How to find the truth among different historical versions? Research, says Shan scholar

Asked how students could find out the truth about what happened in the past among different versions of history, visiting Shan historian Sai Aung Tun replied the answer lay in how Maehongson’s Tai Yai (Shan) Studies Center could create more researchers among its students.

“A research society should be formed and sufficient number of researchers created,” he told students of Maehongson Community College attending the International (Shan) Studies Seminar held at the provincial seat.

The present Thai constitution adopted in 2007 has guaranteed preservation and promotion of local culture, traditions and wisdom.

Shan scholar Sai Aung Tun at the Shan seminar, Maehongson
The students’ question was the result of presentations made by two panelists on existing Thai interpretations on Shans:
  • Khuensai Jaiyen, Editor of Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), had asked: How could the first ruler of Maehongson seemed to have only “Shan Galay” (Burmese word meaning “The Shan Kid”) as his name?
  • Sawaeng Malasam meanwhile challenged the official version of the 1902 Kabot Ngiao (Shan rebellion) which put all the blame on Shans while glossing over boiling dissatisfaction against Bangkok’s rule by the northerners

According to Sao Saimong Mangrai’s research paper, “The Shan States and the British Annexation” (1965) published by Connell University, Maehongson chief was Taiktaga Sa (Mr Sa who donated a building for the monastery). “Traditionally, Shans always attach ‘Khun’ (Lord) as a prefix to whoever is promoted to a rank of nobility,” said Khuensai. “So he could then be called Khun Sa.”

The name Khun Sa, although known by outsiders as belonging to the late Shan druglord, is a common name for many Shan rulers and their scions: Khun Sa of Lawkzawk, Khun Sa of Mong Nawng and Khun Sa of Takaw for examples.

The two-day seminar, 29-30 June, which ended yesterday and was jointly organized by the Tai Yai (Shan) Studies Center of Maehongson Community College and Chiangmai University’s Center for Ethnic Studies and Development (CESD). The participating academics included Prof Emeritus Srisak Vallibhadama, Prof Nicola Tannenbaum (Lehigh University), Prof Tadayoshi Murakami (Osaka University), Dr Amphorn Jirattikorn, Dr Aranya Siriphon and others. The participants numbered well over 200.

The topics covered not only about Maehongson Shans but also Shans from Burma’s Shan State, such as “Reflection on Shan Historiography" by Sai Aung Tun, and "Shan music and art of performance" by Somjit Suwannabus.


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