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1781-1939 Lan Na - Tributary to Siam

1. Phaya Kawila B.E. 2324-2358 (A.D. 1781-1815)
2. Phaya Dhammalangka B.E. 2359-2364 (A.D. 1816-1821)
3. Phaya Khamfan B.E. 2364-2367 (A.D. 1821-1824)
4. Phaya Buddhawong B.E. 2367-2389 (A.D. 1824-1846)
5. Phra Chao Mahotrapradesh B.E. 2390-2396 (A.D. 1847-1852)
6. Phra Chao Kawilorot Suriyawong B.E. 2396-2413 (A.D. 1852-1870)
7. Phra Chao Inthawijayanon B.E. 2413-2440 (A.D. 1870-1897)
8. Phra Chao Inthawarorot Suriyawong B.E. 2440-2452 (A.D. 1897-1909)
9. Chao Kaeo Nawarath B.E. 2452-2482 (A.D. 1909-1939)

In 1774 the northern Thais seized Chiangmai back with the help of a large army sent by King Taksin of Thonburi. However, it was not until 1804 that the Chiangmai troops and the Bangkok troops finally chased the Burmese out of northern Thailand. After 1774 Chiangmai and other chiefdoms such as Lamphun, Lampang, Nan, and Prae became tributary states under the Siamese kingdom. These chiefdoms were obliged to send tribute, laborers, and whatever else was demanded by the Siamese, and army troops to assist Bangkok in times of war. War captives were occasionally sent to Bangkok as gifts from the northern state chiefs to please the Siamese kings.

In 1774, King Taksin of Siam seized control over Chiang Mai and appointed appointed Kawila as the city’s viceroy, Under his leadership the city went from strength to strength, with the reconstruction of the monumental brick walls that are still standing to this day, and the establishment of a river port at the end of what is today Thapae Road. During this period Chiang Mai Mai entered the prosperous trade relations with Burma and China.

Lampang was a major city in the Lanna kingdom. However, its historical prominence is largely overshadowed by Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai which were the traditional seats of government, and whose histories were well recorded in chronicles. Following decades of warfare with both the Ava burmese and Ayuddhya during the 17th-18th century, the region was in decline, severely depopulated, and subject to Burmese control. In the late 18th century, a famed marksman Nan Thipchang and a Lampang native, assassinated the local Burmese leader in the Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, and led an uprising which led to a roll back of Burmese rule over Lanna. Allied with Bangkok, the descendents of Nan Thip Chang, known as Chao Ched Ton (The Seven Princes), became the vassal rulers of the various Lanna cities until the annexation of Lanna into Siam (Thailand) proper under King Chulalongkorn (Rama V).

The Burmese, having previously taken Chiengmai, which the Burmese had corrupted into Zimme [by which name it is known to many Europeans], entered Tenasserim and took Mergui and Tavoy in 1764, and then advancing simultaneously from the north and the west captured and destroyed Ayuthia after a two years' siege in 1767. But by 1774 Siam made Zimme tributary. Vigorous attacks were later made on the Lao states to the northwest and northeast, followed by vast deportation of the people, and Siamese supremacy was pretty firmly established in Chieng-mai and its dependencies by tne end of the eighteenth century, and over the great eastern capitals, Luang Prabang and Vien-Chang, about 1828.

Internal migration to existing communities or to new settlements, and repopulation of deserted settlements were signs of not only increasing population but also the expansion of the land under cultivation. The Chiangmai kings encouraged and/or ordered such migration and repopulation in order to expand political control, increase state revenue (e.g., taxation), and stimulate the economy (e.g., production and trade). For remote areas, the king's policy of expanding the frontier was also a result of fear of an expansion of British influence.

By 1850 Burmah and Siam were generally but little known in the West, though the two nations were virtually at war with each other. There were certain border provinces on the north, Chiang Mai was one of them, the title to which was matter of dispute between them, being claimed by the Siamese, though subject to the Burmese. In most of their contests in late years, the former had been the victors. During the latter part of the last century, the Siamese were in the habit of invading Burmah. The Anglo Siamese treaty of 1874 recognized the control of Siam over the Shan States of Chiengmai, Lakon, and Lampoonchi (Zimme, Lakon, and Lapoon). In 1902 a rising of discontented Shans took place in Bayap which at one time seemed serious, several towns being attacked and Chieng Mai itself threatened. The disturbance was quelled and the malcontents eventually hunted out, but not without losses which included the commissioner of Pre and a European officer of gendarmerie.

Chieng Mai was the capital of the Lao state of the same name and the residence of a Siamese high commissioner appointed from Bangkok of the provincial division of Siam called Bayap. This official had jurisdiction over the neighboring less important states of Lampun, Lakawn-Lampang, Pre, and Nan, each of which, like Chieng Mai itself, retained its hereditary chief, or chao muan; and other hereditary officers. The Siamese high commissioner of Bayap division had his headquarters in Chieng Mai, and though the hereditary chief continued as the nominal ruler, as was also the case in the other Lao states of Nan, Pre, Lampun, Napawn Lampang and Tern, which made up the division, the government is entirely in the hands of that official and his staff.

