Taksin the Great (สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช) ; ; Teochew: Dênchao; was born in April 17, 1734 in the reign of Borommakot. Taksin was the only king of the Thon Buri Period. He has been recognized as one of the great Thai kings, for his prowess in warfare, his leadership in liberating the country after Ayutthaya was taken by the Burmese in 1767, and his ability in unifying the country after it had been split up into many factions.
Taksin was put to death on April 6,1782 at the age of 48 after a 15-year reign. After he was executed, his remains were buried at Wat (Temple) Bang Yireua Tai, in 1785, Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke had the remains disinterred and cremated at the same temple. A tomb containing Taksin's clothes and a family shrine were found at Ching Hai district in Teochew province in China in 1921. It is believed that a descendant of Taksin the Great must have sent his clothes to be buried there to conform to Chinese practice. This supports the claim that the place was his father's hometown.
Taksin had accomplished so much for the Thais in his short reign. Without his leadership, the country would not have been rid of the Burmese and become unified so soon. In recognition of what he had done for the country, the government has declared December 28 a day of homage to the King. A state ceremony has been held annually at the memorial to Taksin in Wongwian Yai in Bangkok since 1954. On October 27, 1981, the cabinet passed a resolution to honor him as "King Taksin the Great."
He was born in Ayutthaya in the reign of Borommakot of Ayutthaya and given the name Sin (Treasure). His father Hai-Hong, who worked as a tax-collector, was a Teochew Chinese immigrant with roots from Chenghai District, and his mother Lady Nok-lang was Thai. When aged 7 he started his education in a Buddhist monastery. After 7 years of education he was sent by his father to serve as a royal page. According to legend, when he and his friend Tong-Duang were Buddhist novices they met a Chinese fortune-teller who told them that they both had lucky lines in the palms of their hands and would both become kings. Neither took it seriously, but Tong-Duang was later the successor of King Taksin, Rama I.
Sin was first deputy governor and later governor of the Tak province, which gained him his name Tak-Sin, "Treasure of Tak," (or Treasure Exposed, as Tak (Exposed) is exposed to danger from Burma); though his official noble title was Phraya Tak. When he was promoted to be governor of Kamphaeng Phet province, he had to return to Ayutthaya. The Burmese attacked at that time and besieged the Thai capital. Taksin took a leading part in the city's defense. Shortly before Ayutthaya fell in 1767, Taksin cut his way out of the city at the head of a small army. This action was never adequately explained as the Royal compound and Ayutthaya proper was located on an island; how Taksin and his followers fought their way out of the Burmese encirclement remains a mystery.
After the destruction of Ayutthaya and the death of the Thai king, the country was split into six parts, with Taksin controlling the east coast. Together with Tong-Duang, now General Chao Phraya Chakri, he managed to drive back the Burmese, defeat his rivals and reunify the country.
In 1765, Phraya Tak came to Ayutthaya to help defend the capital. He fought valiantly and earned great recognition. He was promoted to the title and rank of Phraya Wachira Prakan, Governor of Kamphaeng Phet. It is believed, that prior to the fall of Ayutthaya, he got out of the capital by fighting his way through the Burmese seige with the aim of assembling men to liberate the country.
According to the royal Thai chronicle, Phraya Tak and his followers, after breaking out of Ayutthaya, headed for the east coast. On the way, they encountered many Burmese troops but were able to defeat them all. He became widely known for his military prowess and many came to pledge their service.
In the fifth lunar month of the year 1767, Ayutthaya was lost to the Burmese and the attitudes of high ranking officials changed with the situation. Some thought of setting themselves up as heads of state. Even Phraya Chantaburi, who had promised friendship to Phraya Tak, revoked his promise. The latter, therefore, led his army to capture Chantaburi and Trad and returned to make a stand at Chantaburi, making it his headquarters for collection of provisions and arms. In the meantime, other commanders and officers came to join him. The most important was Nai Sudchinda, an officer of the Royal Pages Department, who later became Khrom Phra Ratchawang Bawon Sathan Monkon in the Reign of Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke.
