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Born from the ashes of war – Phuket History

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Born from the ashes of war – Phuket History | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The Nine Armies’ War started in 1785 when the Burmese, taking advantage of internal strife and the overthrowing of King Taksin in Siam, invaded the country with forces numbering approximately 150,000 soldiers, divided into nine army groups.

One of those armies marched straight for Thalang, then the largest town in Phuket, and laid siege to it. During that time, the governor of Thalang and the only person who can organize the town’s defenses, passed away in the most untimely manner.

With the town in danger of being sacked, the governor’s wife, Lady Chan, along with her sister, Khun Mook, rallied the town’s fighting men and organized the defense of Thalang.

After five weeks of siege, Burmese supplies were dwindling fast. Lady Chan’s deception in making the Burmese think that her fort had a lot more men than it actually did, made the Burmese reluctant to launch a full scale attack. They retreated soon after, leaving Thalang’s townspeople victorious against all odds.

Lady Chan and her sister, Khun Mook became local heroines and the pair is still deeply revered in Phuket today.

In the aftermath of the invasion, the Burmese withdrew from the different regions of Siam. The defense of Thalang was one of the many heroic stories that emerged from this period in history. King Rama I bestowed upon many of these war heroes noble titles to show his appreciation for their bravery in defending the country.

After the war, towards the end of 1785, King Rama I appointed Phraya Surintharaja as his viceroy to the Siamese towns on the west coast. He also appointed Thongpun Na Thalang as the new governor of Thalang, giving him the title of Phraya Narong Ruengrit. Lady Chan was bestowed the title of Thao Thepkasattri, the highest noble rank a non-royal woman can achieve. Her sister Khun Mook was bestowed a similar title and became known as Thao Srisoonthorn.

The promotion of Thongpun as governor of Thalang did not sit well with Lady Chan and her close friend, Phraya Thukkraj. Thongpun and Phraya Thukkraj had always been at odds with each other over the governorship of the town. Lady Chan had always supported Phraya Thukkraj, but since the appointment was the will of the King, neither Lady Chan nor Phraya Thukkraj could oppose the decision.

According to the Thalang Letters, after the appointment of Thongpun as governor, Lady Chan and Phraya Thukkraj led a group of townspeople who were loyal to them out of Thalang town and migrated south of the island to Baan Sapam near today’s Phuket Town, away from Thongpun’s authority. There the migrants proceeded to set up a tin mine around the new settlement under Phraya Thukkraj and Lady Chan’s leadership.

In the year 1787, Lady Chan heard that Francis Light, an English captain who was an old friend of hers had successfully acquired Penang as a trading post for the British East India Company.

Captain Francis Light had lived and traded in Phuket for several years. His house was located in Baan Tha Rua, south of Thalang Town. Light left Phuket before the Burmese invasion. He was one of the first to spot the approaching Burmese army and warned Lady Chan of the imminent threat to the island.

After the war was over, Light offered to start up trade with Phuket again.

Knowing that Captain Light wanted to start trading with Phuket again, Lady Chan asked the captain not to trade or provide any European goods to Thalang in exchange for tin. The war had left Thalang’s coffers empty and trade was needed badly, but Lady Chan had her plans to oust Thongpun from Thalang’s governorship.

Instead she asked Captain Light to trade directly with her new settlement at Baan Sapam. The post-war crisis that the governor of Thalang was facing was soon exacerbated when the British, under Captain Light refused to trade with them, instead directing all European cargo to Baan Sapam.

Thongpun found it increasingly more difficult to send the required tin tributes to the royal treasuries in Bangkok as was mandated by the King. In contrast Lady Chan and Phraya Thukkraj had plenty of tin reserves to trade for foreign goods and they occasionally sent rich tributes to the King’s treasuries.

Thongpun’s only solution to raise money was to dig through some old unsettled accounts. He demanded Lady Chan pay for the debt her husband, the previous governor had owed to the crown. Despite her heroic feats and sacrifice in defending Thalang, the King’s treasuries had always reminded Lady Chan of her obligations to pay off her husband’s debt to the crown.

This time Lady Chan obliged by asking Captain Light to prepare for her a cargo of rare and expensive European goods that she personally took with her to Bangkok to present to King Rama I.

In 1791 Lady Chan also presented her daughter, Thong as consort to King Rama I. Thong was accepted into the palace, as one of King Rama I’s wives. She was bestowed the title of Chao Chom Manda Thong when she bore a daughter (Princess Ubol) for the King.

Lady Chan was not only a local heroine who helped defend Phuket through one of its darkest times, through her feud with the governor of Thalang, she also helped establish a rival settlement that would one day grow to become Phuket Town as we know it today.

Anand Singh is an avid Phuket Historian and can be contacted here.

— Aand Singhn

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Business

500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thai Life

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers

The Thaiger

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Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Daily News

The answers are in the banana leaves.

