Project: Nokor Caktomukh
Author: Lem Chuck Moth
Started date: June/01/2003
Last updated: July/31/2015
All right reserved.
Since this paper is still drafted, the readers would bevised to ignore any context errors. The content is not final and subjected to be reviewed.
After the break down of its Cakravatin establishment, the Khmer Empire lost its supremacy. For the rest of its existence, attempts were made to restore back the Angkorean past glory but failed. Faced with hostile environment, their chance for recovery faded away. The introduction of Muslim in the Malay Archipelago and Indonesian islands split the southern China Sea from the mainland. It restricted Buddhism that was once the unifying factor of Southeast Asia into a smaller territory of the mainland. Economically, the influx of Chinese immigrants destabilized the regional economy as they took control over of the International sea trade. Facing with more aggressive cinicized elements, the Khmers along with the Mon nationals found themselves fighting for a losing battle. In their struggle for survival, both countries were taken over by neighboring states to lose most of their territory and almost of their existence. In between two of its most aggressive neighbors, the Khmer nation in particular was completely isolated from its ancient ally and was particularly vulnerable. In a series of relentless campaign, Ajudhya drove the Khmer court out of Angkor deep into the southern region. On the other side, Annam was going to wrest the eastern seashore that was in the past served as the Angkorean seaports in the trade with China. After succumbing Champa, Annam continued their southern campaign into Prey Nokor. Nicknamed as Nam-tien, Annam's campaign to the South stripped Cambodia of its important seaport of Prey-nokor and isolated the Khmer court from the mainstream of international sea trade. During the rest of its existence, the Khmer court was being jogged by the two neighbors. Through political unrest, the Khmer capital had been moved many times into many locations to avoid the sack. The site known as the Caktomukha River was to become the first refuge of the Khmer court after leaving Angkor. It is the location where the Mekong River and the Great Lake meet and split into two southern branches that gave the region its name as "the four branches River" known as Phnom Pehn of today.
The Historical Records of Medieval Cambodia
The new phase of the Khmer history marked the end of the Sanskrit era. New inscriptions, mostly inscribed on the site of Angkor Wat, were of Pali language. They gave information about a new dynasty starting from a king bearing the posthumous name Mahanippean or Nippeanbat. It is important to note that Pali was the language of the Hinayana Buddhism, practiced faithfully at the Mon courts of both Hamsavati and Haripangjaya. Its emergence in the Angkorean court was not a coincidence, We shall argue that King Nippeanbat was a descendant of the legendary Cucumber king of Pagan and came to Angkor from the Mon country of Lampang. Chased out from Haripangjaya by the Lao King Mangrai, they found in the vacant Angkorean throne, not a ticket to the wealthy past, but the last refuge from the attack of Xiang-Mai. It was however just a short relief since after Sokhodaya fell into the control of Ayudhya, Angkor became again the next target of the Siam's attack. During this late stage, it is clear that major developments at the Angkorean site stopped. Except for some maintenance works, Angkor fell into obscurity. Less and less inscriptions were erected and were no longer providing sound historical facts. On the other hand, chronicles compiled by Buddhist monks kept better records during the next phase of Cambodian history. Written mostly on palm leaves, they were subjected to destruction through wars and bad weathers. Fortunately, some survived under the care of Buddhist monks (Notes: The source of historical records). They were collected and reorganized into modern Cambodian history's books. Among volumes that were already published, the "Chronicle of Khmer heroes" is by far the most complete and elaborate to be considered as the sole source of post-Angkorean history of Cambodia.
In the manuscript, the researcher specified that his collection was just a part of records left by our ancestors. However, we found out that it has more elaborate records than other collections about the same post-Ankorian history of Cambodia, and is the only one so far available of today. (CKH: Preface)
At the same time, many other versions have been also compiled under the tutelage of the Khmer court. As neighboring countries also started to compile their own histories, more chronicles are available to complement the Khmer chronicle. Though there are variations between them, common historical facts could be retrieved with proper precaution.
THE NEW Angkorean COURT
According to the Khmer Tradition, the next line of khmer kings were descended from the legendary Sweet Cucumber king (RPNK: The Sweet Cucumber King). We had argued that it was the same lineage from the Pagan king Cucumber Gardener who, by killing the last king of Pagan Theinhko, became king himself under the name of Nyaung Sarahan (The Ramana Desa: The Three Dynasties: The Cucumber Gardener). We also argued that they survived the attack of King Kunsho Kyangphyu and other turbulence time by staying put at Haripunjaya and Lampang. They might have been reigning still in these Mon countries if the Lanna king Mangrai had not been too ambitious in his drive to consolidate the northern Siam countries under his rule.
