King Taksin’s Military Accomplishments

Before the Fall of Ayutthaya


King Hsinbyushin of Burma sent two armies to attack Ayutthaya from two directions, via the northern route to the mouth of the Prasop River and via the southern route to the Thung Phu Koa Thong (Golden Mountain field). He also had all the supply routes cut off with the aim of destroying the kingdom completely so that it could no longer afford to help the Burmese vassal states.

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. King 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.

Important Steps to Liberate the Country


The various steps taken by King Taksin to liberate the country at that time show his ingenuity in warfare. He shrewdly made plans for both fighting on land and at sea.

From Ayutthaya to Eastern Towns

The morning after he broke through the enemy line at Wat Phichai in January, 1768, Phraya Tak headed for Ban Pho Sanghan, where he clashed with Burmese garrison and defeated them. The general then led his exhausted men, to Ban Phran Nok for a rest. One group was sent out to find food. By chance it came upon 200 Burmese soldiers, who pursued them to Ban Phran Nok. Phraya Tak divided his men into two groups and ordered them to lie in ambush while he and four other officers on horseback fiercely charged thirty Burmese cavalrymen. The Burmese were surprised and retreated only to collide with their own infantry. This gave the men who were hiding on both sides of the path the opportunity to outflank the Burmese and kill them all.

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.

Strategic Importance of Chantaburi

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.

Effective Planning Back to Ayutthaya

After the Trat battle, Phraya Tak went back to his base in Chantaburi and ordered that more fighting vessels be built and more weapons assembled. The future king devoted three months to training men and building war boats so that his mighty fleet would be ready to go into combat right after the monsoon season. He realized that moving troops by land would be disadvantageous. The distances were too far and they would be unable to keep the journey a secret. The Burmese would retaliate and fighting would delay the troops who would be tired by the time they reach Ayutthaya.Phraya Tak also knew two weaknesses of the Burmese, they were only good at fighting on land and they do not have fighting boats.

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.

Establishment of Thon Buri as Capital


Thon Buri at that time was the right size for King Taksin. Located in the middle of a mud plain, the city was easy to defend and its proximity to sea made it feasible to escape to coastal town in the east in an emergency. Moreover, the city was near Ayutthaya, making it convenient to guard the old capital against the influence of other factions. With these strategic considerations, Thon Buri was established as the new capital called Krung Thon Buri Si Mahasamut, or Thon Buri the Glory of the Ocean. The king also had a palace built on the west bank of the Chao Phraya in the vicinity of the Wichaiprasit Fort.

Defense of the Country and Expansion of the Kingdom


King Taksin the Great considered the defense of the country his main mission in life. He devoted all his time to the unification of the kingdom and the defense of the land.

Unification of the Kingdom

After the destruction of the 400 year-old kingdom of Ayutthaya, provincial governors became bold and set themselves up as kings. Chao Phraya Phitsanulok, Chao Phimai, Chao Phraya Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Chao Phra Fang were four major factions.

 King 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.

Defense of Border Towns

Another undertaking to which King Taksin had committed himself all his life was defending the kingdom against all enemies.

King 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.

Expansion of the Kingdom

The Thai kingdom under King 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, King Taksin carried out his policy of extending the kingdom of Thon Buri far and wide:

In the north, including the whole of Lanna

In the south, including Sai Buri and Trengganu

In the east, Including Cambodia adjoining South Vietnam

In the northeast, including Vientiane, Phuan, Luang Phrabang, and Hua Phan Ha Thang Hok

In the southeast, including Phutthaimat

In the west, as far as Mergui and Tenasserim leading to the Indian Ocean

The Phra Racha Wang Derm Restoration Foundation
Copyright @ 2013