Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Strong Siam

A feeling of relative peace and security prevailed in the years between 1787 and 1793. The building of Bangkok continued and fortifcations steadily improved. This was the time of the curious incident mentioned in the Dynastic Chronicles arising from the visit of a French ship to the capital city. The captain's younger borther was apparently a pugilist of some renown, and he sent a challenge to the Siamese by way of the krom Phrakhlang. The Uparat took it upon himself to find a first-rate boxer. Prize moeny was set at fifty change, or four thousand baht. The Siamese champion was prepared according to tradition and, in order to increase the man's chances, magical herbs were added to the oil with which he was rubbed.

In the fight, theFrenchman apparently tried to close in on the Siamese boxer, but the latter, in accordance with Siamese rules, kept out of his reach, occassionally darting forward to delive a blow and jumping back whenever the Frenchman moved forwards. The Europeans were not familiar with this light-footed technique, and impatiently the captain leapt into the ring and seized the Siamese in order to force him to 'give battle.' The Uparat, outraged by this breach of the rules jumped into the ring and with a well place kick brought the captain down. General pandemonium broke out; the two brothers were beaten up and had to be carried back to their ship.

Probably realizing that the French brothers had been rather severely punished for their provocation, the king sent some medical practioners to their ship to offer treatment. Once the brothers had sufficiently recovered, they left Bangkok.

Excerpted from "Thailand's Political History" by B.J. Terwiel pages 76-77

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