The Refugees from the Mon Countries
Compelling evidences concerning the past connection of the Sweet Cucumber royal house with Pagan and later with Haripangjaya-Lampang courts could be checked-out among specific heritage brought with them to Angkor. At first, their royal title was often referred with the word "Pogna", which was a derivative of the word "Pya" or "Pyu". The title was actually a legacy from the Pyu' s ancestry of Pyuksettra that dated back since the reign of Piao-siu-ti and stayed through out the reign of the Anuruddha's lineage (The Ramana Desa: The Burmese Legacies: The Pyu vs the Burmese Identity). Apparently the Sweet Cucumber king inherited the title from the court of Pagan and passed on to his descendants of the post-Angkorean era. Another evidence was the practice of Theravada Buddhism that was largely a trademark of the Cucumber Gardener's tradition. Some scholars had long postulated that Cambodia was Hindu and received the Theravada Buddhism from the Mon people. Others asserted that the Khmer people had already practiced Hinayana Buddhism but the Angkorean court was always been Hindu or Mahayana Buddhist. In neither case, there are no explanation on how the new faith was implanted in the Angkorean court and that Buddhism of Pali canon became since the sole religion of Cambodia. As we had argued, Hinayana Buddhism was not new to both the Angkorean court and the Khmer societies, but the abstinence of Hindu practices along with the Sanskrit Language as seen next becoming the post-Angkorean court' s tradition was only known of the Mon court of Haripangjaya-Lampang. Under this premise, we conclude that the new Angkorean court was in fact refugee from the Mon countries. In consistency with their own tradition, they were zealous of Hinayana Buddhism more than any contemporary courts of Southeast Asia (The Break down of the Cakravatin Empire: The next Legacy of Ramanadesa: The Fall of Haripangjaya). Only after the settlement at Angkor that they adapted themselves to some of the Hindu past tradition of Angkor at the same time that the Sanskrit language along with other core Hindu practices were then lost for good. On how they were moving to the Angkorean court, the answer could be found in the advent of king Mangrai 's conquest over the northern Mon countries. During the Mongols' incursion, Mangrai had conquered Haripangjaya with the help of his son and placed it under Lanna's control. The success of his campaign was due in big part to a good preparation that took many years of infiltration in the court of King Yiba (The Lanna State: The Angkorean connection: The conquest of Haripangjaya). By the time that the Mon population already lost their esteem to their king, Haripangjaya was conquered. The absorption to be part of Lanna was then complete and Magrai had changed its name to Nokor Nakhon. At the same time, the same situation did not happen during the conquest of Lampang and the Lanna court had to face with stronger resistance. As the attack on the combined court of King Yiba and his son at Lampang was done solely through military campaign without the groundwork on its population, the conquest had not been completed. Unlike what was happened in Haripangjaya, evidences show that the two Mon kings father and son were still receiving full support from the people of Lampang. From the Xiang-mai chronicle, we knew that king Yiba had managed to escape to Pisanulok while his son was killed in the battle. King Mangrai then instructed his son to stop pursuing king Yiba into Pisnulok, knowing quite well that he would unlikely accomplish the mission and could face strong retaliation back from the refugee court. Perhaps with the interference of Sokhodaya, the success of Lanna's claim over Lampang was restrained. Judging from the fact that some members of king Nipeanbat' s descendants still retained the title of Lampangraja, we believe that the Mon court still hold on to Lampang before they made their final move to Angkor. Evidences show that the Mon country fell into Lanna's domination only during the reign of King Trilokarat (1442-1486). At the mean time, Lampang was under Sokhodaya and the Xiang-mai chronicle referred the country as Chaliang-Sokhodaya (Lampang-Sokhodaya). By the time that Sokhodaya fell under Ayudhya, evidences ahow that the Mon court had already moved to take the Anhgkorian throne. That was when the chronicle of Khmer Heroes referred a king named Nipeanbat ascending the Angkorean court, after the great flood had destroyed the lineage of the last Angkorean king Simharaja. By marrying the surviving daughter of the last king of Angkor, king Nipeanbat started his own dynasty of the new Khmer royalty of Angkor to last until modern days. His background was otherwise obscure if he was not mentioned in the chronicle to be a descendant of the Sweet Cucumber king. From the fact that the next Angkorean monarch still retaining the title of Lampangraja, we believe that he was reigning over Lampang still during his coronation at Angkor.