At the end of the monsoon season, Phraya Tak led his forces from Chantaburi to the Chao Phraya River delta in the twelfth lunar month of the same year. After he had taken Thon Buri, he attacked the Pho Sam Ton Camp in Ayutthaya and was able to seize the camp in two days. His triumph over the Burmese at the Pho Sam Ton Camp was symbolic of the liberation of the country. After capturing the camp, he tried to put the country back in order. Then he brought people back to Thon Buri and established it as his capital because the site was more appropriate than Ayutthaya. In 1768 he was crowned king. After the coronation, King Taksin proceeded at once to unify the country . Besides waging war to drive the Burmese out of the country, the king had to subdue the Thais who set themselves up as heads of various factions. His military successes resulted in the country being united once again
One military hero that emerged was Phraya Tak. He was originally a commoner of Chinese descent but because of his intellectual ability and expertise in law, he was accepted into government service. He worked so well for the benefit of the country that the king appointed him governor of Tak, with the title of Phraya Taksin. Upon learning of the Burmese attack on the capital, Phraya Tak rushed to help defend it. He was ordered to lead a division to fight the Burmese near Wat Pa Kaew, or Wat Yai. He defended the capital to the best of his ability and became known as one of the greatest warriors.
Though Phraya Tak fought valiantly, he could not repel the Burmese army. He was only able to prevent them from entering the capital. What made the situation worse was the desertion of army captains and commanders guarding the city. Chaos ruled everywhere and Phraya Tak became discouraged by the court weaknesses.
The Burmese besieged Ayutthaya for about two years. Phraya Tak, who made a stand at Wat Phichai camp, outside the city wall, realized that the city would soon be lost. Moreover, his army suffered greatly from a shortage of food and the Burmese outnumbered his men. If he went on fighting, he would lead them to death for no good reason. The future king then decided to lead his troops, together with those who came for his protection, about 500 Thai and Chinese, and fought his way through the enemy line at Wat Phichai on Saturday, January, 1767. He headed for towns on the eastern coast, which were free of Burmese influence, and which were centers of communication with other major provinces in the kingdom, using them as bases for assembling men and weapons to liberate the country.
Soon after Phraya Tak broke through the enemy line with his troops. Ayutthaya was taken by the Burmese on April 7, 1767. That day the capital was engulfed in smoke and flame, with thunderous roars as if the earth was falling apart. Hsibyushin of Burma wanted to completely destroy the Kingdom of Ayutthaya so orders were issued to burn the whole city, all the palaces as well as the temples, pagodas, Buddha images and the city wall, and to take the king together with everyone in the royal family, and all the treasures to Burma. Ayutthaya was reduced to ruins.
Phraya Tak, who was in Rayong at the time, summoned officials and townspeople for a meeting and announced his firm determination to cherish and uphold Buddhism, liberate the country, and restoring the kingdom to its former glory. All the officers and men who heard the declaration unanimously asked Phraya Tak to be their leader and called him Chao Tak. He then led his troops, consisting of Thai and Chinese, to coastal towns in the east, waiting for an opportune moment to liberate the country.
Seeing that Phraya Tak could overcome the Burmese, people who had previously been in hiding submitted themselves and help persuade heads of various groups to acknowledge his leadership. Those who refused to do so were forcefully suppressed, their elephants, horses, vehicles, provisions, and weapons confiscated. Then Phraya Tak proceeded by way of Na Reung in Nakhon Nayok, passed through the Kob Chae outpost, crossed the Prachinburi River, and settled at the edge of Si Maha Pho on the east side. At that time, a group of Burmese forces stationed at the mouth of the river followed Phraya Tak's troops and attacked. The Burmese were killed and none dared trail Phraya Tak's army again.
Phraya Tak then traveled through Chacheongsao and entered Chonburi. He learned that a certain leader called Nai Thongyu Nok lek opposed him and tried avoid joining him. When Phraya Tak confronted him, however, Nai Thongyu Nok Lek feared for his life and submitted himself without further ado. Phraya Tak's army moved on to Na Kloe and Bang Lamung and finally to Rayong where the governor of Rayong, who had heard about Phraya Tak, humbly invited him to enter the city. From the day Phraya Tak broke through the enemy line from Ayutthaya to the entry into Rayong took less than one month. This shows that Phraya Tak's faction was a power of greater potentiality than other factions.
From Rayong, Phraya Tak marched his army past Klaeng to Bang Kracha with the aim of taking Chantaburi, a major province, as his base, to build public morale. The governor of Chantaburi, however, refused to submit. Phraya Tak then devised a psychological strategy, ordering all his men to finish their evening meal, throw away the left overs, and smash all the pots and pans. He declared that they would take Chantaburi that night and eat breakfast in the city. This display of confidence that he would win Chantaburi meant either victory or death for him and his troops.
