Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Some Chiangrai History

For 10 years now I’ve had a home in ChiangRai, Thailand’s northernmost province and once the seat of power for a resistance to Mongol expansion and hegemony that either gave rise to, or allowed the creation of (depending on how one looks at it), the empire of Ayudhaya and nation Siam. It’s a wonderful place, of amazing diversity and successful integration, fascinating history, more national parks and park area than any other province in Thailand (or, indeed, the general area), and smiling, attractive, friendly folk. The outside world’s attention first was drawn here due to teak, then Chinese armies and opium, and now there’s expert tea production.
Much information about Chiangrai is presented on, but only things of non-controversial nature. Here I will present a bit more of the intriguing history I began to find while teaching social studies at “the best high-school in the north”, Sammakkhi Wittayakhom:

Thai movies and myths portray forceful, even fierce, women like Suriyotai and Thao Suranaree (Khunying Mo, warrior woman of Korat), degrees of historical authenticity of whom may be questioned, but other women were more crucial to civilization’s development here. Haripunjai (Lamphun) was said founded by holy men who asked the king of Lopburi (down in the central plains) to send them a ruler. His daughter JamaTewi went. Legend tells of her overcoming a great Lawa chieftain with female magic, and of twin sons, one which succeeded her, the other of which founded Lampang. Mon, Buddhist Haripunjai thrived independently for over four centuries after her (her dynasty lasted at least 2 - at the end of it, Haripunjai was attacking Lopburi!), then was taken into (Paw Khun) Mengrai’s new Lanna Empire.
The first MahaTewi I know of was MahaTewi Kaeo Phimpha of LanChang, LanSang or Lane Xang - Laos. Her title derives from Sanskrit mahadevi, meaning something like great angel. MahaTewi Kaeo Phimpha exercised much power from 1428 to 1438, just before Lanna’s “Golden Age.” Surely then, as now, Laos was no great power center, but it was an important part of a culture which extended from southern China and the northern part of what is now Vietnam through Lanna and the Shan States into Assam, India. The center of this T’ai Culture has sometimes been called “The Culture of the Dhamma Latters” because of the alphabet used to record religious teachings. It was Buddhist, largely T’ai (Mangrai was probably more Lawa and Lue), and in many ways the basis of present traditions in Laos, Thailand and the Shan States.
When Mengrai Dynasty Lanna began to crumble, with no reign ending peaceably for a quarter century, a LanSang ruler, King Potisarat of Luang Prabang, began to fantasize of becoming the “wheel-turning universal monarch whose righteousness and might make all the world turn around him.” Unfortunately, at the same time, so did a King Burengnong from Toungoo (due west from ChiangRai, separated by Karen people and the mighty Salween River). As Mengrai’s direct line ended, half of Lanna’s last independent rulers were women. One, MahaTevi Jiraprapa (sometimes said named PhraNang Yout KhamThip), was a full, absolute ruler through most of 1545 - 46. Then Potisarat’s son Settatirat ruled briefly, until duty pulled him away. Then, for 4 years, no central ruler commanded at all. Jiraprapa may have returned to power under protection of Burmese King Burengnong, or perhaps he put her sister, whom we have little reliable data about, on the Lanna throne. There’s a problem with the few records which remain, in that a person or place is known here as this, and there as that, and in another place and time gets referred to in another way entirely! But, to understand at all, we must endure.
In July, 1545, Shan King FaYongHui of Mong Nai (Muang Nai, on the Salween, were Lanna’s last king was from) attacked ChiangMai. As he did, an earthquake destroyed nine revered reliquaries there (in ChiangMai), including a couple of the most important (finials at Wat Jedi Luang and Wat PraSing). For a month attackers poured dirt into the city moat and tried to cross it with bamboo bridges; but defenders burnt the attackers’ encampment, and the Shans withdrew. Then Jiraprapa, daughter of King Ket Jettarat (deposed, then brought back by ministers who soon assassinated him), was given rule. Perhaps envoys from Ayudhaya had rushed news of Ket’s murder home; anyway, it’s thought they supported the rise of Queen Maha Jiraprapa (a.k.a. MahaTewi). It’s likely also they not only requested military assistance from Ayudhaya, but had Ket’s killers killed. However that went, an army from Ayudhaya under King Chairaja (or Borommatraijak) came near; then either Jiraprapa persuaded (bribed?) him to hold off, or, as the ChiangMai Chronicle says, “He was defeated and fled.” Arms and devotions having been displayed, the Ayudhayan army “proceeded back to Yotthiya.”