The dependence of the king and chief city and much of the country was nominal rather than real. The regal office, as it may well be termed, if viewed in reference to their own country, or the gubernatorial, if as a province of Siam, as continued strictly hereditary, descending from father to son or the nearest heir to the throne. Courtesy and custom, which in the East has all the force of law, requires each newly appointed one to receive the sanction of the king of Siam, and make his obeisance to him, just as the feudal lords during the middle ages, residing in the outskirts of a great kingdom, had to receive the sanction of the liege lord. But, as often there, so here, they enjoy their own code of laws, which have never been interfered with by the Siamese authority.

Their king was as absolute in his own dominions as the king of Siam. In fact he would assume prerogatives and exercise authority which the latter himself would hardly do. He is literally what the Siamese and Laos each mean by one of their titles which they apply to their kings—chow chewit, or lord of life. The latter not only has the supreme authority of life and death in his own hands, but he exercises it yearly, and from his decision there is no appeal.

Yet he had to pay a yearly visit either in person or through one of his highest noblemen to the court of Siam, partly in order to show his fidelity and pay his respects and make presents to the king. The amount and value of these latter were optional rather than fixed by law, in the form of a regular tribute. It was usually paid in teak trees, in which the country abounded, and which, together with elephants' tusks and some gums, &c, constituted the principal articles of export from the country.

So that while the country had ever maintained an independence of its own, it had still sufficient dependence on Siam to make the laws of the one, if not authoritative, at least respected in the other. And they would probably do nothing to offend the Siamese government or Dreak a connection which, while it is honorable to themselves, had ever afforded them protection against their Burmese and other neighbors, and no passport could be taken to the country which would be more respected or afford more protection than the seal of the white elephant.

In the 19th Century the written character of the Thai and Lao languages was entirely distinct; but they had probably one parent stock, and it was even claimed that the Laos is the parent language, and the Siamese an off-shoot from it, and in some respects a refinement on it. This original similarity, too, has been remarkably preserved by the proximity of the two countries and their constant intercourse in trade, and dependence one on the other, so that they may rather be regarded as different dialects of the same language than as two distinct languages. Where they do differ, it was often a slight variation in tone peculiar to each, while any one acquainted with one of them can see the great similarity, amounting often to identity, with the other. So remarkable is this, that even a book transferred from the Siamese to the Laos character without a single alteration, would be generally intelligible.

With regard to the difficulty about spelling names, every person who made a map spelt the name differently. A European in Siam would spell a name as the Siamese pronounced it, another in Laos would spell it as it was pronounced there, and someone in Burma would write the name in a different way, there being slight differences of pronunciation in each case. The particular instance of Chieng-mai being called Zimme arose arose from the Burmese being incapable of pronouncing the word Chiengmai, and in a map made by Indian surveyors Chieng-mai was put in one place, and Zimane a few miles off.

As recently as the late 19th Century Chieng Mai was considered to be the capital of the Laos country. After the last Burmese war the Shan States, to the west of British Burma, came under the protection of the Indian Government. The ancient kingdom of Siam, with its northern tributary states of Chieng Mai, Nan, and Luang Prabang, lay to the south. To the east, a narrow strip of Laos or Luang Prabang territory intervened before the French possession of Tonquin is reached. Yunnan, an important province of China, bordered on the north.

In the Lao or Shan country to the north Chieng-mai (Zimme) was the most important tributary state. Its capital, Chieng-mai was the principal town of that region, with broad streets of good teak-built houses, surrounded with gardens, numerous pagodas, markets, and a large population. It lay in the wide fertile valley of the Me-ping, and is a great entrepot of trade from Bangkok and southwest China (Yun-nan and Ssmao), which finds its natural outlet thence to the Bay of Bengal. The rice, timber, etc., of the districts through which this route passes are considerable. Lapong, in the same valley, and Lagong, on a neighboring tributary, are Lao towns of less importance and subordinate to Chieng-mai, as were formerly Kan and Pre, fertile teak-producing valleys to the east. Kiang-hai and Kiang-sen, farther north, on the Me-kong, were old Lao capitals of note, as was Luang Prabang, with its charming capital, which, like Chieng-mai, still retained some administrative independence. The extensive fertile and partly wooded plains to the north and east support great herds of cattle. With Vien-chang, a little lower down the river, Luang Prabang held its own for centuries against both Siam and Burmah.

The transformation of Chiangmai from a tributary state to a province of Thailand occurred between the 1870s and the 1930s. This change rendered benefits to elite groups (northern aristocrats, central Thai officials, and Chinese tax farmers) while villagers suffered. The central Thai government at that time was willing to intervene as it had witnessed Britain's takeover of Lower Burma and it felt there was a serious British threat of annexation of northern Thailand. The 1874 Anglo-Siamese treaty aimed at ensuring protection for British subjects and British commercial interests in northern Thailand; and for the first time, the stationing of a Siamese commissioner at Chiangmai as an attempt to forestall British intervention.

