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Looking Back: Kedah state’s magical history

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Looking Back: Kedah state’s magical history | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa is an ancient book which chronicles the history of the Kedah state. Kedah is a Malaysian state bordering the south of Thailand. As recently as a century ago, the sultanate was in fact a tributary state of Siam. Sometimes referred to as The Kedah Annals, the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa was translated by Lt Col James Low and published in The Journal of the Indian Archipelago in 1849.

In the journal, Col Low remarked that Kedah was a tributary of the Siamese Kingdom. It was fertile in grain, there was plenty of cattle, and the hills were rich in tin ore and possibly gold. Sultan Ahmed Sajoodin Halim Shah had given Col Low a copy of The Kedah Annals before his death.

In the journal, Col Low told of the late sultan’s fate. Heeding bad advice from his council, the sultan had been persuaded to betray Kedah’s allegiance with Siam. This led to a brutal invasion of Kedah by Siamese forces in the year 1821. The sultan fled and sought asylum in Penang, which at that time was under British protection.

The story of Sultan Ahmed is an interesting prelude to Col Low’s translation of the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa. However, The Kedah Annals tell an even stranger, mystical story of Kedah’s origins.
The work begins with praises to the prophet Suliman, or Solomon, “to whom the dominion of the whole world and every living thing in it was entrusted by God”.

According to The Kedah Annals, there was a “king” of Rome who dispatched an ambassador named Merong Mahawangsa to China in order to negotiate a marriage between the king’s son and the Chinese emperor’s daughter. Merong Mahawangsa was said to have been a descendent from the demigods.

Mahawangsa was given a large fleet of ships by the king of Rome, in order to escort the Chinese princess back to his kingdom. But word reached the Garuda of this imminent alliance between the two kingdoms. The Garuda is a creature from Hindu mythology that is half bird, half man and possesses supernatural powers feared by all animals.

After the Ramayana wars, the Garuda was made to rule over the ruined island kingdom of Langka.

According to The Kedah Annals, the Garuda was displeased by the alliance of the two kingdoms. He flew to see King Suliman in order to ask the wise king to interdict the marriage between the Roman prince and the Chinese princess. But King Suliman, on hearing the Garuda’s pleas, replied that once a prince and princess are betrothed, it is not an easy matter to break off the alliance.

The Garuda was furious at King Suliman’s reply. He swore that he would stop the marriage alliance from ever happening. King Suliman was not able to convince the Garuda otherwise.

With its powerful wings, the Garuda lifted itself into the air and soared into the sky. It flew swiftly to the Chinese court, and into the inner garden sanctuary where the betrothed princess was picking flowers with her foster mother and a servant. The Garuda swooped in and, with its beak and talons, lifted all three of them into the sky and flew them to its kingdom, Langka. There, he took care of the princess, protected her and supplied her with every delicacy she desired.

In the meantime, the king of Rome had set sail with Merong Mahawangsa. Their fleet was bound for China. It is mentioned in the chronicles that the king of Rome touched at all ports which were under the empire of Rome. The embassies at each port received them with great respect.

Eventually the fleet travelled across the sea to India, where they reached the mouth of the Changong River. At this point, the Garuda, bent on destroying the expedition, raised a violent storm of wind, rain, thunder and lightning. The crew members of the fleet, fighting to keep their individual ships under control, could see the looming figure of the Garuda high above them.

The prince and ambassador Mahawangsa ordered his men to fire their guns and arrows at the direful bird, which could be seen approaching the fleet from the west. The arrows and ammunition had no effect – merely bouncing off the creature.

At this point, Mahawangsa strung his bow and let loose a magical arrow called Ayunan. When the Garuda saw what Mahawangsa was doing, it fled. The danger had passed for now, but Mahawangsa had lost three ships in his fleet.

The rest of the fleet cast anchor and waited to see if the Garuda would return, but they set sail the next day when it failed to return. After a few more days, the expedition reached Tavoy. Here, the Garuda again reappeared to try and destroy the fleet. It conjured a tempest of lightning and thunder. Again Mahawangsa used his magical arrow to chase the Garuda away, but not before the bird managed to destroy three more ships.

With no sign of the Garuda the next day, the remaining boats set sail again and eventually reached the city of Mrit. But at Mrit, the Garuda appeared again, attacking the fleet in a violent rage, destroying three more ships and killing every crewman on board.

Enraged at the loss of his men, Mahawangsa strung a third magical arrow and let it loose at the Garuda.

This time the arrow took on the form of a magical bird called Jintayu and it gave chase to the Garuda.
But after a while the creature turned on Jintaya, breathed fire on the magical bird and destroyed it.

However, the Garuda was shaken by Mahawangsa’s magical powers, and according to The Kedah Annals, for the next few days it left the shrunken fleet alone as it sailed away from Mrit.

To be continued.

— Anand Singh

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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

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg

May Taylor

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Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | The Thaiger

Thai Residents reports that on Sunday, Bloomberg published an article on the world’s best pension systems, using information gathered from the 2019 Melbourne Mercer Global Pensions Index.

The survey looked at the pension systems of 37 countries with metrics including employee rights, savings, the number of homeowners, growth of assets, and growth of the economy. The purpose of the analysis was to determine what was needed to improve state pension systems and to gauge the level of confidence citizens had in their state pension system.

The Netherlands and Denmark were found to have the world’s best state pensions, with Australia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile next. Out of all 37 countries, Thailand finished last, with what the report described as an extremely ineffective and ambiguous system.

“Thailand was in the bottom slot and should introduce a minimum level of mandatory retirement savings and increase support for the poorest.”

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | News by The Thaiger

Photo: WorkpointNews

Thai Residents states that only those employed within the government system in Thailand are eligible for a pension based on salary. For most Thai citizens, pension amounts vary from 600 baht to 1,000 baht a month, depending on the recipient’s age.

A report carried out by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) advises Thai citizens to have at least 4 million baht saved by the time they retire, but Thai Residents reports that 60% of Thai retirees have less than 1 million baht in savings, with one in three citizens who have reached retirement age are forced to continue working in order to survive.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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