Jiraprapa’s cousin, Phaya Ket’s 12-year-old nephew (some say he was 19) from LuangPrabang, Setthatirat (a.k.a. Uppayo), was invited to rule under Jiraprapha’s regency. The Laotian government holds that King Potisan (Phohthisat, who married a daughter of Lanna King Ket called by the same name as the alternate one for Jiraprapa, ‘Yotkamtip’), and thus LuangPrabang and Laos, conquered Lanna; if so, he certainly never ruled it (unless through his wife, which is not claimed). 100 years before, LanSang attacked Nan; 50 years later it briefly took much of Lanna, but the tattered bits of Lao history which remain seem to miss these events! Regardless, according to local chronicles, in May, 1546, Setthatirat came to ChiangSaen and ChiangRai, appointed local rulers and then went on to rule in ChiangMai. He stayed until August 1547 (well, for 2 years, say the Chronicles, and ‘til 1550, they say in Laos). According to the ChiangMai Chronicles, in June of 1546, Setthatirat, accepted as king, “went to reverence the Emerald Buddha at its pavilion” in Wat Jedi Luang, then on 17 July was coronated as Phra Ratcha-uppayo. Pra TonThip is named as his first royal queen (and there are 2 current daughters mentioned, casting doubt on his being aged 12). Pra TonKham is named as the Queen’s younger sister.
Word came that Potisan was killed by accident during a wild elephant round-up, and that younger brothers (if Settatirat was 12, well, supporters of younger brothers) were fighting for power. This threatened to divide the country, so in April 1551, Settatirat handed ChiangMai over to “the queen”, Phra Ton Thip, then returned to LuangPrabang. Queen TonTip, not KhamThip (though her sister was Pra TonKham! “Tip” is a popular local nickname (meaning divine celestial angel).
David K. Wyatt’s 1984 Thailand, A Short History (published over a decade before his Chronicles translation) refers to Thao MaeKu, deposed after less than a year, ruling during this short period of Lanna disintegration. The similarity of that name to the name of the next and last King is both confusing and interesting. Mae Ku = “mother of a pair”? Popular Thai historian Manich Jumsai says this was Princess Chiraprabha, “(sometimes known as Maha Devi)” who resisted, perhaps foisted off, “King Prajairaja” of Ayudhaya - King P’rajai or Chairacha, who died almost soon after return home.
It seems generally agreed that MahaTewi Jiraprapa first convinced the king from Ayudhaya that nothing was to be gained by violence, and then, doubtless with tribute, persuaded him to return home. When Setthatirat abandoned Lanna, or in January, 1546, Chairacha or Borommatraijak (“King of the South”) came back, and then, and only at that time, Jiraprapa led successful resistance. The leader of this resistance is not said to be Setthatirat’s wife. At any rate, “Many Southerners died, and they dispersed” - according to the ChiangMai Chronicles – “30,000 Southerners went away by water”, “10,000 infantry and 3000 war boats were taken,”
and 4 elephants!

The Portuguese had captured Islamic Malacca in 1511, and sent gunnery instructors to assist in wars to the north, supplying arms and soldiers to both sides: to mighty King Burengnong (Bayinnaung, or Jao PoengPawa MinTaya of Pegu, an important city south from Toungoo - on the Sittaung River - between its mouth and Yangoon) and also to King Maha Chakrapat of Ayudhaya. King Chairacha (Phrajai) may also have had some of these instructors, when on expeditions against ChiangMai, but despite Portuguese mercenary help and the violent power-jockeying which had been dominating affairs within Lanna, he was still completely routed by MahaTewi Jiraprapa.

