Thonburi Kingdom

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Kingdom of Thonburi

Flag of Thailand (Ayutthaya period).svg
Carte royaume de Siam.png
Capital Thonburi
Common languages Ayutthayan dialect
Theravada Buddhism
Government Feudal monarchy
Taksin the Great
 Independence from Burma
6 November 1767
28 December 1767
6 April 1782
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Thailand (Ayutthaya period).svg Kingdom of Ayutthaya
Rattanakosin Kingdom Flag of Thailand (1782).svg
Today part of Thailand
Part of a series on the
History of Thailand
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Flag of Thailand.svg Thailandportal
Historical map of Thonburi on Chao Phraya River Thonburi-history-map.svg
Historical map of Thonburi on Chao Phraya River

Kingdom of Thonburi (Thai: ธนบุรี) was a Siamese kingdom after the downfall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom by the Konbaung Burmese invader. The kingdom was founded by King Taksin the Great, who relocated the capital to Thonburi. The kingdom of Thonburi existed from 1767 to 1782. In 1782, King Rama I founded the Rattanakosin Kingdom and relocated the capital to Bangkok on the other side of the Chao Phraya River, thus bringing the Thonburi kingdom to an end. The city of Thonburi remained an independent town and province until it was merged into Bangkok in 1971.

Ayutthaya Kingdom

The Ayutthaya Kingdom was a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1350 to 1767. Ayutthaya was friendly towards foreign traders, including the Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Indians, Japanese, Koreans, Persians, and later Spaniards, Dutch, English, and French, permitting them to set up villages outside the walls of the capital, also called Ayutthaya.

Burmese–Siamese War (1765–67) second military conflict between the Konbaung Dynasty of Burma (Myanmar) and the Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty of Siam (Thailand)

The Burmese–Siamese War (1765–1767) was the second military conflict between the Konbaung dynasty of Burma (Myanmar) and the Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty of Siam (Thailand), and the war that ended the four-century-old Siamese kingdom. Nonetheless, the Burmese were soon forced to give up their hard-won gains when the Chinese invasions of their homeland forced a complete withdrawal by the end of 1767. A new Siamese dynasty, to which the current Thai monarchy traces its origins, emerged to reunify Siam by 1770.

Taksin King of Siam

Taksin the Great or the King of Thonburi was the only King of the Thonburi Kingdom. He had been an Ekatat servant and then was a leader in the liberation of Siam from Burmese occupation after the Second Fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, and the subsequent unification of Siam after it fell under various warlords. He established the city of Thonburi as the new capital, as the city of Ayutthaya had been almost completely destroyed by the invaders. His reign was characterized by numerous wars; he fought to repel new Burmese invasions and to subjugate the northern Thai kingdom of Lanna, the Laotian principalities, and a threatening Cambodia.


Reestablishment of Siamese authority

Taksin's coronation at Thonburi (Bangkok) 28-December-1768 KingTaksin's coronation.jpg
Taksin's coronation at Thonburi (Bangkok) 28-December–1768

In 1767, after dominating southeast Asia for almost 400 years, the Ayutthaya kingdom was destroyed. The royal palace and the city were burnt to the ground. The territory was occupied by the Burmese army and local leaders declared themselves overlords including the lords of Sakwangburi, Pimai, Chanthaburi, and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Chao Tak, a nobleman of Chinese descent and a capable military leader, proceeded to make himself a lord by right of conquest, beginning with the legendary sack of Chanthaburi. Based at Chanthaburi, Chao Tak raised troops and resources, and sent a fleet up the Chao Phraya to take the fort of Thonburi. In the same year, Chao Tak was able to retake Ayutthaya from the Burmese only seven months after the fall of the city. [1]

Chanthaburi Town in Chanthaburi Province, Thailand

Chanthaburi is a town in the east of Thailand, on the banks of the Chanthaburi River. It is the capital of the Chanthaburi Province and the Mueang Chanthaburi District.

Nakhon Si Thammarat City Municipality in Thailand

Nakhon Si Thammarat is a city in southern Thailand, capital of the Nakhon Si Thammarat Province and the Nakhon Si Thammarat District. It is about 610 km (380 mi) south of Bangkok, on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula. The city was the administrative center of southern Thailand during most of its history. Originally a coastal city, silting moved the coastline away from the city. The city has a much larger north to south extension than west to east, which dates back to its original location on a flood-save dune. The modern city centre on the train station is north of Old Town. As of 2005, the city had a population of 105,417.

