Joint Thai-Burmese Study Slated for Siamese King’s Mandalay Tomb

By Yan Pai 26 March 2014

The Burmese and Thai cultural ministries are likely to jointly carry out a formal study of Siamese King Uthumphon’s tomb, located near the city of Mandalay in upper Burma, according to a source involved in excavation work at the site.

Excavation of the former Thai king’s final resting place began in February 2013 at Linzin Hill, a site situated on the edge of the famous Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay Division’s Amarapura Township.

But in late February of this year, a delegation from the Thai Ministry of Culture (TMC) traveled to the worksite to inspect the excavation efforts. Following the visit, the ministry held a press conference in Bangkok, where officials indicated they could not support the ongoing research of the excavation team, saying the TMC’s blessing was contingent on a crosscheck of the site’s historical records with its Burmese counterpart.

The TMC decided on Monday that it would take part in a study of King Uthumphon’s tomb.

“The TMC said they will also cooperate with us in their endeavor,” Mickey Heart, a Thai historian who is leading the current “Fig Flower” excavation team, told The Irrawaddy. “It said it did not mean to imply that evidence we had found was not authentic, but had just been misunderstood.”

In July 2012, The Irrawaddy reported that the historic tomb of Uthumphon was set to be destroyed to make way for an urban development project. Consequently, a handful of Thai archaeology enthusiasts, with the help of their country’s foreign ministry, initiated contact with the Burmese Ministry of Culture in order to determine whether the grave really belonged to their former king, and to preserve it if it was found to be legitimate.

The “Fig Flower” team was formed thereafter, cofounded by freelance Thai and Burmese history and archaeology enthusiasts. It was named after the late King Uthumphon, who was better known as King Dok Madua, or “Fig Flower,” in Siamese history.

Mickey Heart said his team is being backed financially by the Thai royal treasury and has been provided with an initial budget of 40 million baht (US$1.3 million).

“Historical evidence relating to King Uthumphon, especially after he was taken to Burma, is very rare in Thailand but exists in Burma, so Thai historians’ studies must be based on what their Burmese counterparts have already found,” he added.

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.

About two weeks ago, the Mandalay Division Development Committee (MDDC) directed the “Fig Flower” team to halt its operations at the excavation site, saying that it had not submitted specific evidence nor consulted with responsible bodies.

At the time, Mickey Heart stressed that his team would try to find a way to maintain its role in the excavation and research project.

The Bangkok Post, an English-language daily newspaper in Thailand, reported on Tuesday that the TMC planned to conduct a search for traces of ancient Thai cultural heritage dating back to the country’s Ayutthaya Kingdom in Burma’s Mandalay and Sagaing divisions.

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