Ex-King Uthumphon and the Falling of Ayutthaya to the Burmese

Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai The history of Siam was a history of its kings. From the beginning in 1351, Siam was surrounded by mighty neighbors, such as the Burmese in the west, Lan Na Kingdom in the north, Lao and Cambodian kingdoms in the northeast and southeast. To become a mighty empire by itself, the Siamese had to fight many wars, but last not least the Kingdom of Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in 1767.

The last golden age of Ayutthaya was in the reign of King Borommakot (1733-1758), who was a strong supporter of Buddhismus and even exchanged missions with the Kingdom of Kandy in Sri Lanka. During the same period, Ayutthaya resumed relations with the Kingdom of Ava in Burma that had to fight back attacks by the Mon Kingdom of Pegu. Ayutthaya had become prosperous through trade and was on its height of power.

On his deathbed, King Borommakot chose Prince Uthumphon as his successor, who had to fend off three other pretenders by getting them to be executed. But even when Prince Uthumphon was crowned king at the end of April 1758, his elder brother resided in the royal palace and didn’t want to vacate it. Finally, King Uthumphon abdicated in favor of his brother after a reign of only ten days, who then reigned as the last king of Ayutthaya as King Borommaracha, popularly remembered as King Suriyamarin (1758-1767).

In the meantime, a new and strong dynasty had arisen in Burma’s capital of Ava. It was under King Alaunghpaya that Burmese forces besieged Ayutthaya in 1760, but later had to retreat. Under King Hsinbyushin (1763-1776), a massive invasion led to the complete destruction of the royal city in April 1767. The Burmese plundered all the treasures and led tens of thousands of war captives away to Burma. King Suriyamarin fled the scene and later starved to death. Ex-King Uthumphon with other members of the royal family was also led away to Burma, never to return to Siam again.

Having entered the Buddhist order, Ex-King Uthumphon died in Burma. Until today, his grave can be seen in Amarapura near the famous U Bein-Bridge, which spans the large Taungthaman Lake. From time to time, some Thai tourists visit his grave to make merit. When I was there on September 13 this year, the grave was surrounded by a bamboo construction and white strings marking the plot of land. Actually, it is only a small brick pagoda within a larger graveyard.

People say that the graveyard has to give way to a planned housing estate. But judging the surrounding of the graveyard, I think that it will take a long time, until there will be any bigger development to change this area, where many other temples and pagodas abound. Ironically, nearby Mandalay was the seat of the last King of Burma, King Thibaw, who was sent into exile in 1885 to India by the English, never to return to Burma again.

Reinhard Hohler is a GMS Media Travel Consultant based in Chiang Mai/Thailand and can be reached by e-mail: sara@cmnet.co.th


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