Setthatirat took away the Phra Kaeo Morakot (Emerald Buddha), other important Buddha images, religious texts and treatises, and many monks and scholars, when he effectively abandoned Lanna. He did make some attempt to consolidate Lanna and LanSang in 1558-9, but then before heading off to secure things in the south, established a new capital at WiangChan (Vientiane). He certainly did this in part because Vientiane was much farther from Burmese-held territory than LuangPrabang (with more of difficult, unpopulated Saiaburi (Sayabuli or Xaignabouri), in-between, to be crossed. Or, as others hold, Potisarat had chosen WiangChan as a better capital “within the expanding Lao world” and for better communication with Vietnam, Champa, Cambodia and Ayudhaya. Most histories hold that Settatirat spent lots of time fleeing Burengnong’s armies, so I find the first theory more likely.
Lanna endured extensive anarchy and civil war, sometimes with nobles fighting on elephants in the middle of ChiangMai City. Petty officials and rulers of principalities proved more interested in their changing relative power than in the threat from Burma (as seems the case today), until Mekut of MongNai (a Shan State where rebellious descendents of Mengrai were sometimes sent to rule) was made king in 1552. In 1555, Mekut’s brothers attempted to seize Lanna’s Mekong region, and gained ChiangRai and ChiangSaen. Thus, Mekhut wasn’t at first inclined to listen to his brothers’ cry for help when Burengnong (who’d become king in 1551), took Ava (in 1555), then Hsenwi, then KengTung (now regarded as the capitol of Shan State).
Mekhut surrendered to Burengnong, who accepted him as a vassal, but soon revolted against his new obligations. Setthatirat, returning with help from the governors of Lampang, Prae and Nan, took ChiangMai and begged pardon before the Sangha (Buddhist clergy), handing “all the country of ChiangMai over to the Queen” (according to the Chronicles). He almost took ChiangSaen, but Burengnong forced him back to LuangPrabang, where Mekut had taken refuge (leaving Lady Wisutthathewi, or Visut-tevi - his consort, says history professor at ChiangMai University Sarassawadee Ongsakul - to rule in his place). Burengnong seized Mekut (the Chronicles say this was in ChiangMai) but Setthatirat escaped and pursued guerilla warfare tactics, fleeing and circling back to attack Burmese supply lines, until Burengnong ran out of provisions. For a year Setthatirat launched harrying sallies against Burmese camps, patrols and supply lines, until they withdrew in mid-1565. Perhaps before going back to Burma, Burengnong married Princess Jiraprapa, now in her 40s (at least). Perhaps he married another ChiangMai princess. The woman who ruled Lanna from 1564 until her death in 1578 is called Wisutthitewi (again there is name confusion: Mekut’s full name was Mekutawisutthiwong). This PhraNang Visuti (Wisutatewi, a.k.a. MahaTewi), whom Burengnong replaced Phra Mekut with, may have been a different, younger daughter of Phaya Ket; and/or also, maybe Potisan’s wife was Ket’s sister?
Anyway, Mekut died in exile at Pegu or Ava, and became known as one of Burma’s famous “37 Nat” spirits, YunBayin. The Mengrai line is said to end there, but the last person descended from Mengrai to rule might have been Thado Gyaw, 4th Lanna ruler (also descended from Burengnong/MinTaya, through MahaTwei Jiraprapa). Mon rebels, aided by Shan and Siamese prisoners resettled to the area, burned Pegu after Burengnong hurried off to deal with an Arakanese invasion. Burengnong sacked Ayudhaya in 1569, but didn’t absorb it into empire, and died (1581) without subduing LanSang. He sent another expedition, which briefly occupied Vienchan (again – it seems he may have done this before), but Settatirat directed more guerilla warfare against them… and has remained a national hero since, despite dying (well, disappearing) a year later.