The right of conquest is the right of a conqueror to territory taken by force of arms. It was traditionally a principle of international law that has gradually given way in modern times until its proscription after World War II when the crime of war of aggression was first codified in the Nuremberg Principles. In 1974 the United Nations General Assembly recommended a definition of the crime of aggression to the Security Council in the non-binding United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314.

Upon Siamese independence, Hsinbyushin of Burma ordered the ruler of Tavoy to invade Siam. The Burmese armies arrived through Sai Yok and laid siege on the Bang Kung camp – the camp for Taksin's Chinese troops – in modern Samut Songkhram Province. Taksin hurriedly sent one of his generals Boonma to command the fleet to Bang Kung to relieve the siege. Siamese armies encircled the Burmese siege and defeated them.

Hsinbyushin was king of the Konbaung dynasty of Burma (Myanmar) from 1763 to 1776. The second son of the dynasty founder Alaungpaya is best known for his wars with China and Siam, and is considered the most militaristic king of the dynasty. His successful defense against four Chinese invasions preserved Burmese independence. His invasion of Siam (1765–1767) ended Siam's Ayutthaya Dynasty. The near simultaneous victories over China and Siam has been referred to as testimony "to a truly astonishing elan unmatched since Bayinnaung." He also raised the Shwedagon Pagoda to its current height in April 1775.

Samut Songkhram Town municipality in Samut Songkhram Province, Thailand

Samut Songkhram is the capital of Samut Songkhram Province.

Maha Sura Singhanat Vice King of Siam

Somdet Phra Bawornrajchao Maha Sura Singhanat (1744–1803) was the younger brother of Phutthayotfa Chulalok, the first monarch of the Chakri dynasty of Siam. As an Ayutthayan general, he fought alongside his brother in various campaigns against Burmese invaders and the local warlords. When his brother crowned himself as the king of Siam at Bangkok in 1781, he was appointed the Front Palace or Maha Uparaj, the title of the heir. During the reign of his brother, he was known for his important role in the campaigns against Bodawpaya of Burma.

Ayutthaya, the centre of Siamese authority for hundreds of years, was so devastated that it could not be used as a government centre. Tak founded the new city of Thonburi Sri Mahasamut on the west bank of Chao Phraya river. The construction took place for about a year and Tak crowned himself in late 1768 as King Sanpet but he was known to people as King Taksin – a combination of his title and personal name. Taksin crowned himself as a King of Ayutthaya to signify the continuation to ancient glories. [2]

Thonburi area of Bangkok

Thonburi is an area of modern Bangkok. During the era of the kingdom of Ayutthaya, its location on the right (west) bank at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River had made it an important garrison town, which is reflected in its name: thon (ธน) a loanword from Pali dhána wealth and buri (บุรี), from púra fortress. The full formal name was Thon Buri Si Mahasamut. For the informal name, see the history of Bangkok under Ayutthaya.

Reunification and expansion

There were still local warlords competing for Siam. Taksin marched first in 1768 to Pitsanulok to subjugate the Lord of Pitsanulok who ruled over Upper Chao Phraya Basin. Taksin was injured during the campaign and had to retreat. The war readily weakened Pitsanulok and then it was in turn subjugated by the Lord of Sakwangburi. The same year Taksin sent Thong Duang and Boonma to tame the Prince Theppipit – the ruler of Phimai to the north of Nakhon Ratchasima on the Khorat Plateau. The prince was a son of Borommakot and was defeated by Thonburi armies. Theppipit fled to Vientiene but was captured and then executed.

A warlord is a leader able to exercise military, economic, and political control over a subnational territory within a sovereign state due to their ability to mobilize loyal armed forces. These armed forces, usually considered militias, are loyal to the warlord rather than to the state regime. Warlords have existed throughout much of history, albeit in a variety of different capacities within the political, economic, and social structure of states or ungoverned territories.

Phimai subdistrict municipality in Nakhon Ratchasima province, Thailand

Phimai is a township in Nakhon Ratchasima Province in northeast Thailand. As of 2005 the town had a population of 9,768. The town is the administrative center of the Phimai District.

