วันพุธที่ 21 ตุลาคม พ.ศ. 2552

Social and political development

The king stood at the apex of a highly stratified social and political hierarchy that extended throughout the society. In Ayutthayan society the basic unit of social organization was the village community composed of extended family households. Generally the elected headmen provided leadership for communal projects. Title to land resided with the headman, who held it in the name of the community, although peasant proprietors enjoyed the use of land as long as they cultivated it.

With ample reserves of land available for cultivation, the viability of the state depended on the acquisition and control of adequate manpower for farm labor and defense. The dramatic rise of Ayutthaya had entailed constant warfare and, as none of the parties in the region possessed a technological advantage, the outcome of battles was usually determined by the size of the armies. After each victorious campaign, Ayutthaya carried away a number of conquered people to its own territory, where they were assimilated and added to the labor force.

Every freeman had to be registered as a servant, or phrai, with the local lords. The lords gradually were court officials and provincial governors. The king ultimately came to be recognized as the earthly incarnation of Shiva and,or Vishnu, and became the sacred object of a politico-religious cult officiated over by a corps of royal Brahmans who were part of the Buddhist court retinue. In the Buddhist context, the devaraja was a bodhisattva (an enlightened being who, out of compassion, foregoes nirvana in order to aid others). The belief in divine kingship prevailed into the eighteenth century, although by that time its religious implications had limited impact. Nai, for military service and corvee labor on public works and on the land of the official to whom he was assigned. The phrais could also meet his labor obligation by paying a tax. If he found the forced labor under his nai repugnant, he could sell himself into slavery to a more attractive 'nai' or 'lord', who then paid a fee to the government in compensation for the loss of corvee labor. As much as one-third of the manpower supply into the nineteenth century was composed of phrai.

Wealth, status, and political influence were interrelated. The king allotted rice fields to court officials, provincial governors, military commanders, in payment for their services to the crown, according to the sakdi na system. The size of each official's allotment was determined by the number of commoners or phrai he could command to work it. The amount of manpower a particular headman, or official could command determined his status relative to others in the hierarchy and his wealth. At the apex of the hierarchy, the king, who was symbolically the realm's largest landholder, 'theoretically' commanded the services of the largest number of phrai, called phrai luang(royal servants), who paid taxes, served in the royal army, and worked on the crown lands.

However the recruitment of the armed forces depended on nai, or mun nai, literally means lord, officials who commanded their own phrai som, or 'subjects'. These officials had to submit to the king's command when war broke out. Officials thus became the key figures to the kingdom's politics. At least two officials staged the coups, taking the throne themselves while bloody struggles between the king and his officials, followed by the purges of the court officials were always seen.

King Trailok in the early sixteenth century established definite allotments of land and phrai for the royal officials at each rung in the hierarchy, thus determining the country's social structure until the introduction of salaries for government officials in the nineteenth century.

Outside this system to some extent were the Buddhist monkhood, or sangha, which all classes of Siamese men could join, and the Chinese. Buddhist monasteries (wats) became the centres of Siamese education and culture, while during this period the Chinese first began to settle in Siam, and soon began to establish control over the country's economic life: another long-standing social problem.

The Chinese were not obliged to register for corvee duty, so they were free to move about the kingdom at will and engage in commerce. By the sixteenth century, the Chinese controlled Ayutthaya's internal trade and had found important places in the civil and military service. Most of these men took Thai wives because few women left China to accompany the men.

Ramathibodi I was responsible for the compilation of the Dharmashastra, a legal code based on Hindu sources and traditional Thai custom. The Dharmashastra remained a tool of Thai law until late in the 19th century. A bureaucracy based on a hierarchy of ranked and titled officials was introduced, and society was organised in a manner reminiscent. Yet the hindu caste system did not exist.

The sixteenth century witnessed the rise of Burma, which, under an aggressive dynasty, had overrun Chiang Mai and Laos and made war on the Thai. In 1569 Burmese forces, joined by Thai rebels mostly royal family members of Siam, captured the city of Ayutthaya and carried off the whole royal family to Burma. Dhammaraja (1569-90), a Thai governor who had aided the Burmese, was installed as vassal king at Ayutthaya. Thai independence was restored by his son, King Naresuan (1590- 1605), who turned on the Burmese and by 1600 had driven them from the country.