That evening Phraya Tak ordered the Thai and Chinese troops to surround the city and hide and waiting for the signal to attack from all sides. They were instructed not to utter a sound until the city was taken. The first group that entered the city would cheer as a signal to others. The army lay in wait until three o'clock in the morning. Then Phraya Tak mounted his elephant, called Phang Khiri, ordered a shot to be fired as a signal, and drove his elephant to break down the city gate. When the guards manning the fortifications realized what was going on, they showered gunfire on the troops. The mahout, fearing that Phraya Tak would be hit, pulled the elephant back. Phraya Tak was so exasperated that he pulled out his sword to strike the man. The mahout then pleaded for his life and rushed the elephant against the gate until it fell down. The troops rushed into the city and the townspeople dispersed. Phraya Chantaburi and his family fled to Bantaimat in a boat. Phraya Tak took the city on Sunday, June 15, 1767, only two months after the fall of Ayutthaya.
After taking Chantaburi, the general headed for Trat. City officials and people who heard the news were afraid and humbly came out to surrender.
At that time, there were Chinese junks moored at the month of Trat river. Phraya Tak asked their captains to come and see him but they refused, and fighting ensued. He devised a plan whereby fighting vessels fromed a circle around the junks. The Chinese retaliated by firing their cannons. After half a day of fierce naval engagement, Phraya Tak was able to seize all the Chinese junks together with a lot of weapons and ammunition.
It should be noted that Phraya Tak's war vessels were only small long boats, about the size of present day racing boats. They were, however, able to engage in a battle and seize larger junks equipped with cannons.
When all the preparations were made, the future king chose to leave Chantaburi with his fleet in October at the end of the monsoon season, when the areas around Ayutthaya were flooded. He entered the Chao Phraya estuary, attacked the enemy camp at Thon Buri, and took the town after defeating Nai Thong In, who was put in charge of defense there by the Burmese.
Phraya Tak then moved on to Ayutthaya to surprise the Burmese. They did not have time to make any plan. The general was able to land his troops, crush the Burmese at the Pho Sam Ton Camp completely and liberate the country on November 7, 1767, only seven months after Ayutthaya was taken by the Burmese.
On December 28, 1768, he was crowned king of Siam in the new capital at Thonburi. Two years later, King Taksin launched a war against the Nguyen Lords over their control of Cambodia. After some initial defeats, the joint Siamese-Cambodian army defeated the Nguyen army in 1771 and 1772. These defeats helped provoke an internal rebellion (the Tay Son rebellion) which would soon sweep the Nguyen out of power. In 1773, the Nguyen made peace with King Taksin, giving back some land they controlled in Cambodia. Over the next few years, Taksin managed to gain control over Chiang Mai and putting Cambodia under the vassalage of Siam by 1779, after repeated military campaigns.
In order to legitimize his claim for the Kingdom, he sent a diplomatic envoy to China which then was ruled by Qianlong Emperor. China recognized King Taksin as the rightful ruler of Siam, and Taksin began the reunification of Siam. During this time he actively encouraged the Chinese to settle in Siam, principally those from Chaozhou, partly with the intention to revive the stagnating economy and upgrading the local workforce at that time.
King Taksin had to fight almost constantly for most of his reign to maintain the independence of his country. As the economic influence of the immigrant Chinese community grew with time many aristocrats, which he took in from the Ayutthaya nobility began to turn against him for having allied with the Chinese merchants. The opposition were led mainly by the Bunnags, a trader-aristocrat family of Persian origins.
In 1775, Siam faced the most lowest economic, thus he donated his fund to buy rice and clothes costly for his people. Later, Siam's economic recovered and boomed. King Taksin supported all kind of trading faithfully, no corruption.
Thai historians indicate that the strain on him took its toll and the king started to become a religious fanatic. In 1781 Taksin showed increasing signs of madness. He believed himself to be a future Buddha, and he flogged monks who refused to worship him as such. Several historians have suggested that this tale may have been created as an excuse for his overthrow. However, the letters of a French priest who was in Thonburi at the time support the accounts of the monarch's peculiar behavior.
Taksin planned to subdue the heads of these major factions to unify the country and restore stability to the kingdom as in Ayutthaya times. Campaigns to unify the country started after the king was crowned in 1768.
Taksin often had to wage war to defend border towns and in all fought eight battles with the Burmese. With his ingenious strategy and military prowess, he emerged victorious every time. In 1767 he attacked the Burmese camps at Pho Sam Ton district and successfully freed the country from Burmese domination. In the same year a battle was fought at Bang Kung in Samut Songkhram Province ; the king led his troops in a fierce fight with the Burmese, who had to retreat by way of Tavoy. He seized all their provisions, boats and weapons. In 1774 he was able to capture Chiang Mai and rid the north of Burmese influence. Thus, Thai territory was, therefore, extended to include the whole of Lanna with the exception of Chiang Saen.
