Excavation Work at Thai King’s Tomb in Mandalay Hits Snag

By Yan Pai 14 March 2014

The Mandalay Division Development Committee (MDDC) has directed a team to halt its operations at the ongoing excavation site of a Siamese king’s tomb near the city of Mandalay, according to people involved in the project.

Mickey Heart, a Thai historian who is leading the excavation team, told The Irrawaddy that he and his colleagues received a notice from the MDDC on Monday, asking that structures around the excavation site of the entombed monarch, King Uthumphon, be dismantled.

“The letter only asked for the abolishment of buildings, but the general administrator of Amarapura Township told us to stop our works as well, so it seems that we can’t continue this project,” he said.

The site, on Linzin Hill, is situated on the edge of the famous Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay’s Amarapura Township.

With permission from the Mandalay regional government, a team comprised of freelance Thai and Burmese history and archaeology enthusiasts, including Heart, began excavation work on the former Thai king’s tomb in February 2013.

On Feb. 27 of this year, a delegation from the Thai Ministry of Culture traveled to the worksite at Linzin Hill to inspect the excavation efforts.

Following the visit, the Thai Ministry of Culture held a press conference in Bangkok, where officials told reporters that the ministry could not support the ongoing research works of the excavation team, saying its approval was pending a crosscheck of the site’s historical records with its Burmese counterpart.

The MDDC’s directive appears to be connected to the Thai ministry’s statement.

“They [the excavation team] either did not submit specific evidence or consult with responsible bodies, so we took such action to take over the project,” an official from the MDDC, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Irrawaddy.

He said the Mandalay regional government and the Department of Archaeology, which is under Burma’s Ministry of Culture, would jointly take over the excavation work for the time being.

Heart, however, told The Irrawaddy that his team would try to find a way to maintain its role in the project.

King Uthumphon, who is better known as King Dok Madua or “fig flower” in Siamese history, was the youngest son of King Borommakot (1733-1758) and a minor queen called Phiphit Montri.

According to Burmese historical records, King Hsinbyushin (1736-1776), the third king of Burma’s Konbaung Dynasty, invaded the ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya in 1767 and brought as many subjects as he could back to his capital Ava, including Uthumphon.