The Reign of Prah Lampangraja (1346-1351)
According to the Khmer Tradition, the next Angkorean king was the eldest son of king Sodhanaraja and ascended the throne under the name of Prah Lampangraja. It is important to note that Lampangraja was not an Angkorean title. The fact that he is still retaining the title conveys in high probability that he inherited it from the Lampang' s court. It is important to note that Lampang was known as mount Khale and that the Khmer title of Lampangraja was equivalent to the title Khaleyang (Khale-Yang) that was found in various Siamese sources. While the Khmer chronicle elaborates on his reign at the Angkorean site, the Nan chronicle had very much to say about King Khaleyang' s involvement in the Nan country. The Sri Dharmaraja chronicle, on the other hand, elaborates on the establishment of King Khaleyang at Petjapuri that led to the rescucitation of Sri Dharmaraja during the reign of king Lampangraja at Angkor. From the three sources, we conclude that the last of the Lampang court had made their way down south Pisnulok and lastly to Angkor and that king Lampangraja was in fact the same king Khaleyang as mentioned in the Siam sources. As we shall see, their settlement at Angkor came at the worst moment in the Angkorean history of external subversion over Angkor and the Khmer-mon consortium as a whole. In Siam country, the Kaeo kings had succeeded in establishing the southern Tai nation in Ayudhya and their southern move did not stop there. After the cease-fire had been established with the King Sri Dharmaraja of Sokhodaya, they turned their aggression toward Angkor. It was under his reign that king Ramadhipti or U-tong of Ayudhya attacked the Angkorean court. He sent troops led by his eldest son Ramasvara and one of his grand sons by way of Rajasima (Khorat) to attack Angkor. A khmer governor who stationed at Khorat withdrew in panic and sent messengers to alert the king at Angkor. As the king received the new in the morning, the Siamese army arrived in the afternoon. Panic also settled in the Angkorean court. Realizing that their only chance to win over the Siam troops was to attack them first when they were still exhausted from the long trip, the Khmer obraja then put up a surprise attack. The Siam army was forced to withdraw after the grand son of king U-tong who came along with the Siam troops was killed in the battle. Upset of hearing the new, King U-tong prepared for a bigger assault. Led by his brother in law Boromraja and three of his sons, the Siam Armies headed for Angkor immediately. They were cautious at this time and succeeded in avoiding detection while heading toward Angkor. They attacked while the Khmer armies were still celebrating their previous victory. Having not much time to prepare, the Khmers retracted into Angkor and withstood at best the Siam assault. Notified of the situation, U-tong decided to send re-enforcement and led the troops toward Angkor himself. After a long period of time, the war took a told on the health of king Lampangraja who fell sick and died soon after. Hearing the new, the Siam armies intensified their attacks and succeeded to overrun the Khmer defense. Breaking free into Angkor, they seized the Khmer throne. Before he returned to Ayudhya, U-tong crowned one of his sons named Cau Basat to reign over Angkor. During the Siamese attack, king Lampangraja commissioned one of his brothers who was his obraja to leave the palace and to find troops for the rescue. Prah Suryavang left Angkor to the southern provinces to mobilize troops from the countryside. Returning back to Angkor late, he and his troops could not break through the Siam' s blockade and were forced to retreat in disarray. Realizing of his limitation, he escaped into the Lao country to find help while being chased after by the Siamese troops. By the time, the Angkorean court had already been subdued and his brother had already been dead. According to the Khmer source, he went to Laos to acquire more troops. A few years earlier, a Lao prince by the name of Fa-Ngum led Khmer troops and headed for Lan-xang to establish his right as heir of the Lao court. He was raised and trained at Angkor and was married to a Khmer princess whom we shall identify as a daughter of the prince Prah Suryavang who was then King Lampangraja' s obraja (The Lao Kingdom of Lang-xang: The Establishment of Lang-xang: The Liberation of Angkor).
The Reign of Prah Suryavang (1359-1369)
After taking over Angkor, U-tong installed one of his sons named Chau Basat to ascend the Khmer throne under the name of Cau Kombangpisi. Mission accomplished, he brought the rest of the Siam troops back to Ayudhya. After many years in exile, Prince Suryavang had built up a new recruit and headed them to Angkor. He managed to defeat the Siamese ruler and ascended the Angkorean throne on 1359. At this time, the Lao chronicle picked up the story of King Fa-Gnam who after building the kingdom of Lan-chang, had conducted massive campaigns against the Siam countries. Connecting the two events together, we concluded that Prah Suryavang went into the Lao country to take refuge with his son-in-law, Fa-Gnam. Under a join campaign, they attacked Xiang-mai and finally went down to attack Ayudhya (The Lao Kingdom of Lang-xang: The establishment of Lan-xang: The reign of King Fa-Ngum ). With the Lao King by his side, King Suryavang freed Angkor from the Siam's control and ascended the Khmer throne in 1359. The conflict with Ayudhya also backed down allowing him to exert more claim over past territories. Evidences show that the control over Sri Dharmaraja, in particular, had been restored. One of his brothers was appointed to rule this maritime province under the Sridharmaraja traditional title of Sri Dharmasokaraja, Under his rule, evidences show that the sea trate venture came back strong again with the support of the Ming