The Day a Portuguese Mercenary and Plunderer Was Put to Death

By Wei Yan Aung 28 March 2019

Four hundred and six years ago today, one of the most notorious Portuguese ever to set foot in what is now Myanmar was executed.

Filipe de Brito e Nicote, better known as Nga Zinga, became infamous for stealing valuables from the shrines of Buddhist temples, as well as making cannons out of melted-down bronze Buddha images and bells pilfered from religious sites. He built forts on Kyaik Khak Pagoda and even snatched other men’s wives.

He served as a mercenary under Min Razagyi, King of Arakan, and rose through the ranks to become governor of Thanlyin (Syriam) in 1599. He encouraged more Portuguese to settle in Syriam and later rose up against the Arakanese King.

In 1613, de Brito’s Syriam was besieged by the Burmese forces of King Anaukpetlun. After a two-month-long battle, Syriam was defeated and Nga Zinga captured. He was executed on March 28, aged about 50. Hundreds of Portuguese prisoners of war were taken back to Ava.