Nakhon Ratchasima City Municipality in Thailand

Nakhon Ratchasima is one of the four major cities of Isan, Thailand, known as the "big four of Isan". The city is commonly known as Korat, a shortened form of its name. It is the governmental seat of the Nakhon Ratchasima Province and Mueang Nakhon Ratchasima District. Nakhon Ratchasima is the heart of the Nakhon Ratchasima metropolitan area.

In 1769, Taksin sent Phraya Chakri south to subjugate the Lord of Nakorn Si Thammarat. The lord fled to Pattani but was returned to Taksin, who reinstalled him back as the ruler of Nakorn Si Thammarat under Taksin's governance.

Prince Ang Non the Uparaja of Cambodia fled to Thonburi in 1769 after his conflicts with King Narairaja for Siamese supports. Taksin then took this opportunity to request tributary from Cambodia, which Narairaja refused. Taksin sent Phraya Abhay Ronnarit and Phraya Anuchit Racha to subjugate Cambodia, taking Siemreap and Battambang. But Taksin's absence from the capital (in wars with Nakorn Si Thammarat) shook the political stability and the two generals decided to retreat to Thonburi.

By this time, the only rival to Thonburi authority was the Sakwangburi lordship led by the powerful monk Chao Phra Faang. Chao Phra Faang’s domain encompassed the northernmost territories bordering Lanna to Nakhon Sawan to the south as the result of annexation of Pitsanulok lordship in 1768. In 1770,Chao Phra Faang sent reinforcements southwards reaching Chainat. Taksin perceived this action as threats and decided to invade Sakwangburi beforehand. The royal fleet marched upstream the Chao Phraya River and took Pitsanulok with ease. Taksin then divided the armies into the east one led by Boonma and the west one led by Phraya Pichai to be joined at Sakwangburi. Sakwangburi quickly fell after three days and Chao Phra Faang went lost.

Taksin stayed at Pitsanulok to oversee the census and levy of northern population. He appointed Boonma to Chao Phraya Surasi as the governor of Pitsanulok and all northern cities and Phraya Abhay Ronnarit to Chao Phraya Chakri the chancellor.

Later in 1771, Taksin decided to finish off the Cambodian campaign by assigning Chao Phraya Chakri command of land forces with Prince Ang Non and Taksin himself went by fleet. The Siamese took various Cambodian cities and drove Narairaja out of the throne. Ang Non was installed as Reamraja and Narairaja became the Uparaja with the Cambodian court paying tribute to Thonburi.

Wars with Burma

Taksin had consolidated the old Siamese kingdom with new base at Thonburi. However, the Burmese were still ready to wage massive wars to bring the Siamese down again. From their base at Chiang Mai, they invaded Sawankhalok in 1770 but the Siamese were able to repel. This realised Taksin the importance of Lanna as the base of resources for the Burmese to attack northern territories. If Lanna was brought under Siamese control then the Burmese threats would by annihilated.

At the time Lanna, centred on Chiang Mai, was ruled by a Burmese general Paw Myunguaun. He was the general who led the invasion of Sawankhalok in 1770 but was countered by Chao Phraya Surasi’s armies from Pitsanulok. In the same year, the Siamese pioneered a little invasion of Chiang Mai and failed to gain any fruitful results.

In 1772, Paw Thupla, another Burmese general who had been in wars in Laos, headed west and attack Pichai and Uttaradit. The armies of Pitsanulok once again repelled the Burmese invasions. They came again in 1773 and this time Phraya Pichai made his legendary sword break.

Wars over Lan na

Battle of Bangkeo in Ratchaburi Battle of Bangkeo.jpg
Battle of Bangkeo in Ratchaburi

In 1774, Taksin ordered Chao Phrya Chakri and Chao Phraya Surasi to invade Chiang Mai. After nearly 200 years of Burmese rule, Lanna passed to the Siamese hands. The two Chao Phrayas were able to take Chiang Mai with the help of local insurgents against Burma and Taksin appointed them the local rulers: Phraya Chabaan as Phraya Vichianprakarn the Lord of Chiangmai, Phraya Kawila as the Lord of Lampang, and Phraya Vaiwongsa as Lord of Lampoon. All the lordships paid tribute to Thonburi. Paw Myunguaun and the Burmese authority retreated to Chiang Saen.

