The Start of the Chakri Dynasty

Today is Chakri Day in Thailand. It is a public holiday and a day of celebration marking the start of the present Dynasty in 1782. I have been re-reading a fascinating book recently called “Alec Waugh’s Bankok: Story of a City”. It was first published in 1970 and has many facts about Bangkok and the present dynasty that I never knew before. I want to share with you the following words about the founding of the Chakri dynasty. I have paraphrased it a little to make it easier for our younger friends to read. If you get a chance to buy this book then I urge you to do so.

“Of Ayutthaya’s million inhabitants, barely ten thousand were left when the sacking of the city by the Burmese was complete in 1767. Everything of value was removed. The Burmese had no intention of occupying the city they had captured. They were concerned with loot and revenge. They destroyed everything that did not seem worth carrying home. Nearly all of the records were burned. Yet, even so, General Taksin did not feel that the task of recovery was beyond his power.

“Taksin’s appeal to the various local leaders was effective. He soon had an army and luck was on his side. Burma suddenly found itself involved in a war with China, and was not able to do more than leave a small number of garrisons scattered about the country. These Taksin was able to destroy, one by one; until finally within a year and a half in a single main battle near Ayutthaya, he broke the effective power of the Burmese army, and was able to have himself proclaimed king.

“We know very little for certain about King Taksin; his reign was to last for fifteen years, but for most of this period he was engaged in military campaigns. The Burmese returned to the attack and had to be beaten back. There were other campaigns on the northern frontier. He had no time to the building of his new capital in Thonburi.

“His chief lieutenants during these campaigns were two brothers, whose father had been an official in the old regime. They were called Thong Duang and Boonma. Each rose quickly in rank and prominence – the elder one being elevated to the rank of Chao Phya Chakri, the other as Chao Phya Surasih. Often a man was known by the rank he held. The word Chakri meant commander in chief; so Thong Duang became known as General Chakri.”

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