In 1595 the kings of LanSang and Nan took ChiangSaen; amazingly, Burengnong’s son on the Lanna throne then asked King Naresuan of Ayudhaya for help! This resulted in a Lao noble acting as Siamese commissioner there. Subsequently, for about the length of time they’d been seats of an independent power, ChiangMai and ChiangRai were vassal states required to pay annual tribute of gold and silver trees, and manpower as necessary in times of war - usually to Burma, occasionally to Siam. MahaTewi’s descendents may have continued in local rule. After Setthatirat disappeared mysteriously while campaigning in the south, LanSang suffered a 70 years of wars of succession, and reduction to a Burmese vassal state, until King Suriyavongsa (Suriwong?) restored independence.

Which all goes to demonstrate: national borders, royal lines, culture and economics are hardly hard and fast realities; national historians often portray things differently from their neighbors, and any set of important records needs corroboration, even if from a very different way of looking at things! Many records were destroyed, but in Thailand, Lanna’s MahaTewi remains respected. Really though, who was she? Is she little more than an amalgamation, like the movie heroines?

Dr Briggs and the Shan Rebellion

After working in Lampang 10 years, Canadian Doctor William A. Briggs wanted to carry enlightenment and advancement to legendary T’ai people way up the Mekong, in Sipsongpanna, China - even further from the emerging modern world than the cities of Lampang, Lamphun and Chiang Mai, which, large though they were, had no connecting highways, railroads, telegraph or even effective (rapid, anyway) boat connections to the world at large. The north of Siam wasn’t even as advanced, safe or comfortable as it had been 500 years beforehand; and Yunnan was quite a bit more backward. There was exciting work to be done, and Dr. Briggs wanted to do it.
For 100 years Canada had been a successful colony; India the jewel of empire, had been a success for Britain twice that long. Four hundred years before, filthy Europeans had begun spreading disease and death throughout the globe we call our world; hundreds of millions died premature deaths due to European ignorance, aggressiveness and lack of hygiene and manners. But, as a result of the food sources and stimulants they’d found and brought home, for a hundred years there’d been ample energy devoted to growth and development. Russia had expanded east, civilizing much of Siberia, and the world was becoming industrialized, with electricity, motors, steel, interchangeable parts and many important advances in scientific understanding. It appeared as if the white man’s sins would be counter-balanced by contributions; soon the world would not only be understood, but well-managed, polite and happy. Surely, to Briggs’s mind, all that was needed was for good men to spread science and Christianity.
In modern times, the presumption of offering advice in a host’s home has been cruelly obvious to the few sensitive expats trying to politely fit in, but Briggs wasn’t just a guest, or missionary. He was a doctor, engineer, social scientist and agriculturalist well-welcomed for his skills and energetic hard work. The American Presbyterian Mission of New York, for whom he worked, though, wouldn’t send him further than Chiangrai. It was wild and dangerous enough there: tigers still were found roaming the few streets at night, and not so far off in ChiangSaen was a community of dacoit bandits. Farengi/Farang (the term comes from Frank, used by Persians, many of whom were traders but a few Siamese Court officials) in the area were few, though Brits had come to Chiang Mai as early as 1829 (to purchase elephants, oxen and buffalo) and had attached the Shan States in 1886. The French made a clear declaration of their intentions on Laos in 1893. What later became the province of Chiang Rai had only about 5000 people, when Dr Briggs came, with the little “city” under Doi JomTong only 500. This was remote enough, the danger already great enough, the Presbyterian Mission surely felt.
Indeed, it was so. After five years in his new position, Dr Briggs found himself at war.
But what a strange war. The people he fought were people he was the chief governmental representative of, although they were from Burma and this was in Siam! For, in addition to everything else, Briggs served as British consul for Chiangrai, an very important position, due to the teak trade.