During Taksin’s northern campaigns, the Burmese armies took the opportunity to invade Thonburi through Ta Din Daeng. The Burmese encamped at Bangkaew but were surrounded by the Siamese armies commanded by Taksin. For more than a month the Burmese had been locked in the siege and thousand of them died. [3] Another thousand became captives to the Siamese.

In 1775 there came the hugest invasion of the Burmese led by Maha Thiha Thura. Instead of dividing the forces invading through various ways, Maha Thiha Thura amassed the troop of 30,000 as a whole directly towards Pitsanulok whose inhabitants were only 10,000 in number. Paw Thupla and Paw Myunguaun from Chiang Saen attempted to retake Chiang Mai but were halted by the two Chao Phrayas, who after Chiang Mai hurried back to Pitsanulok to defend the city. The engagements occurred near Pitsanulok.

Maha Thiha Thura directed the troops at Pitsanulok so immensely that the Siamese were about to fall. He cut down the supply lines and attacked the royal army. The two Chao Phrayas decided to abandon Pitsanulok. The Burmese entered the city with victory but due to the death of Hsinbyushin the Burmese king the same year. They had to retreat.

After the death of the Burmese king Hsinbyushin the Burmese were plunged in their own dynastic struggles. In 1776, the new monarch Singusa sent Maha Thiha Thura to invade Lanna again with such a huge army that Lord Vichianprakarn of Chiang Mai had to abandon the city. Chao Phraya Surasi and Lord Kawila of Lampang retook Chiang Mai from the Burmese but decided to left the city abandoned as there was no population to fill the city. No further Burmese invasions came as Singu staged his dynastic purges on the princes and Maha Thiha Thura himself.


In 1776, a governor of Nangrong (modern Nakhon Nayok) had a row with the governor of Nakhon Ratchasima the head city of the region. The governor then sought supports from King Sayakumane of Champasak. This became a casus bellum for Taksin to send Chao Phraya Chakri to conquer Champasak. King Sayakumane fled but was captured and detained in Thonburi for two years until he was sent to rule his kingdom again in 1780 paying tribute to Thonburi. The Champasak campaign earned Chakri the title Somdet Chao Phraya Maha Kasatseuk. Taksin invented the title Somdet Chao Phraya for a mandarin with equal honour as a royalty.

In 1778, a Laotian mandarin named Phra Wo sought Siamese supports against King Bunsan of Vientiene but was killed by the Laotian king. Taksin then dispatched the troops in 1779 led by the two famous brothers commanders, Phraya Chakri and his brother, Phraya Surasi to subjugate Vientiene. At the same time King Suriyavong of Luang Prabang submitted himself to Thonburi and joined the invasion of Vientiene. King Bunsan fled and hid in the forests but later gave up himself to the Siamese. The Vientiene royal family was deported to Thonburi as hostages. Thonburi forces took two valuable Buddha images, the symbolic icons of Vientiane – the Emerald Buddha and Phra Bang to Thonburi. Then all of the three Laotian kingdoms became Siamese tributaries and remained under Siamese rule for another hundred years.


Thailand's territory, during Taksin's reign. Carte royaume de Siam.png
Thailand's territory, during Taksin's reign.

The kingdom under Taksin rule was much smaller than it was in Ayutthaya times. It included the following provinces : Thon Buri, Ayutthaya, Ang Thong, Singburi, Lopburi, Uthai Thani, Nakhon Sawan, Chachoengsao, Prachinburi, Nakhon Nayok, Chonburi, Rayong, Chantaburi, Trat, Nakhon Chai Si, Nakhon Pathom, Suphanburi, Ratchaburi, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Phetchaburi, Kanchanaburi, and Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Throughout his reign, King Taksin carried out his policy of expansion.

In the north, including the whole of Lanna. Burmese was driven out. Local allies became Thonburi's subjugation.

In the south, including Syburi (present-day Kedah) and Trengganu in Malaysia.

In the east, Cambodia was subjugated. His forces even attacked South Vietnam

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

In the southeast, including Phutthaimat (Hà Tiên in Vietnam today).