Dynasty. Beside Sri Dharmaraja, evidences also show that the new Angkorean court had also reestablished its control over the Khorat Plateau. The Nan country, in particular, was receiving help from Angkor during their internal crisis and the incursions from both Lanna and Ayudhya. He died in 1369, apparently leaving no heir. He reigned for a few years and then also died. During that time, another son of King Lampangraja named Chau Ponha Yat was still very young and the next king to ascend the throne of Angkor in his place was another uncle who was no other than king Dharmasokaraja of Sri Dharmaraja. The recovery of Angkor by king Suryavang lasted only in a short duration. Just as the influence of the Ming was fading, the Khmer consortium was scrambling. At the end of his reign, Fa-Ngam became mentally ill and left Laos in a political turmoil. While Ayudhya and Annam appeared to recover back theirs past vigor, the Angkorean court and its alliance was going to feel the consequence. By then, Sokhodaya had already fell under Ayudhya' s dominance. On the other front, Champapura was loosing ground in the fight with Annam. As Angkor became more and more vulnerable to Siamese attack, holding on to the ancient capital was not seen as a viable solution to the new Khmer court. The move of the Khmer capital down south was by all-mean necessary to escape the Siam attack that was not going to stop anytime soon. After the death of Prah Suryavang, Sri Dharmasokaraja (1373-1383) apparently came back to ascend the Angkorean throne while the rightful heir, Cau Ponha Yat, was still too young. During his reign, the Siam king Boromraja renewed his attack on the Angkorean court again. As casualties mounted-up on both sides, the Siam King cooked-up a scheme to be carried on by six of his mercenaries. The scheme worked and the six Siamese volunteers infiltrated themselves into the Khmer army stationed inside Angkor. During the next fight, they succeeded to sabotage the Khmer infantry and opened the gates for the Siamese troops. The Siam armies succeeded to capture the Khmer Throne once again after killing the king and capturing the rest of his family members. The Siam King Boromraja then crowned his son named Indraraja to ascend the Angkorean throne. He collected all the trophies that he could find and headed back to Ayudhya along with war prisoners which included seventy thousands of Khmer peoples. During the Siam attack, the next king Chau Ponha Yat (1382-1429) was able to escape to the countryside. After building up his stronghold at the district of Koh Basan, he then prepared a plan to take back the Angkorean throne. He sent mercenaries to infiltrate the Siam defense and they managed to assassinate the Siam king Indraraja. Ponha Yat then brought his armies for the final assault of the Angkorean court and took the throne. A consort of the Siam king Indraraja named Si Sa-ngam was left by herself with the corpse of her king; Ponha Yat picked her up to be his own consort with whom he had a son named Prah Dhamaraja. Without further suggestion, we had seen that the royal title "Dhamaraja" is the legacy of Sokhodaya. Ponha yat had also a son named Nararaja with the queen Devi and another son named Sri Raja with the queen Botomkesar. It is also interesting to note that "Botomkesar" is a legacy of Ligor or Sri Dhamaraja, and with her son Sri raja to have the same title as the next Sri Dhamaraja king, the coincidence is out of question. Our assumption is that reestablishment of Sri Dharmaraja was another reason behind Chau Ponha yat' s choice of moving the Khmer court to the site of Catomukh.
THE ABANDONMENT OF ANGKOR
The repetitive attacks from Ayudhya resulted in more and more territorial lost of the Khmer court. Once crucial to the protection of Angkor, its surrounding provinces of both the northern and western regions fell into the control of Ayudhya. Consequently, Angkor was now stand alone against any Siamese Attacks. Realizing the critical situation, Ponha Yat with the support of his court decided to leave Angkor and headed south. First they stopped at Koh Basan and then moved on to establish themselves at the site where the Mekong River meets the eastern branch of the Great Lake to form two southern branches of the Basak Rivers; the site was called Catomukh (the four branches).
The Founding of Nokor Catomukh
King Narayraja (1429-1433) was officially the first Khmer king to ascend the throne of Catomokh. He was the eldest son of Chau Ponha Yat and ascended the throne on the site of the new capital named after its location as "Catamokh Mangal Sakal Kamboja Thibti bavara Indapath Puriratha Maharajadhani Puriram Utam Prah raja nivestha vises Mahadhan".
It is interesting to note that the new official name was added on past legacy that dated back prior to the Angkorean period. The capital was however better known as Phnom Penh, named after Daun Penh (the elderly woman Penh) who according to legend, was credited the building of the actual mount of Phnom Daun Penh of today. The mount was man-made by dirt collected from nearby field to be the site of a temple sheltering a Lokesvara image found during a flood. Upon hearing the new, Prah Narayraja had joined with Grandma Penh to finish up the elevation of the mount and the construction of the temple on top of it. He had a son named Suryauday but the next successor to ascend the Catomukh throne was his brother named Sri Raja (1433-1478). He was crowned in 1433. According the Sri Dharmaraja chronicle, Sri Raja had already established himself at the Malay peninsular before he was crowned at Catomukh. The chronicle dates his reign at Sri Dhammaraja also in 1433, making him a contemporary and the rival of the Siam's King Bromaraja II (1424-1448). The dating was consistent with the next events that were unfolding during the break-up of the Catomukh' s court by members of his own family.