Dull interlude: egregiously pedantic, gratuitous digression into history of the era:
Traditionally, Lanna forests belonged to the ruler of the nearest city. Anyone wishing to harvest logs needed the ruler’s permission. The Royal Court in Bangkok wasn’t greatly concerned, as the main interest there was money (trade and taxation), and in the north there wasn’t any (though teak cutting might bring some). But as logging business increased, problems arose: there were no fixed regulations, concessions overlapped, taxes weren’t clearly delineated and little could be clarified through local courts. Rapid growth in the logging industry resulted in increasing timber value; amounts concerned became substantial. Thus, struggles related to overlapping concessions became frequent. Strife, banditry and murder in border areas increased significantly. The British Government requested help from the Bangkok administration, but the Siamese Royal Court feared the British might attempt to take control of the area, and knew it hadn’t the power to repel them.
In 1855, King Mongut (Rama IV) approved a Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with Sir John Bowring, direct representative of Queen Victoria; more concessions than Farengi/Farang had ever had before were given. British subjects became allowed to trade in all Thai ports, own land near Bangkok, move freely about the country, and even import opium. More importantly, an extraterritorial legal system for British nationals (instead of for all British subjects, as first claimed), was instituted. British subjects were to be answerable only to the British Consul in Bangkok; but somehow this was never applied for Shans (who were, at the time, by British legal technicality anyway, British subjects).

The British were starting after teak along the Salween River by 1826. Siamese King Rama III allowed British commercial logging in the then economically listless Chiang Mai area, but as forests belonged to local leaders, problems arose. From many misunderstandings, a few British subjects were murdered. Bangkok, fearing the northern rulers could hardly deflect British military advances into the area, tried delaying tactics. A rift between Bangkok and Chiang Mai widened as the British constantly demanded compensation from Chiang Mai princes for losses due to lawlessness in the heavily forested frontier areas.
Phraya Phutthawong (Chao Luang Phaen Din Yen, “King of the peaceful Land”), fourth Siamese ruler of Chiang Mai, administered more with intellect than through strength, and during his reign the city enjoyed peace. This was certainly in part because Burma was at war with the British, but also because Puttawong and his close, strong rivals in Lamphun and Lampang were all afraid of the British. Towards the end of Puttawong’s reign (1846), Britain commenced trade and started to log teak along the border.
Siamese King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) established a system of bi-national courts and a Chiang Mai Royal Commissioner, but in 1883, a second “Treaty of Chiang Mai” specified that British subjects could be heard only in international courts, or Consular Courts (when ‘more appropriate’). So the British opened a Chiang Mai Consulate that year. From 1890 to World War II, about 20,000 logs were produced per year, cut to maximum possible length.
As the teak-logging industry grew in the mid-19th century, officials sent up from Bangkok became more and more important. Records indicate much resentment of their abuse of power. The 7th Siamese Lord of Chiang Mai, Jao Intanon (IndraWichayanon, Chao Luang Ta Khao, who ruled 1871-1897), set up the first school for girls there (and another for boys). He was the last independent ruler, and had little power. But his wife, Chao Thep Kraison (Princess Tipkesawn – “Tip” = “Thep” I guess), proved highly skilled in bureaucratic affairs, despite no formal learning; she and her sister, Princess Ubonwanna, were great traders, among the biggest in Siam. Women then (as largely remains the case now) handled local trade, but only in the 1880s did they start learning letters - first taught by American female Presbyterian missionaries. Regular postal service began only in 1884 - arriving every two weeks. When Rama V incorporated Lanna into Siam in 1892, there were British Consulates in Lampang, Chiang Rai and Nan.
A forestry service was set up to reduce international legal complications, but the British remained rather more exploitative than co-operative.
Telegraph reached Chiang Mai sometime between 1885 and 1888, and in 1905 there were some (unreliable) telephones. British subjects involved with logging in Lanna kept initiating numerous lawsuits; more were murdered. Local commissioners lacked power to deal with these problems, which by law had to be tended to in Bangkok. Administrative reform was needed, so the “monthon” (circle of administration) was produced, combining most Lanna city/states. Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, Nan and Thoeng became Monthon Lao Chiang. Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son were subsequently put with Chiang Mai and Lamphun as Monthon Phayap, which became a “monton thesaphiban,” with royal resident commissioner, in 1899. Nan, Phrae and Lampang became Monton Maharat. Lanna schools became required to use only the central Thai alphabet and dialect, instead of the more ancient Lanna script (often then called Lao).
