Thai Cultural Village to Be Built in Burma

By Yan Pai 3 May 2013

A Thai cultural village is set to be built near the Burmese city of Mandalay, reflecting the ancient Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya in a joint project Burma and neighboring Thailand.

Thailand’s Siam Society is reportedly seeking permission from local authorities in Mandalay to build the village at the edge of Taungthaman Lake in Amarapura Township, in a bid to preserve the culture of Thai people living in Mandalay in the 18th century.

The Siam Society, under the Thai royal patronage, was founded in 1904 in cooperation with Thai and foreign scholars to promote knowledge of Thailand and its surrounding region.

The push to build the cultural village follows the discovery last month that the former Siamese King Uthumphon—better known in Thai history as King Dok Madua, or “fig flower”—and other royal family members were buried at a prominent graveyard near the lake.

“A lot of Thai people arrived in Burma as prisoners of war and asylum seekers,” said Mickey Heart, a historian and deputy chief the excavation team that uncovered Uthumphon’s tomb.

He added that a large number of Thai people from Thailand’s Tak Province later migrated to Burma because of internal disputes in Ayutthaya Kingdom and were allowed to settle in Mandalay’s Yahai Quarter.

According to Burmese history records, King Hsinbyushin, 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, including Uthumphon, back to his own capital, Ava.

Residential areas and markets were named after Thai people settling around Mandalay and Ava at the time, and even today, the region boasts elements of Thai culture in certain religious practices, cuisines, and arts and crafts.

“A hybrid culture, the combination of Burmese and Thai, emerged following the death of those who were brought from Ayutthaya,” said Heart. “The smell of that culture can be felt around Mandalay these days.”

Meanwhile, since the excavation of the former Siamese king’s tomb, Thai media has recommended the burial place as a tourist attraction for Thai travelers.

Although Thai historians initially disagreed over whether to excavate the tomb, the project was initiated by the Siam Society following a report by The Irrawaddy in July last year that the burial place would be destroyed by local authorities in Mandalay to make way for a new urban development project.