After 20 years of reign, Sri Raja decided to launch a campaign against Ayudhya. Hearing that the Siam's court had undergone a trouble of succession, he asked his court the consent to carry on an attack on this western neighbor turned into enemy. His plan was to take advantage of the internal crisis of the Ayudhyan court to retrieve back earlier lost territory to the Siam's court (Notes: Sri Raja and King Cakrapat). He mobilized 120 thousands troops and headed them straight to Ayudhya just to find out that the Siam court's crisis was already resolved and the new Siam king named King Borommatrailokanat (1448-1488) was already sitting on the Ayudhya's throne. His decision to carry on the attack despite knowing that Ayudhya had been well preparing for his attack set him in an awkward position against the Ayudhyan army. His expedition was carried in haste and having no infantry to support the ground troops, fell immediately to Ayudhyan defense. On the other side, Ayudhya had many canons to its advantage and used them to repel the Khmer army. After a few fail attempts followed by the heavy casualty and the death of one of his eminent war-heroes, Sri Raja decided to abandon his plan. While returning back, he received the bad new about the internal crisis of his own Catomukh 's court. During his absence, his nephew had built up his own army and established his own authority at the eastern territory and established himself king. King Suryauday (1471-1478) was the son of Prah Narayraja but was very young when his uncle, king Sri Raja was chosen to ascend the Catamukh throne after the death of his father. When Sri Raja went out to invade Ayudhya, he decided to break out from the Catamukh court and proclaimed himself king under the name of Prah Sri Suryauday Rajathiraja Rama. He was then 26 years old. After making himself ruler of the eastern region, King Suryauday appointed his own governors to control eastern provinces that rendered him homage. According to the chronicle of Khmer heroes, the list included the following provinces:
The provinces of Siambok, SambokSambur, Kraches, Chlaung, Tbaung Kmom, Basan, Tatung Tngay, Prey-veng, Ba Phnom, Romdual, Svay-teab, Ruong-damrey, Prey-nokor, Badeng, up north to Nokor Cham. (CKH: The reign of Sri Suryauday)
It is important to note that his controlled territory included Prey Nokor and the upper part of Kamboja Krom today, bordered to the north with Champapura and that his secession came at critical moment during the war between the latter and Annam.
He heard the bad new when he returned back home from the failed campaign against Ayudhya. Upon hearing the new, Sri Raja decided to suppress the rebellion first before entering into the capital and headed his army directly to the East to face off the army of his nephew Suryauday. His decision had proved to be another crucial mistake that created a big impact on the politic of the Catomukh ' s court. When he departed for Ayudhya, he had entrusted his stepbrother king Dharmaraja to watch over the Catomukh's court for him. Little that he knew that the latter whose mother was the Siamese princess Sisagnam had also nurtured his ambition on the Cathomukh throne. Capitalizing on his blood relationship with the Siam court through his mother Si Sagnam, he sent envoi to Ayudhya to request the intervention from the Ayudhyan court to help him secure the Catomukh' s throne for himself. Having recovered from the recent campaigns launched by Sri Raja and Hamsavati, the Siamese King was more than happy to help.
The Break-up of the Catomukh' s court
The Siamese King Borommatrailokanat ascended the Ayudhyan throne while his father moved to rule over Phitsanulok. Perhaps after his father's death, he changed his title to King Boromraja III in 1463. From that time on, the Khmer source refers all Siam Kings as King Cakapath. It could be explained that after the defeat of Sri Raja, the Catomukh court was going to experience once again an internal crise that undermined the stability the Khmer court to come. It was the starting of the Cambodian dynastic crisis and the intervention of the Siam court in the Khmer politic that plagued the Khmer nation until modern days. During the feud, Cambodia was split into three factions, each one controlled by a contender. Beside the eastern region that was alredy under the control of Prah Suryaday, the rest of the country had been split between Sri Raja and Sri Dharmaraja. The western part of Cambodia that included northern localities of the Khorat Plateau and the southern localities of Sri Dharmaraja was wrested by Sri Raja. The list of the western provinces included:
Lawek, Ralea-phaear, Amara-kakirindrabur, Krakoar, Kroang, Pothisat, Battambang, Riseisagn, Peam-sima, Mangkol-bori, Rayang, Surin, Simgar, Kampong-siam, Stung-treng, Cheng-prey, Kauk-seih, Anlong-raj, Phrum-tep, Prek-kdei, Staung, Chi-kreng, Raluos, Siamreap, Mlu-prey, Cham-ksan, Tnot, Tekchaur. (CKH: The reign of Sri Raja)
It is important to note that the list includes Lawek that was going to become another capital of Cambodia during the high of Ayudhya future's incursion. Excluding the Western territory controlled by Sri Raja, Sri Dharmaraja (1478-1504) had the control of Central Cambodia' s major provinces.
