ENGLISH
THAI
INDONESIAN
JAPANESE
FILIPINO

by Katherine A. Bowie

"Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Northern Thailand: Archival Anecdotes and Village Voices," which appeared in Monograph 44 of the Yale Southeast Asia Studies series. This monograph is entitled "State Power and Culture in Thailand" and was edited by E. Paul Durrenberger (1996).

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PART TWO: The Role of State Power in Slavery.

Of the five major causes of slavery in Thailand, three can be categorized as overtly political, namely war captivity, kidnapping and punishment for crimes. Punishment appears to have accounted for a very small percentage of those enslaved. Consequently in this section, I shall focus on the two more important categories, war captivity and kidnapping, suggesting that the inhumanity of this violence has been minimized by many of those who have written on Thai slavery. When not omitted from consideration entirely, the reality of the violence perpetrated is often softened by phrasing. Thus Colquhoun writes that "even savages who are captured and sold as slaves are treated so kindly that, to a stranger, if it were not for their physiognomy and long hair, they would seem part of the family of their masters" (1885:189). Graham writes "The condition of slavery was not hard, provided the slaves were fairly tractable and did not try to run away" and adds nonchalantly, "They were rarely sold without their own consent" (1924:237-38). Similarly, Cruikshank writes, "It seems clear, however, that their fate, once they had arrived through forced marches from the scene of the battle or raid, was generally good" 1975:317).

War Captives:

In most accounts of central Thai slavery, prisoners of war have received minimal consideration. Nonetheless, it has frequently been noted that Southeast Asian rulers were more interested in control over people rather than control over territory, to "put vegetables into baskets and put slaves into kingdoms" (kep phak saj saa, kep khaa saj muang; Nimmanhaeminda

1965). The capture of slaves has a long history in northern Thailand. One of the earliest mentions of war captives can be found in the famous Inscription of King Ramakhamhaeng dating from the thirteenth century. Ironically, although this inscription is cited as evidence of a paternalistic form of rule (see Andaya 1971), the passage providing evidence of Ramakhamhaeng's filial piety reads:

During my father's life I served my father and I served my mother. If I got a bit of meat or a bit of fish, I took it to my father; if I had any sort of fruit, sour or sweet, anything delicious and good to eat, I took it to my father. If I went on an elephant hunt and caught any, I took them to my father. If I went to attack a village or a city and collected some elephants and ivory, men and women, silver and gold, I gave them to my father. (Benda and Larkin, ed. 1967:40-41).

Chronicles record thousands of captives being taken at a time. For example, in 1462, King Tilok of the Lannathai kingdom of Chiang Mai is recorded as conquering eleven Shan principalities and carrying off 12,328 people who were relocated in three towns and several frontier posts "where their descendants have lived until our days" (Notton 1926-32, Vol. 3:135; quoted in Turton 1980:255). Simon de la Loubere gives a sense of these earlier kingdoms in his description of late seventeenth-century Ayuthaya: "They busie themselves only in making slaves. If the Peguins (sic), for example, do on one side invade the

lands of Siam, the Siamese will at another place enter the Lands of Pegu, and both Parties will carry away whole Villages into Captivity" (1969:90).

Richardson provides one of the earliest accounts of the importance of war captives in northern Thailand. Told from the perspective of the war captives themselves, the account gives some idea of the distances travelled and the numbers involved:

The thonghee of this village (KAB: Ban Pasang (Basang) in Lamphun) and of Ban San Kanoy and most of the villagers were captured about 29 years ago (KAB: 1805-6) and brought here as slaves from the city of Moung Neaung about 45 days march northerly from this, about one month northeast of Ava and about three long days from the Chinese frontier. The mother of Meng Nyot Boo was a sister of this Thooghee's wife--they say there were about 2,000 people brought away. (Ms:56).

General McLeod gives a broader sense of the social impact of the war captives on the kingdom of Chiang Mai when he writes in his journal in 1837 "the greater part of the inhabitants of Zimme are people from Kiang Tung, Muang Niong (Yong), Kiang Then (Tsen or Hsen), and many other places to the northward. They were originally subjects of Ava (Burmah)." In another passage he writes, "They, with the Talaings (Peguan Burmese), comprise more than two-thirds of the population in the country" (quoted in Hallett 1988[1890]:202). As Hallett continues:

From the time when Kiang Hsen was captured till 1810, Ping Shan armies frequently raided into the Burmese Shan States--proceeding as far west as the Salween and as far north as the border of China--sacked the towns, and carried away the inhabitants into captivity.

Some sense of the magnitude of these population relocations was given by the ruling lord of Chiang Saen in an interview with Hallett. In describing the territory he ruled, the lord explained "that many other cities were scattered about the country, but owing to their having been depopulated during the wars of last and the beginning of this century, most of their names had been forgotten" (1988[1890]:199).