By the later part of the 19th Century aome aristocrats began taking control of land, which they no longer considered as a nominal possession but as their private property which could be inherited. The northern aristocrats of the early 20th Century were a selfish self-seeking class, and did not have the interest of their people at heart. The parasitical preying of the aristocrats upon the peasants was the cause of a state of stagnation. This rich, tropical country, and a people fairly industrious, and pastoral in their instincts and habits, yet the land was undeveloped, and the people were in a state of lethargy. Money that villagers had saved from their petty trading, and additional buffaloes that the villagers raised for sale or to plough more land were seized by local aristocrats. This was one of the major reasons why many villagers did not pursue trade ventures and land expansion, and were discouraged from accumulating and displaying their wealth.

Some commoners had close relationships with the aristocrats and could obtain protection, rice or cash loans, medicines and other help from the aristocrats. In other words, some of them entered a patron-client relationship with the aristocrats. The aristocrats were asked and persuaded, through social pressure, prestige systems, and flattery, to provide large cash and rice contributions for social and religious events.

By 1900 the population of the town consisted chiefly of Lao, with a number of Chinese, Siamese, Shans, and Ka hillmen, and about fifty Europeans, and numbered from 12,000 to 15,000. The place was growing fast, and a considerable population, probably over 100,000 in number, inhabited the plain in the neighborhood of the capital. Situated midway between Moulmein and Yunnan and between the valley of the Menam and the northern Shan states, it had long been of commercial importance; while as the center of the principal teak forests of Siam it had since 1880 attracted a considerable number of British, Shan, and Burmese foresters. By the treaty of 03 September 1883 between Siam and Great Britain a British consul resided at Chieng Mai, and an International Court had been constituted, with civil and criminal jurisdiction in all cases in which British subjects were parties. Surveys hade been made for railways from both Bangkok (500 miles) and Moulmein (230 miles). The total value of the annual import and export trade with Burma, China, and Bangkok of the consular district of Chieng Mai, was approximately £1,000,000 sterling, excluding teak.

The town, enclosed by massive but decaying walls, was in a plain 800 ft. above sea-level, surrounded by high, wooded mountains. It had streets intersecting at right angles, and an enceinte within which is the palace of the Chao, or hereditary chief. The east and west banks of the river were connected by a fine teak bridge. Chieng Mai had long been an important trade center, resorted to by Chinese merchants from the north and east, and by Burmese, Shans and Siamese from the west and south. It was, moreover, the center of the teak trade of Siam, in which many Burmese and several Chinese and European firms were engaged. The total value of the import and export trade of the Bayap division amounts to about £2,500,000 a year.

Vegetables, such as Karen-potatoes, onions, and chillies, were abundant, as well as cocoa-nuts, plantains, mangoes, and other fruit in considerable variety. A great number of frogs are seen tied up on strings in the food bazaar, and are esteemed a great delicacy by the Shans. Most cases of snake-bite which occur here happened during the torchlight hunts after the frogs. The snakes naturally object to men poaching upon their preserves, frogs forming the chief article of their food. Very little gingelly, castor, or cocoa-nut oil is found in the town. Pork being a monopoly, a tax of about three shillings is levied from the Chinese butchers on each animal before it is allowed to be slaughtered. Pig's fat, when properly reduced, is the cosmetic generally in use at Zimme, and, being unscented, gives anything but an agreeable aroma to the hair of the people.

The Prince of Chiangmai was reduced to little more than a figurehead, especially after Chiangmai's financial and judicial administration was taken over in 1909 and 1915. Consequently, the Prince and aristocrats not only lost their judicial authority and influence, but also another part of their incomes extracted from legal fines and court fees. By the 1920s the government's imposition of authority and control on the aristocrats, replacing the compromising and bargaining of old, made the centralized bureaucracy independent of their influence. During the 1930s, the traditional legal authority of the aristocrats was totally undermined by the 1932 coup d'etat, establishing a constitutional regime.

Once the royal residence of the last prince of Northern Thailand, Chao Kaew Nawarat, the U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai is a one of a quickly diminishing number of historic properties serving as diplomatic posts for the United States government overseas. In an era of non-descript office blocks, the Consulate evokes an earlier time of pergolas draped in riotous explosions of bougainvillea, the subtle scent of frangipani, and the gentle breeze of a slowly turning ceiling fan.

Major General Chao Kaew Nawarat, was the ninth and last Prince of the Northern Thai Lanna Chuen Jet Ton dynasty. Prince Kaew Nawarat was not able to enjoy his new home for long as he died in June 1939. His body lay in state in the sala from June to July 1939, in the same place that today’s applicants for visas and citizen services wait. The death of Prince Kaew Nawarat closed a chapter on the history of the royal residence. The government of Siam no longer recognized the semi-autonomous principality of northern Thailand, once part of the great kingdom of Lanna that had been founded in 1296 by King Mengrai. The central government established direct control from Bangkok and the Chedi Ngam property was sold to the Office of the Royal Crown Properties. In September 1, 1950, a new chapter of the history began with the signing by U.S. Ambassador Edwin F. Stanton and Thai Deputy Minister of Finance Sawet Piamphongsarn of a lease for Chedi Ngarm Palace and grounds. The Consulate still maintains its lease with the Office of Royal Crown Properties.

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Page last modified: 08-04-2012 18:43:09 ZULU