Samrong-tuang, Bati, Leuk-dek, Treang, Banteay-mah, Thpang, Basaka, Bavir, Peam, Koh-slaket, Kampot, Kampong-som, Prah-trapeang, Kramoun-sar, Done-nai. (CKH: The reign of Prah Dharmaraja)
The list includes provinces of the southern part of the Mekong Delta, a part of Kamboja Krom that gave him enough strength to stand against both Sri Raja and Suryauday. Most important of all, he had a connection with the Siam court of which he did not hesitate to use to his advantage. Upon his request, the Siamese King Boromaraja III brought an army to meet with the Khmer King and together came out a plan to suppress the other two rivals. The Siamese King invited first Sri Raja to a secret meeting and without notifying him in advance took him as prisoner. They used the same scheme to capture Sri Suryauday and after the Catomukh throne was made secured for the ascension of King Dhamaraja, the Siam king brought the two prisoners to Ayudhya. The chronicle says that they died soon after they arrived to the Siam capital where arrangement had been made concerning the future of the rest of their family's members who were also in captivity. Having capture Sri Raja as prisoner, the Siam king Boromaraja III took the opportunity to make a deal with the Khmer King. In exchange for the safeguarding of his son in the Ayudhyan court, received Sri Dharmaraja as dependency (Sri Dharmaraja: The end of the Khmer Control: The hand-over of the Malay Tribute System to Ayudhya). In the deal, the son of Sri Raja who was brought along as prisoner with his father was raised under the wing of the Siamese King. He was anointed later to rule over Suvannakhaloka under the name of Prah Sodhanaraja. Back in Cambodia, Sri Dharmaraja ruled over the united Cambodia with a cost of some lost territories to Ayudhya. After his death, his eldest son ascended the Catamukha throne under the name of Sri Soganbath (1505-1512). After a few years of reigning, he moved his capital back to Koh Basan where his grand father Chao Ponha Yat first settled his court after leaving Angkor. He anointed his brother named Ponha Chan Raja to take control of the previous capital Catomukha under the rank of Obraja. In Koh Basan, a local official named Pijaya-naga married a slave of Ratanaktriya (A slave caretaker of a Buddhist temple) and gave birth to a daughter named Neang Sar (White Lady) and a son named Neay Kan. One day, the king saw Neang Sar standing near the Vihear of the temple while he went to visit the temple. He was so impressed of herlook and her manner that he decided to take her as his principal consort. He rewrded her family handsomely and offered her brother, Neay Kan, a post as an official of the court. A bad omen pointed to Neay Kan as a potential usurper of the throne and the king decided to rid off his brother-in-law himself. In a set-up by his court, the plan was to murder Neay Kan during a court fishing-trip in a river. Tipped off by his sister, Neay Kan was able to escape and took refuge at Ba Phnom where he found protection among his childhood servants of his parents' house. By faking his identity as a member of the royal family, he amassed a large amount of supporters and through elaborate schemes he succeeded to take control of both the old capital of Catomukh and the new capital of Basan. Under his repetitive attacks, the king Soganbath had to escape to Lawek and later to Samrong Sen. Neay Kan then declared himself king under the name of Prah Chetha and continued his pursuit after the last king Sri Soganbath. Out of exhaustion, the king camped with the rest of his court at Stung Sen (River Sen), to recuperate. The new king Kan then sent a number of volunteers to infiltrate the camp and finally killed him.
The Ayudhyan Interference
At the time that the Khmer court was in the quarreling mood, Ayudhya took the opportunity to intervene. Starting from the reign of King Bromaraja III, the Khmer source referred the Siam king as king Cakrapat (meaning a cakravatin monarch). That shows the ambition of the Siam kings in regard to Cambodia. Nevertheless, none of them behaved like a cakravatin monarch. Instead of involving directly in the welfare of subordinate state, the Siam court did not do anything to restore back order in Cambodia, during King Kan usurpation. After the death of king Soganbath, one of his sons named Ponha Yasraja escaped to Ayudhya. There he met his uncle, Ponha Chan Raja in the court of the Siam King Cakrapatha Ramadhipti II (1491-1529). Falling into the trap of Neay Kan since the happening of the crisis, the king's brother Chan Raja had escaped to Ayudhya. Informed of his brother's death and the new situation of Cambodia, Ponha Chan Raja was anxious to head back home. He repeatedly sent request to the Syam king to provide him with troops to fight off the usurper. What he received from king Cakrapat was just word of promises. No action or the provision of troops that the king promised to him, was taken by the Siam court. Frustrated, Ponha Chan Raja decided to take the affair in his own hand. To free himself from the court of Ayudhya and to head back to Cambodia, he had to prevent the Siam King from interfering. He ordered his people to fabricate a scheme so that he could fool the Siam king to let him out of the palace without suspicion. They faked the traces of a white elephant to catch the attention of the Siam King and spread