Malaria, hepatitis, and other swamps and jungle diseases were rampant, and there were other grave difficulties. Roads were poorly maintained: journeys from Bangkok to Chiang Mai took over three weeks, occasionally even three months. From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai took about two weeks! There were bandits, and modern, manufactured things, including shoes and money, as we know it, were only just starting to become familiar in Chiang Mai and northern Siam. Fixed pricing – along with standardized currency – didn’t take root until the 1970s.

Back to Dr Briggs, and adventure!
Christian missionaries and clergymen began helping plan educational, medical and health matters, construction and town mapping. The most important person in planning the modern ChiangRai City was Dr. Briggs. In addition to founding the areas first hospital (Overbrook), he mapped out official building areas, business areas, residential areas, recreation areas, a prison, and a military camp (with another hospital), with a drainage ditch around the town. Officials from Bangkok, come to implement the new administrative structures, didn’t help much: they imposed harshly excessive taxes, supposedly meant to replace corvee labor. Traditional demands for unpaid labor didn’t end, though. Shan ruby-miners, teak-workers and road-builders, nominally British subjects in an area economically dominated by the British, began rebelling in July 1902. They seized Chiang Mai, killing over 20 officials there. Other Shans beheaded the Siamese governor at Phrae, sacked the town and murdered all Siamese they could find. With Phrae’s hereditary ruler along, they marched on Lampang. Shans revolted in Nan and attacked ChiangRai too, but were defeated by Dr Briggs and companions, barricaded in their hospital with a canon.
Those rebels fantasized establishing their own independent state. Whether this was to be a revival of Lanna is unclear; there is a Shan belief in a King Surakhanfa the Great (1291 - 1364) who ruled Ahom, Dali, Keng Tung, Chiang Saen, Luang Prabang, Lampun, Sukhotai, Chiang Mai, Pegu, Ava and even Mergui (a small port way to the south). Shans did rule the Ava Kingdom (some say including Assam and Lampun) until the middle of the 16th century. Their rendition of history excludes any idea of Lanna, except as another Shan principality. At the time of the rebellion, Indian and Chinese money was at least as common as Siamese (similarly as Thai and Chinese money is used in Shan State now). The Siamese and few remaining Khon Muang (Lanna people), quite equally, saw themselves as distinct from each other. Perhaps the Shan workers expected not only local, but also British, support. They didn?t get it.
According to Singkaew Suriyakam, a “troop of Shans from the Shan States numbering 200 strong tried to plunder the city of Chiangrai. They encamped on the opposite bank of the river. At that time the river was high. There was a bridge made of bamboo across the river. The news of the approaching force come suddenly, therefore hasty preparations had to be made to defend the city. The police force was not properly organized and no army barracks was near by. Before the enemy came near the city, the rulers, acting on the suggestion made by Dr. Briggs, sent post-haste to the barracks at Chiangmai an appeal for troops. Moreover Dr. Briggs advised the ruling prince of Chiangrai to arrest all Shans and Burmese living in the city and confine them in the precincts of Phra Singh Temple and hold them as hostages, fearing that the Shans would act as spies or what people today call a "fifth column." The people who lived along the banks ran away into the forest. Well-to-do people who had elephants and big families did as Phya Pakdirajakit, a next door neighbor to Dr. Briggs. He put all his family on the backs of elephants and they fled north of the city. Many Christian and non-Christian families took refuge in the house of Dr. Briggs, which offered convenience and protection.”
Dr Briggs “hoisted a big Union Jack flag in front of his house so that it could be clearly seen from the other end of the bamboo bridge. This action on his part reminded the invaders that their official head was in this residence and that no guns were to be aimed in that direction. At that time the writer of this story was a child and his mother took him to Dr. Briggs' house too. His mother told him later that Dr. Briggs ordered all refugees to lie flat on the ground should firing of guns occur. The writer himself was forced to lie flat under the bed of Dr. Briggs.