Determined to prevent another treason like his father's, Naresuan set about unifying the country's administration directly under the royal court at Ayutthaya. He ended the practice of nominating royal princes to govern Ayutthaya's provinces, assigning instead court officials who were expected to execute policies handed down by the king. Thereafter royal princes were confined to the capital. Their power struggles continued, but at court under the king's watchful eye.

In order to ensure his control over the new class of governors, Naresuan decreed that all freemen subject to phrai service had become phrai luang, bound directly to the king, who distributed the use of their services to his officials. This measure gave the king a theoretical monopoly on all manpower, and the idea developed that since the king owned the services of all the people, he also possessed all the land. Ministerial offices and governorships—and the sakdina that went with them—were usually inherited positions dominated by a few families often connected to the king by marriage. Indeed, marriage was frequently used by Thai kings to cement alliances between themselves and powerful families, a custom prevailing through the nineteenth century. As a result of this policy, the king's wives usually numbered in the dozens.

Even with Naresuan's reforms, the effectiveness of the royal government over the next 150 years should not be overestimated. Royal power outside the crown lands—although in theory absolute- -was in practice limited by the looseness of the civil administration. The influence of central government was not extensive beyond the capital until the late nineteenth century.

Siamese kingship

Siamese kingship
Siam rulers were absolute monarchs whose office was partly religious in nature. They derived their authority from the ideal qualities they were believed to possess. The king was the moral to the Inscription No-1 found in Sukhothai, Ramkhamhaeng was said to hear the petition of any subject who rang the bell at the palace gate to summon him, the king was revered as a father by his people. But the paternal aspects of kingship disappeared at Ayutthaya. The king was considered chakkraphat, the Sanskrit-Pali term for the Chakravartin who through his adherence to the law made all the world revolve around him.[9]

The kings also, according to his official names, were considered as the incarnation of various Hindu gods; Indra, Shiva or Vishnu (Rama). The coronation ceremony was directed by Brahmins.As the Hindu god Shiva was "lord of the universe". However, according to the codes, the king had the ultimate duty as protector of the people and the annihilator of evil. However due to Buddhism's influence in place of Hinduism, the kings were also believed to be a 'Bodhisattava' or 'Buddha'-like. He followed and respected the Dharma Law of Buddha, and sometimes was called 'Dhammaraja'. One of the most important duties of the kings is to build temple or Buddha statute, as a symbol of prosperity and peace.[9]

The Siam king also became by analogy "lord of the land," (Pra Chao Phaendin) distinguished in his appearance and bearing from his subjects. According to the elaborate court etiquette, even a special language, Rachasap (Sanskrit: rājāśabda), was used to communicate with or about royalty. In Ayutthaya, the King was said to grant land to his subjects, from nobles to commoners, even monks and beggars, according to the rule of Sakna or Sakdina. However there has yet been any concrete evidence of Ayutthaya's land management system. Sakna or Sakdina system is unlikely the same as 'feudalism' in Europe.[10]

The French Abbe de Choisy, who came to Ayutthaya in 1685, wrote that, "the king has absolute power. He is truly the god of the Siamese: no-one dares to utter his name." Another 17th century writer, the Dutchman Van Vliet, remarked that the King of Siam was "honoured and worshipped by his subjects second to god." Law and orders were issued by the King. For sometimes the King himself was also the highest judge who judged and punished important criminals such as ones who were traitors or rebels.[11]

One of the numerous institutional innovations of King Trailokanat (1448-88) was to adopt the position of uparaja, translated as "viceroy" or "underking", usually held by the king's senior son or full brother, in an attempt to regularize the succession to the throne—a particularly difficult feat for a polygamous dynasty. In practice, there was inherent conflict between king and uparaja and frequent disputed successions.[

Historical overview

The Siamese state based at Ayutthaya in the valley of the Chao Phraya River grew from the earlier kingdom of Lavo, which it absorbed, and its rise continued the steady shift southwards of the centre of gravity of the Siam-speaking peoples as other kingdoms in this surrounding area had done, such as the kingdom of Supannaphum (Dvaravati) and the kingdom of Sukhothai situated Northern of Ayutthaya. In 1351, to escape the threat of an epidemic, King U Thong moved his court south into the rich floodplain of the Chao Phraya on an island in the river which was the former seaport city of Ayothaya, where he founded a new capital, which he called Ayutthaya, meaning the City of Kings.[2]