rumors of its impressive appearance. Hearing the new, the Siam King who was fond of white elephants was anxious to have the elephant captured and raised as a property of his court. Since Chao Ponha Chan Raja was known to be a skillful mahout and had proved himself, in many occasions, very successful in the catching of wild elephants for the court of Ayudhya, the Siam king looked for him for help. When he agreed for the task, the Siam King was so happy to grant him any accommodation necessary that he requested. It included a small army of 5000 men to go along with him and a supply of food and accessory for the long planned campaign. Before he left, Ponha Chan Raja had tipped Ponha Ong, the son of the late Khmer king Sri Raja of his intention and asked him to join in the campaign. Upon hearing the plan, Ponha Ong rejected the proposal citing that he owed too much to the good life that he had received from the Ayudhyan Court. Ponha Chan Raja then left Ayudhya in 1516 and as soon as he crossed the border, he immediately headed into Cambodia territory where he received full support from the governor of Battambang. The Siam King soon realized that Ponha Chan Raja had tricked him and sent an envoi of 30 peoples specially instructed to stop the latter from going further in his plan. Ponha Chan Raja managed to foil the request and sent the messengers back to Ayudhya with a promise to the Siam King that he would send tribute after all his affairs at Cambodia had been taken care of. Staying in Battambang of the Cambodian territory, he managed to build a stronger army with new recruits from the local people. His next move was to take control the district of Pothisath where he planned to station his troops in preparing for the final face-off with the usurper king Kan. An old-faithful official named Kleang Muong and his family helped to wrest the province from the control of the new governor that was installed by King Kan. To avoid the war from impacting on the general people, he had made arrangement with king Kan to do not conducting any battles during the rice growing season. Both contenders agreed to the proposition. During the next 20 years of fighting, Ponha Chan Raja fought off gradually his enemy' s control and finally subdued King Kan in 1525. With his nephew Yasraja at his side, Ponha Chan Raja succeeded to take back control of the whole Cambodia and reunited the country. He moved his headquarters to Lawek and built it as his new capital. Hearing the new that Ponha Chan Raja had succeeded to establish himself as the king of Cambodia, the Siam King Cakrapath sent an envoi to Lawek requesting a tribute as promised to him. The refusal from Ponha Chan Raja set off a big assault launched by Ayudhya against the new king of Cambodia. Some sources mentioned that the attacks were carried-on twice. After the loss of the first campaign, the Siam King entrusted the Khmer prince Chao Pohna Ong or Prah Sudhanaraja to lead the Siam army for the second attack. The Khmer King Sri Chan Raja then brought the Khmer army to intercept the Siam Army at Angkor and Sri Pohna Ong was killed in the battle. After the second loss, the Ayudhyan court stopped altogether their aggression against Cambodia.
Having to fight in two fronts, the Ayudhyan ambition as a Cakravati (Cakravatin Empire) backfired. Not only that the Siam court could not hold-on to Cambodia as a dependency, it also drew Hamsavati to challenge the Ayudhyan aggression. Under heavy attacks, Ayudhya was not in a position to take on another campaign against its eastern neighbor. The last of the Cakrapat king fought valiantly against the Burmese attack, but lost the fight (Ayudhya: The Cakravatin Codependency: The End of the U-Tong Lineage). After the Siam court succumbed, the Ayudhyan throne went to a prince originated from the ancient court of Sokhodaya who was crowned under the name of Sri Dharmaraja. At the same time, the Khmer court took a big break from the Siam aggression to work on consolidating the country.
The Court of Lawek
During the fight with the usurper king Kan, Pogna Chan Raja developped Lawek into becoming an important city. It became the capital of the Khmer court for the next Khmer Kings to prepare for the next move against all its neighbors and rivals. The next king named king Boromindaraja (1555-1567) was the second son of the late King Ponha Chan Raja. He ascended the throne in 1555 at the age of 44 years old, three years before his father's death. Realizing that during the fight with Ayudhya, the eastern front had been neglected for so long, king Boromindaraja set out to strengthen the control of Prey-nokor (Notes: The city of Prey-nokor). At the border of Champa, he built forts to prevent infiltration of either Chams or Dai-viets who at the time still fought for the control of Champapura (CKH:Prah Raj Pangsavatar part 3:P. 227). After securing the eastern side of the country, king Boromindaraja prepared for the assault of Ayudhya. The retrieving back of the Khmer provinces, lost in earlier battles to the Siam court was always one of the Lawek's top priority. The drive was however met with setback as the new Ayudhyan ruler king Dharmaraja, even though in friendly term with the Khmer court, was not willing to render the gained territory back to the Khmer court. Arriving at Ayudhya, he sent a messenger to carry his demand to the new Siam King.