The ruling lord of Chiang Saen provided a rare account of the variable fortunes of his kingdom which give insight into the process of mass enslavement. The original capital was built, according to the Chaw Luang, in 1699. Between 1779 and 1803, Chiang Saen was attacked six times. The Lao of Vieng Chang [sic] and Luang Prabang, together with the Lao of Chiang Mai laid siege to Chiang Saen from 1794 to 1797. During the siege, Phya Anoo, the chief of Vieng Chang, enraged at the long resistance, issued a proclamation that every male found in the city would be put to death on its capture. This proclamation reinforced the resolve of the besieged and although the city wall was breached at one point, the people of Chiang Saen succeeded in fighting off the attack. The siege was then called off, but famine was raging in the city.

The city finally fell in 1804 through the deception of the commander of the Ping Shans (KAB: another term for Chiang Mai, the city being located on the Ping River) troops. The commander of the Ping troops, which included the joint forces of Chiang Mai, Lampang, Nan, and Phrae, secretly informed the chief of Chiang Saen that they merely wished Chiang Saen to throw off the Burmese and become feudatory to Siam. He promised that, if the inhabitants of Chiang Saen would massacre the Burmese governor and his troops and open the gates, the Ping Shans would form an alliance with them. Accordingly the inhabitants of Chiang Saen killed the Burmese governor and the 300 Burmese soldiers within the city walls and opened the gates to the Ping Shans. As Hallett explains:

They soon found to their cost that they had been treacherously dealt with. The city was destroyed; some of the people escaped across the Salween and settle in Mokmai and Monay, and the rest were taken captive to the Ping States, and distributed amongst them. With the Shans treachery is an ordinary occurrence in warfare: the persons deluded are ashamed at having been taken in; the successful party chuckles and crows over his cleverness. (1988[1890:202).

The devastation caused by repeated warring and raiding was considerable. As Freeman explains:

In raids as these, whole villages were wiped out, entire valleys depopulated, for not only were many killed by the robbers or carried of as slaves, but the survivors fled to the forests and dared not return. There, jungle fever, dysentery and other diseases, due to exposure, carried off children and adults by the score. Often the stock of rice was burned, and, since the cattle were driven off or killed, the survivors could not work their fields. Famine followed in the wake of war. (1910:99).

Richardson includes a brief but moving account of a discussions with war captives from Muang Neaung. Their accounts give some sense of both the numbers of people being uprooted and their personal feelings:

The rightfull Tsobwa of Mein Neaung stayed with me a great part of the day. He is a prisoner who was carried off by the present Chow Tcheeweet about 30 years ago, the year after he re-established this town (Laboung). He complained with little reserve of his situation here. He said he ate and drank and slept like other people--his natural part was here, but his spirit was in his own country . . .

The sister of my neighbour Chow Ni Non Luang paid me a visit this morning accompanied by a little train of hand-maidens bearing some presents . . . She gave me a most distressing account of their captivity immediately after they were brought here. She was sent down as an addition to the King of Siam's harem. He had however the humanity . . . to send her back again with instructions to Chow Tchiiwiit to give as little additional cause for sorrow and allow the captives to live as much together as possible. As they amounted to 3,000 people, they were afraid to trust them together and they were distributed in small numbers about the different villages in this principality which the Birmans had then only recently left and which was very thinly peopled. They never made any combined attempts to escape and large proportion are now collected in this vicinity under her brother. (Ms:58-59).

By far the most powerful description of the impact of being captured is recorded in an account left by a British official, Mr. Gould. This rare first-hand account provides graphic details of the capture and forced march of some war captives from Laos in 1876. Gould visited two groups of "prisoners," one group numbering

1,005 and the other group numbering 300, who by that time had reached the border of Thailand. In his account, Gould explains that the Siamese soldiers had successfully driven the Chin Haw from Laos. During the fighting, many of the Laotians had fled into the surrounding mountains. Gould continues:

The Laos fugitives in the hills being aware of what had taken place naturally thought that they time had come when they might return to their homes. They however regarded the stranger Siamese with some distrust and a considerable number determined not yet to leave their asylum in the hills. That these poor people were wise, the event proved, and every person of humanity will when the result is known, wish that none of these Laos had left their shelter at all.
However, large numbers did, and returned to their homes in Chieng Kwang and the neighbourhood, and no doubt felt thankful to the power which had driven out their enemies.

Whether what followed was due to special orders from Bangkok or whether action was taken independently by the Chiefs of the army I had no means of ascertaining, but however the matter may stand, the Laos who were now settling down again into their homes and endeavouring to repair the damage done by the Chin Haw invasion were called upon to take the oath of allegiance to the King of Siam in the usual form of "kin nam sabot".

Various places were appointed, all on the same day, for the taking of the oath, and the unsuspecting people were summoned. As soon as they had thus been called together, they were, after taking the oath, suddenly set upon and made prisoners. The number thus treacherously seized amounted to 5,700.

The Siamese military expedition had been converted into a slave hunting operation on a large scale. It only remained to drive the slave gangs to Bangkok. The unfortunate creatures, men, women and children, many of the latter still in arms, were driven off in droves through the jungles from Muang Puen to Pichai, the nearest point on the Menam River.

This terrible march occupied more than a month and is hardly surpassed in its details of miserable suffering by any story of the slavers of Africa told by Sir Samuel Baker and others.

The captives were hurried mercilessly along, many weighted by burdens strapped to their backs, the men who had no wives or children with them and were therefore capable of attempting escape, were tied together by a rope

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