The area which is now Thailand has been populated since the beginning of civilization in Asia. By the13th century, the Thais ruled over states as far apart as Lanna, Suphannaphum (Suphanburi), Nakorn Si Thammarat and Sukhothai. Sukhothai, however, emerged as the strongest Thai Kingdom in the 13th and started its decline in the14th century. In 1350, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was "founded" and became the most dominant city state, spreading its influence through warfare and trade all over Southeast Asia. During the 18th century, Burma again expanded its territories and defeated the Thais in several battles. In 1767, after a 15 month seige, Ayutthaya was sacked and burnt by the Burmese, ending its political dominance of the peninsula. A savior of the Thai state emerge – King Taksin the Great who, after a few years, gathered together enough forces to defeat the Burmese and set up the Kingdom of Thonburi.
King Taksin was the only king of the Thon Buri Period. He has been recognized as one of the great Thai kings, for his prowess in warfare, his leadership in liberating the country after Ayutthaya was taken by the Burmese in 1767, and his ability in unifying the country after it had been split up into many factions.
King Taksin was born in 1733 in the reign of King Borommakot of Ayutthaya. He was originally called Sin. His father was a Chinese named Haihong of the Tae clan, who had immigrated to Thailand. The King's mother was a Thai called Nok Lang.There is reliable evidence, that prior to his entering government service, Sin was a trader with a fleet of carts. Later, in recognition of services he had rendered, he was appointed Governor of Tak Province.
In 1765, Phraya Tak came to Ayutthaya to help defend the capital. He fought valiantly and earned great recognition. He was promoted to the title and rank of Phraya Wachira Prakan, Governor of Kamphaeng Phet. It is believed, that prior to the fall of Ayutthaya, he got out of the capital by fighting his way through the Burmese seige with the aim of assembling men to liberate the country.
According to the royal Thai chronicle, Phraya Tak and his followers, after breaking out of Ayutthaya, headed for the east coast. On the way, they encountered many Burmese troops but were able to defeat them all. He became widely known for his military prowess and many came to pledge their service.
In the fifth lunar month of the year 1767, Ayutthaya was lost to the Burmese and the attitudes of high ranking officials changed with the situation. Some thought of setting themselves up as heads of state. Even Phraya Chantaburi, who had promised friendship to Phraya Tak, revoked his promise. The latter, therefore, led his army to capture Chantaburi and Trad and returned to make a stand at Chantaburi, making it his headquarters for collection of provisions and arms. In the meantime, other commanders and officers came to join him. The most important was Nai Sudchinda, an officer of the Royal Pages Department, who later became Khrom Phra Ratchawang Bawon Sathan Monkon in the Reign of King Rama I.
At the end of the monsoon season, Phraya Tak led his forces from Chantaburi to the Chao Phraya River delta in the twelfth lunar month of the same year. After he had taken Thon Buri, he attacked the Pho Sam Ton Camp in Ayutthaya and was able to seize the camp in two days. His triumph over the Burmese at the Pho Sam Ton Camp was symbolic of the liberation of the country. After capturing the camp, he tried to put the country back in order. Then he brought people back to Thon Buri and established it as his capital because the site was more appropriate than Ayutthaya. In 1768 he was crowned king. After the coronation, King Taksin proceeded at once to unify the country . Besides waging war to drive the Burmese out of the country, the king had to subdue the Thais who set themselves up as heads of various factions. His military successes resulted in the country being united once again.
Although warfare took up most of King Taksin's time, he paid a great deal of attention to politics, administration, economy, and the welfare of the country. He promoted trade and fostered relations with foreign countries including China, Britain and the Netherlands. He had roads built and canals dug. Apart from restoring and renovating temples, the king attempted to revive literature, and various branches of the arts such as drama, painting, architecture and handicrafts. He also issued regulations for the collection and arrangement of various texts to promote education and religious studies.Towards the end of the reign, there was trouble in Thon Buri, which was then called Chao Phraya San. Somdet Chao Phraya Maha Kasatsuhk hurried back from his campaign in Cambodia, held an investigation, and let the officials decide on appropriate punishment for King Taksin.Then the people asked the Somdet Chao Phraya to take the throne and rule the country.
King Taksin was put to death on April 6,1782 at the age of 48 after a 15-year reign. After he was executed, his remains were buried at Wat (Temple) Bang Yireua Tai, in 1785, King Rama I (Buddha Yodfa) had the remains disinterred and cremated at the same temple. A tomb containing King Taksin's clothes and a family shrine were found at Ching Hai district in Taechiew province in China in 1921. It is believed that a decendant of King Taksin the Great must have sent his clothes to be buried there to conform to Chinese practice. This supports the claim that the place was his father's hometown.
King Taksin had accomplished so much for the Thais in his short reign. Without his leadership, the country would not have been rid of the Burmese and become unified so soon. In recognition of what he had done for the country, the government has declared December 28 a day of homage to the King. A state ceremony has been held annually at the memorial to King Taksin the Great in Wongwian Yai in Bangkok since 1954. On October 27, 1981, the cabinet passed a resolution to honor him as "King Taksin the Great."