule.
Kromauen did not want to submit as he prided himself at being the younger brother of an Ayutthayan king.
But King Taksin dealt with him guickly and promoted all those who helped him fight the war.
Khun Chana, who had arrested Kromamuen Thepphiphit was appointed as Phraya Kamphaeng Songkhram to rule Nakhon Ratchasima; Phra Maha Montri or Sujinda became Phraya Anuchitrajaaja; Phra Rajvarindra, Sujinda’s elder brother and Governor of Ratchaburi, became Phraya Kromamuen Thepphiphit’s concubines.

After his return to Thonburi, King Tak was crowned King of Thonburi, with the tittle of Somdech Phraboromaratcha IV on Tuesday, the fourth Day of the First Month, in 1768.
He was 34 years old.
Everybody still calls him King Taksin, King of Thonburi.

Suggestions for Cultural Activities on King Taksin Day

1. Academic seminars to provide knowledge on King Taksin’s achievements.
2. Arrange exhibitions on his life and work.
3. Other activities :
- Displaying the flag on public buildings and residences.
- Performances to honour King Taksin the Great.
- Paying respect to King Taksin the Great.
- Other appropriate activities.

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