The Thai kingdom under Taksin extended much further than it did in Ayutthaya times as Phutthaimat and Cambodia also acknowledged Thai suzerainty. In 1776 Thon Buri extended its territory as far as southern Laos, with Champasak, Seethandon, Attapue, and Cambodian jungle towns, namely Surin, Sangkha and Khukhan as vassal states. In 1778 Vientiane and Luang Phrabang were captured and the Emerald Buddha was brought to Thon Buri. It can be said that the many battles that he fought to protect and extend the kingdom firmly established our independence and stability up until today.
The Thai Kingdom in the Thon Buri Period After Phraya Tak was crowned king, the kingdom under his rule was much bigger than it was in Ayutthaya times. It included the following provinces : Thon Buri, Ayutthaya, Ang thong, Singburi, Lopburi, Uthai thani, Nakhon Sawan, Chacheongsao, Prachinburi, Nakhon Nayok, Chonburi, Rayong, Chantaburi, Trat, Nakhon Chaisi, Nakhon Prathom, Suphanburi, Ratchaburi, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Petchaburi, Kanchanaburi, and Prachuab Khirikhan.
Throughout his reign, Taksin carried out his policy of extending the kingdom of Thon Buri far and wide:
In the north, including the whole of Lanna
However in this reign, Taksin held the military court very frequently. In passing judgment, though the king handed down the severest sentence, he would have the convict punished in stages, starting with the lightest punishment.
In several cases, it seemed that those who committed serious offenses were spared heavy punishment by being assigned to other activities for atonement.
Commercial relations between Thon Buri and China started with rice trading and later included local goods from the Taechew Clan such as ceremic wares, silk, pickled fruits and woven mats. On the return journey, the Chinese would load their ships with local Thai goods such as rice, spices, wood, tin and lead.
The record dating from 1777, the Tai Cheng dynasty in the forty-second year of Emperor Chien Lung's reign, states: "Important goods from Thailand are amber, gold, colored rocks, good nuggets, gold dust, semi-precious stones, and hard lead."
Relations between King Taksin and the Ching Dynasty can be divided into three periods according to time and situation:
1767-1770 : The Ching Dynasty refused to accept King Taksin's sovereignty due to a false report from Morsuelun of Bantaimat.
1770-1771 : The Ching Dynasty began to realize that Morsuelun's report was false and began to change its attitude towards Taksin.
1771-1772 : Taksin's envoy was warmly received and given special support by the Ching court.
It should be noted that though the country was at war most of the time, King Taksin did not neglect his obligations regarding religious affairs. He was determined to restore Buddhism to its former glory from Ayutthaya times.
Taksin's bed : located at Wat Intharam in Thon Buri.
A seat for meditation : located in the small wihara in front of the Prang of the temple of Dawn, in Thon Buri.
A black and gold lacquered cabinet : with the year indicating that it was made in Thon Buri period, located in the Vajirayan section of the National Library, Tha Wasukri, Bangkok.
Phra Racha Wang Derm : the Throne hall that Taksin used when he administered affairs of state. It is in the compound of the present headquarters of the Royal Thai Navy, near Temple of Dawn.
The Thon Buri bullet coins carried King Taksin's royal emblem which was the Trisul or Tri, a trident which was the weapon of the God Issawara and Tawiwuth-a two pronged fork framed by a cordial shape. The symbol of power of that period was still the Chakra.
King Taksin was declared insane and a coup d'état removed him from the throne in March 1782. Although he requested to be allowed to join the monkhood, the deposed king was executed shortly after the coup on April 7, 1782, along with some of his loyal followers, including Phraya Pichai, within the next few days. He was sealed in a velvet sack and was beaten to death with a scented sandalwood club, in accordance with the ancient tradition that no royal blood should touch the ground. His execution was viewed as necessary in order to prevent the former king's becoming the center of a possible revolt against his successor, the 'tradition' usually happened in Ayutthaya Kingdom.
Another account claimed that Taksin was secretly sent to a palace located in the remote mountains of Nakhon Si Thammarat where he lived until 1825, and that a substitute was arranged and beaten to death in his place.
When the coup occurred, General Chao Phraya Chakri was away fighting in Cambodia, but he quickly returned to the Thai capital. When he arrived in Thonburi, the rebels surrendered and offered Chakri the throne. Another view of the events is that General Chakri actually wanted to be King and had accused King Taksin of being Chinese; however, this overlooks the fact that Chao Phraya Chakri was himself of partly Chinese origin as well as he himself being married to one of Taksin's daughters. However, prior to returning to Thonburi, Chao Phraya Chakri had Taksin's son summoned to Cambodia and executed.
The monarch remains a favorite of Thai Chinese, and is referred to as the King of Thonburi. Taksin's equestrian statue stands in the middle of Wongwien Yai (the Big Traffic Circle) in Thonburi, and is a well known Bangkok landmark.