In the west, as far as Mergui and Tenasserim in Myanmar today leading to the Indian Ocean. [4] [5]



Wat Arun, Thonburi Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan.jpg
Wat Arun, Thonburi

Years of warfare and the Burmese invasions prevented any peasants to engage in agricultural activities. Majority of people had been deported to Burma in the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767 and the lack of manpower became the source of problems. Taksin had tried his best to encourage people to come out of forest hidings and promote farming. He promulgated the Conscription Tattooing in 1773 which left a permanent mark on commoners' bodies, preventing them from fleeing or moving. The practice continued well into Rattanakosin times until the abolition of levy itself by King Chulalongkorn later. As Taksin was from a Chinese merchant family, he sold his both royal and familial properties and belongings to subsidise the production by giving money off to people. This proved to be a temporary relief for such an economic decline. Nevertheless, the Siamese economy after the catastrophes needed time to rehabilitate.

Taksin himself also commissioned trade missions to the neighbouring countries to bring Siam back to outside world, mainly with China. He dispatched several missions with tributes to the Qing in 1781 to resume diplomatic and commercial relationships.

Political and economic troubles

Phra Racha Wang Derm, the former royal palace of King Taksin, now used as the Royal Thai Navy's HQ, view form Phra Prang of Wat Arun, Thonburi, Bangkok. Royal Thai Navy HQ, view form Phra Prang of Wat Arun.jpg
Phra Racha Wang Derm, the former royal palace of King Taksin, now used as the Royal Thai Navy's HQ, view form Phra Prang of Wat Arun, Thonburi, Bangkok.

Thonburi began forming its society. Taksin gathered resources by wars and deals with Chinese merchants. Major groups of people in Thonburi were local Thais, phrai, or 'commoners', Chinese, Laotians, Khmers, Mons. Some powerful Chinese merchants trading in the new capital were granted officials titles. After the king and his relatives, officials were powerful. They held numbers of phrai, commoners who were recruited as forces. Officials in Thonburi mainly dealt with military as well as 'business' affairs.

Despite Taksin's successes, by 1779 King Taksin was in trouble. He was recorded in the Rattanahosin's gazettes and missionaries's accounts as becoming maniacal, insulting senior Buddhist monks, proclaiming himself to be a sotapanna or divine figure. Foreign missionaries were also purged from times to times. His officials, mainly ethnic Chinese, were divided into factions, one of which still supported him but the other did not. The economy was also in turmoil, famine ravaged the land, corruption and abuses of office were rampant, the monarch attempted to restore order by harsh punishments leading to the execution of large numbers of officials and merchants, mostly ethnic Chinese which in turn led to growing discontent among officials.

In 1782 Thonburi sent a huge army to subjugate nearby kingdoms such as Cambodia and Lao principalities again, but while they were away, a rebellion led by a powerful official broke out. The rebels eventually controlled the capital, forcing the king to step down. It is said that Taksin was allowed to be a monk. Later, the general, Phraya Chakri, the commander-in-chief of the army in Cambodia, who had wide popular support among officials, was offered the throne to King Taksin's commander in chief as he marched back from Cambodia and officially deposed king Taksin from monkhood. Taksin was secretly executed shortly after.

Rattanakosin establishment

After the execution, the commander in chief assumed the throne of Thonburi kingdom as King Ramathibodi or Rama I. King Rama I moved his royal seat across the Chao Phraya river to the village of Bang-Koh (meaning "place of the island") which he had built. The new capital was established in 1782, named Rattanakosin. Thon Buri remained an independent town and province, until it was merged into Bangkok in 1971. [6]

See also

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  1. จรรยา ประชิตโรมรัน. (2548). สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช. สำนักพิมพ์แห่งจุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย. หน้า 55
  2. David K. Wyatt. Thailand: A Short History. Yale University Press
  4. KING TAKSIN DAY Archived 28 April 2011 at Retrieved 28 December 2007
  5. W.A.R.Wood, pp. 251–252
  6. ประกาศของคณะปฏิวัติ ฉบับที่ ๒๔ (PDF). Royal Gazette (in Thai). 88 (144 ก): 816–819. 21 December 1971.
Royal house
Thonburi Dynasty
Founding year: 1767
Preceded by
Ayutthaya Kingdom
Ruling Dynasty of the
Kingdom of Thonburi

Succeeded by
Rattanakosin Kingdom