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Saturday, October 15, 2022

Burmese Siamese War – Tabinshwehti .. ..Queen Suriyothai !

In the year 2016,  Myanmar Navy commissioned some new vessels and that included UMS (Union of Myanmar Ship) Tabinshwehti with pennant number 773: the service’s first guided-missile corvette featuring radar cross-section (RCS) reducing characteristics.   UMS Tabinshwehti is also the third guided-missile corvette to enter service with the MN. Unlike the two older 77 m guided missile corvettes, UMS Anawrahta (771) and UMS Bayintnaung (772), the   corvette has a reduced-RCS superstructure with two masts and a helicopter hangar.

The Tabinshwehti nat is one of the 37 nats (spirits) worshiped in Myanmar. He is portrayed as sitting cross-legged on a throne in full regalia, with two swords in his left hand and right hands above his knee.  Nats  are God-like spirits venerated in Myanmar and neighbouring countries in conjunction with Buddhism. They are divided between the 37 Great Nats who were designated that status by King Anawrahta when he formalized the official list of nats. Most of the 37 Great Nats were human beings who met violent deaths. There are two types of nats in Burmese Belief: nat sein which are humans that were deified after their deaths and all the other nats which are spirits of nature (spirits of water, trees etc.). Much like sainthood, nats can be designated for a variety of reasons, including those only known in certain regions in Burma.  

The Burmese–Siamese War (1547–1549) also known as the Shwehti war was the first war fought between the Toungoo Dynasty of Burma and the Ayutthaya Kingdom of Siam, and the first of the Burmese–Siamese wars that would continue until the middle of the 19th century. The war is notable for the introduction of early modern warfare to the region. It is also notable in Thai history for the death in battle of Siamese Queen Suriyothai on her war elephant; the conflict is often referred to in Thailand as the War that Led to the loss of Queen Suriyothai.  Suriyothai   was a royal queen consort during the 16th century Ayutthaya period of Siam (now Thailand), famous for having given up her life in the defense of her husband, King Maha Chakkraphat, in   Burmese–Siamese War.

The casus belli is reported to be Burmese attempt to expand their territory eastwards after a political crisis in Ayutthaya  as well as an attempt to stop Siamese incursions into the upper Tenasserim coast. The war, according to the Burmese, began in January 1547 when Siamese forces conquered the frontier town of Tavoy (Dawei). Later in the year, the Burmese forces led by Gen. Saw Lagun Ein retook the Upper Tenasserim coast down to Tavoy. Next year, in October 1548, three Burmese armies led by King Tabinshwehti and his deputy Bayinnaung invaded Siam through the Three Pagodas Pass. The Burmese forces penetrated up to the capital city of Ayutthaya but could not take the heavily fortified city. One month into the siege, Siamese counterattacks broke the siege, and drove back the invasion force. The  Burmese negotiated a safe retreat in exchange for the return of two important Siamese nobles (the heir apparent Prince Ramesuan, and Prince Thammaracha of Phitsanulok) whom they had captured.

The successful defense preserved Siamese independence for 15 years. Still, the war was not decisive. The next Burmese invasion in 1563 would force a Siamese surrender in February 1564, and make Ayutthaya a vassal state of Burma for the first time.

The Ayutthaya Kingdom was a Siamese kingdom that existed in Southeast Asia from 1351 to 1767, centered around the city of Ayutthaya, in Siam, or present-day Thailand. The Ayutthaya Kingdom emerged from the mandala of city-states on the Lower Chao Phraya Valley in the late fourteenth century during the decline of the Khmer Empire. After a century of territorial expansions, Ayutthaya became centralized and rose as a major power in Southeast Asia. Ayutthaya faced invasions from the Toungoo dynasty of Burma, starting a centuries' old rivalry between the two regional powers, resulting in the First Fall of Ayutthaya in 1569.

Tabinshwehti (1516- 1550)  was king of Burma (Myanmar) from 1530 to 1550, and the founder of the First Toungoo Empire. His military campaigns (15341549) created the largest kingdom in Burma since the fall of the Pagan Empire in 1287. His administratively fragile kingdom proved to be the impetus for the eventual reunification of the entire country by his successor and brother-in-law Bayinnaung. Based out of their small landlocked principality in the Sittaung valley, Tabinshwehti and his deputy Bayinnaung began their military campaigns in 1534 against the Hanthawaddy Kingdom, and had conquered the wealthier but disunited kingdom by 1541. He then leveraged the coastal kingdom's wealth, manpower and access to Portuguese mercenaries and firearms, and extended his rule to the ancient capital of Pagan. The king was assassinated on his 34th birthday on the orders of Smim Sawhtut, one of his close advisers. The kingdom he had built up fell apart right after his death. His premature death has been called "one of the great turning points of mainland [Southeast Asia's] history".  He is one of the most celebrated kings in Burmese history. The Tabinshwehti nat is one of the 37 nats (spirits) worshiped in Myanmar.

Interesting history.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
14th Oct 2022.


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