Thai people LOVE playing the lottery (and gambling generally). In fact they’re BANANAS about the twice-monthly lottery (it was drawn again today). Daily News has reported about two unusual banana trees growing in front of a shop in Klong 4 Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. The trees did not have blossom and on one plant two bananas were pointing skywards. On another there was a whole bunch pointing up into the sky.

There was a steady stream of the faithful lighting incense, praying and rubbing powder on the trees to get lottery numbers. One group thought ‘542’ was the magic numbers and a path to riches (we’re not sure how they came to this conclusion). 53 year old Surachai says the trees had been growing for a few months and that he’d never seen anything like it before.

An unnamed agricultural expert suggested that there was probably something wrong with the banana plants. Trees and malformed animals are a favourite source of inspiration to select numbers for the lottery, as are numbers of houses and vehicles involved in events where people experience “miracle” escapes from danger, or even bizarre accidents.

SOURCE: Daily News

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger

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Entertainment

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival

The Thaiger

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The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | The Thaiger

On the streets, in parks and garages, seven Cuban youngsters spent seven months practising K-pop moves to secure a spot on their dream stage: an appearance in South Korea to imitate their idols. 13 final teams from 80 countries are competing in the 2019 event.

At the grandly titled and government-funded Changwon K-pop World Festival contestants from around the globe perform imitation dances or sing cover versions of the genre’s biggest hits, with thousands of fans cheering them on.

In terms of global heft, South Korea is overshadowed by its much larger neighbours China and Japan, but the event is a way for Seoul to derive soft power from one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. In terms of pop-power, South Korea’s K-Pop is now a recognised world-wide music phenomenon with bands like BTS and Blackpink figuring amongst the other big-hitters on the Billboard charts and outselling their western counterparts with millions of albums and downloads.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Finalists for this year

Cuba’s Communist government is one of North Korea’s few remaining allies: when President Miguel Diaz-Canel, successor to the Castro brothers Fidel and Raul, visited Pyongyang last November he was only the third foreign head of state to do so since leader Kim Jong Un inherited power in 2011.

But rather than geopolitics, Havana performer Karel Rodriguez Diaz – whose mannerisms and sleek hairstyle could easily be mistaken for those of a K-pop star – is more motivated by high-tempo beats and superslick dance moves.

“We never had a place with a mirror or a choreographer who could teach us the steps” but they kept on practising, he said.

His team-mate Elio Gonzalez added: “We are so excited to represent not just Cuba but also the whole of Latin America.”

Some 6,400 teams from more than 80 countries entered the competition, according to organisers, with 13 groups from places as diverse as Kuwait and Madagascar winning through to the final in Changwon, where they appeared on stage waving their national flags.

“This is like watching the Olympics, a K-pop Olympics,” said the event’s host Lia, a member of K-pop group ITZY.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

The Korean Wave

K-pop – along with K-drama soap operas – has been one of South Korea’s most successful cultural exports to date. A key part of the “Korean Wave” which has swept Asia and beyond in the last 20 years, the K-pop industry is now estimated to be worth $5 billion, with boyband BTS its latest high-profile exponent, becoming the world’s most successful band in the past 12 months, selling out stadium concerts within minutes, around the world.

The South Korean government has financed a variety of K-pop themed events in what CedarBough Saeji, a visiting professor at Indiana University Bloomington in the US, said was a form of long-term “soft power diplomacy”.

“When you are covering you get to ‘become’ those idols for the three and a half minutes of the song,” she said, adding that performers will go so far as matching their clothing, accessories and hairstyle to their heroes and heroines.

“The cover dancers of today will be diplomats, news reporters, and business leaders in forty years,” she went on.

“And hopefully they’ll still have a soft spot in their heart for Korea. Korea can’t win the world through hard power – armies, economic bullying – but with soft power even a small country like Korea has a chance.”

The music also provides an artistic alternative for overseas fans, especially those in developing countries, Saeji added.

“The West, especially the United States, has been so dominant culturally for so long, and having a different cultural pole to look to provides hope that one’s own country can experience similar success in the future.”

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Be who you want

Beneath its glitz and glamour, the K-pop industry is also known for its cutthroat competition, a lack of privacy, online bullying and relentless public pressure to maintain a wholesome image at all times and at any cost.

Sulli, a popular K-pop star and former child actress who had long been the target of abusive online comments was found dead on Monday, with her death sending shockwaves through fans around the world.

“I think a day where (people) would be ashamed of the K-show business will surely come,” a South Korean online user wrote in the wake of the star’s death.

“I think an industry that makes money by (making people) sing, dance, undergo plastic surgeries and go on a diet to please the gaze of others since they are teenagers should really go bankcrupt.”

But for Kenny Pham, a finalist from the US at last week’s contest, K-pop’s diversity – with some tunes having dark themes, while others were “cute” or sensual – is what gives him a sense of liberation.

“I like how expressive you could be,” the 19 year old told AFP last week.

“I feel like it’s a place where you could show the passion you have for music, dance or fashion. No one is bashing you for what your likes are.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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