[edit] Conquests
By the end of the century, Ayutthaya was regarded as the strongest power in Indochina, but it lacked the manpower to dominate the region. In the last year of his reign, Ramathibodi had seized Angkor during what was to be the first of many successful Thai assaults on the Khmer capital. The policy was aimed at securing Ayutthaya's eastern frontier by preempting Vietnamese designs on Khmer territory. The weakened Khmer periodically submitted to Ayutthaya's suzerainty, but efforts to maintain control over Angkor were repeatedly frustrated. However Angkor eventually fell. Thai troops were frequently diverted to suppress rebellions in Sukhothai or to campaign against Chiang Mai, where Ayutthaya's expansion was tenaciously resisted. Eventually Ayutthaya subdued the territory that had belonged to Sukhothai, and the year after Ramathibodi died, his kingdom was recognized by the emperor of China's newly established Ming Dynasty as Sukhothai's rightful successor.[2]

The Siam kingdom was not a single, unified state but rather a patchwork of self-governing principalities and tributary provinces owing allegiance to the king of Ayutthaya under the mandala system.[3] These countries were ruled by members of the royal family of Ayutthaya who had their own armies and warred among themselves, as well as self governing but subservient Malay states in the south. The king had to be vigilant to prevent royal princes from combining against him or allying with Ayutthaya's enemies. Due to the lack of succession law and strong concept of merit, whenever the succession was in dispute, princely governors or powerful dignitaries gathered their forces and moved on the capital to press their claims.[4]

During much of the fifteenth century Ayutthaya's energies were directed toward the Malay Peninsula, where the great trading port of Malacca contested its claims to sovereignty. Ayutthaya's conquests were unsuccessful, however, due to the military support of Ming China, who backed the Sultanate diplomatically and economically. The Ming Admiral Zheng He had established one of his bases of operation in the port city, so the Chinese could not afford to lose such a strategic position to the Siamese. Under this umbrella of protection, Malacca flourished into one of Ayutthaya's great foes, until its conquest in 1511 by the Portuguese.[5]

Ayutthaya, Malacca and other Malay states south of Tambralinga had become Muslim early in the century, and thereafter Islam served as a symbol of Malay solidarity against the Thais. As it failed to make a vassal state of Malacca, Ayutthayan control of the strait was gradually displaced by Malay and Chinese.[4][6]

However in the mid-sixteenth century, the Burmese Kingdom of Taungoo, also Toungoo, became stronger, it then began its 'imperial expansion' and kings Tabinshwehti and Bayinnaung attacked Ayutthaya. In 1569 Ayutthaya eventually fell and became Toungoo's vassal. The royal princes and high officials were taken back to Taungoo. One of those princes was Prince Naret or widely known later as King Naresuan.[7]

Ayutthaya became a great power again after Prince Naret or Naresuan returned to Ayutthaya. He started gathering troops to resist the Burmese. King Naresuan finally defeated Burmese forces in a famous elephant battle with Toungoo's heir apparent, who was killed in the battle. Since then Ayutthaya became one of the most powerful kingdoms in the region. It began expanding towards the northern regions of Sukhothai and Lanna, as well as the maritime, southern peninsula and Cambodia due to interest in foreign contact. Foreign trade brought Ayutthaya not only luxury items but also new arms and weapons. In the mid-seventeenth century, during King Narai's reign, Ayutthaya became very prosperous.

Ayutthaya Kingdom

Ayutthaya (Thai: อาณาจักรอยุธยา, RTGS: Anachak Ayutthaya) was a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1351 to 1767 until it was invaded by the Burmese. Ayutthaya was friendly towards foreign traders, including the Chinese, Vietnamese (Annam), Indians, Japanese and Persians, and later the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French, permitting them to set up villages outside the city walls. In the sixteenth century, it was described by foreign traders as one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East. The court of King Narai (1656-1688) had strong links with that of King Louis XIV of France, whose ambassadors compared the city in size and wealth to Paris. Before Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese invasion in 1767, its vassals included the Northern Shan states of present-day Myanmar, Lanna (Chiang Mai, Thailand), Yunnan & Shan Sri (China), Lan Xang (Laos), Champa (Vietnam), and some city-states in the Malay Peninsula.[1]

According to foreign accounts, Ayutthaya Kingdom was officially known as 'Siam' but many sources also said Ayutthaya people called themselves as 'Thai' of 'Krung Thai', or the Kingdom of the Thais.