“The bamboo bridge mentioned above was just opposite to the present-day police station. The ruling princes of that time placed an old mortar with its muzzle pointed to the bridgehead on the other bank ready to fire at any moment. The bamboo mat floor in the middle of the bamboo bridge, where the current was very strong, had been removed and a camouflaged floor had been put in its place in order to lure the enemy to be drowned there. Later it was found to be effective as planned. All was quiet on both banks of the river for a long while. Then the sound of gongs and long drums burst forth, "Mong, sae mong!" The chief of the Shan forces shouted, "Pakamoong! Hey! Jee Hey! Pao Hey!? He was calling the gang in the city under the leader Pakamoong to set fire to the city of Chiangrai. Unfortunately for him this gang was being held in custody in the temple of Wat Phra Singh. So nothing happened as planned by the Shans. Simultaneously gun-fire began at the bridgehead mixed with the sound of drums and gongs and Shans shouting "Wat Lae! Wat Lae!" which was similar in meaning to the cry of dacoits farther south who would shout, "Ai sua aow wah!" when making an attack. Apart from firing their rifles the Shans shot off fire crackers to frighten people in the city.
“Then the robbers who thought themselves invulnerable because they were tattooed all over, marched with swords in both hands to the bridgehead and came within the firing of the big gun hidden on the city side. When the robbers came near the middle of the bridge, the ruling prince himself pulled the trigger of the big gun and the vanguard of the enemy disappeared into the river. The followers, very angry, rushed over the bridge to invade the city despite the rain of bullets from the city side. Many of them fell and disappeared into the current because the false floor in the middle of the bridge did not bear their weight. The rearguard, seeing the failure to cross the river, retreated and encamped about six kilometers from the city.
“Suddenly the Thai soldiers from Chiangmai arrived and at once crossed the bridge in pursuit of the enemy. The robbers put up a severe resistance at Santakook village because they were entrenched in a well-fortified position. At last the Shan force was driven out of the kingdom. By mistake the Thai soldiers thought that all the houses on the other bank of Mae Kok River belonged to Shans so they burned all of them down. They beheaded two Shan rebels and put the heads up for public view in front of the present government office just opposite to the officials' club.
“Later investigations showed that old people, and women and children had been badly treated by the Shans. During the fighting people gathered up bundles of clothes and food in order to flee into the jungle.
“In the city many houses were hit by bullets from the muskets of the enemy, especially the house of Phya Pakdirajakit. In the bedroom near the river, which happened to be the bedroom of the writer of this sketch, there were many holes caused by the bullets. The owner of the house kept them as they were until recently. Dr. Boriboon Pakdi (the nephew of Phya Pakdi) was obliged to demolish that old house in order to build the classrooms of the present <1962> Daroon Suksa School in its place. No life was lost in the city. It is not certain whether the Shans intended to rule the city or merely to plunder it. During that time the city of Prae also had a severe battle with the Shan invaders (1905).
“Shortly after the repulse of the Shans, an army barracks was set up in Chiangrai for the first time. It was erected on the tops of the hills along the bank of the river from the house of Dr. Briggs to Doi Tong. The barracks offered a fine view of the landscape and meant security to the people. After that Dr. Briggs was made a medical officer attached to the Chiangrai Regiment and he was commissioned a captain in the army. Every week both Dr. Briggs and the colonel in command would inspect the health of all soldiers in each company and give treatment to those who were sick. All the privates and officers would salute Dr. Briggs whenever they met him.”

Vengeance by Siamese troops under Field Marshall Surasak was ruthless; many innocents were punished. The rebellion had lasted 14 months. In December 1905, Prince Vajiravudh, who became Rama VI, visited ChiangRai, solidifying royal authority. As King, Rama VI required surnames for all; “sometimes whole villages were given the same last name”!
When the northern rail route reached the Lanna area (Pitsanulok in 1907, Lampang in 1916 and Chiang Mai variously reported as 1919 or 1922), control from Bangkok became quite fully, and firmly, set. Dr Briggs, though, had already left... unfortunately, never to return.

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