The Kingdom of Kamboja had never committed any fault against Ayudhya of the Siam country. On the contrary, Ayudhya had sent troops to attack the Khmer Kingdom many times. Now we, as your younger brother, bought-up an army (against you). If the elder brother agrees to delegate the province of Nokorraja-sima at the west from Bachin until the sea that was a part of Khmer territory wrested by Siam in the past, your younger brother would return his troops back right away. (CKHI: The reign of king Boromindaraja)
It is important to note that Ayudhya was just recuperating from the attack of Hangsavati. It was now or ever that the Khmer court had such opportunity to retrieve back lost territories to Siam in previous reign. It is said that the claimed territory was according to the original accord between the Angkrian court and Prah Ruong, belonging to Angkor. Sokhodaya had been after the fall of Angkor absorbed into the Siam court of Ayudhya. Apparently king Dharmaraja was not well disposed in yielding to Angskor' s demand and took the opportunity to play Angkor against Hamsavati. After consulting his court, king Dharmaraja replied back.
The request of the younger brother about the western province could not be granted because of the suzerainty set by the king of Hamsavati. (CKHI: The reign of king Boromindaraja)
It is interesting to note that in their communication, the rulers of both courts referred themselves as brothers. It is not clear that it was just a common courtesy or a more revelation of blood relationship between the two kings. Judging from the closeness of the two lines, it was more likely that the latter prevails. We had seen that the grandfather of king Boromindaraja was a son of a Siamese princess Si Sa-ngam and ascended the Khmer throne under the title of Dharmaraja also. After the fight which ended with the defeat of the Khmer army and the withdraw of the latter back into Cambodia, the two courts were at peace with each other again for the time that the Khmer king had to deal with the Lao King's new interest. After its formation, the Lao Kingdom of Lan-xang became less and less connected with the new Cambodian court. Seeing Hamsavati taking control of both Lanna and Ayudhya while Annam had won over Champapura, the Lao court felt the need to reunite itself back with Cambodia. However their approach for the unification imitated the policy of the other hostile nations. Instead of cooperating in equal partnership, the Lao plan was to have Cambodia submitted to them. After consulting his court, King Sethathirath of Lan-xang prepared himself a plan to have Cambodia becoming a Lao's vassal. The plan was to invite the khmer court in participating in an elephant's contest that would decide the fate of both countries. It is important to note that during the old day, contests were often used to decide state affair the same way that military battles did. The rationale sits heavily on the notion of merit that was earned by the kings. Based on personal honor, each side accepted the outcome as the will of God (Notes: The will of God). In a practical way, it could resolve the conflict without recurring to military mean and the lost of lives during the battle. After consulting his court, the Khmer king accepted the contest. By becoming another player in the fight for supremacy, we shall see that Lan-xang ended-up becoming another enemy of the Cambodian court.
The Fight for Supremacy
To start the contest, King Sethathirath of Lan-xang sent his messengers along with 1000 troops to bring a fighting elephant and a message to the Cambodian court. The Lao message started with the introduction.
The message of the Prah Chao Sisattanakanahok, the "Mauli of the Malan people" of the Lan-xang country, in correlation to Prah Boromindaraja Ramadhipti of the Kamboja Kingdom. (CKHI: The reign of king Boromindaraja)
It is interesting to note that the Lao king had introduced himself as the "Mauli of the Malan people" which was a tradition of the Mala court of Malayu. It was the same legacy of Khun Borom that Fa-Ngum and many of the Siam kings claims their ancestry from. As we had seen that Lan-xang itself was known to the western Lao as Muang Chawa, this revelation supports the past connection between Lan-xang and the state of Champapura. In the next section of his message, the Lao King presented his proposal for the unification of the two countries.
Since our countries are both independents, had history of the same royal dynasty and of close border, we would want to unite our two countries into a single kingdom. (CKHI: The reign of king Boromindaraja)
The rest of the message was about the contest of the two elephants in which the loser of the contest would become the vassal of the other. Even-though knowing that the two countries would end-up becoming bitter enemy no matter what the outcome was, King Boromindaraja agreed to the proposition. He ordered his court to prepare an elephant to the contest. After a long fight in the ring, the Lao elephant that was the bigger of the two lost its vigor and at the end lost the fight to the Khmer elephant. It was due in part to the difference of climate between the two countries. The Lao elephant was used to the colder weather of the Lao country and apparently had problem to adapt to the hotter weather of Cambodia. King Boromindaraja then ordered his court to retain the 1000 Laotian troops and sent the rest of the Lao messengers back home with the request to the Lao court of sending back the customary tribute of vassalage. As soon as the affair with the Lao court was set out of the way, king Boromindaraja went back to take care of his campaign against Ayudhya. This time there was changing of strategy. Instead of attacking Ayudhya directly, the Khmer army made themselves first in control of the disputed territory starting from Nokor Raja-sima of the north down to the maritime province of Chandapuri. The next plan was to attack Ayudhya and forced king Dharmaraja to recognize the Khmer suzerainty over the conquered territory. As soon as he accomplished the first step and prepared for the assault of Ayudhya, another setback prevented him from completing his campaign. The Lao king of Lan-xang, upset of the loss of the contest took the opportunity to launch a surprise attack against Lawek. The Lao attack forced king Boromindaraja to change his plan and instead of going further attacking Ayudhya he retreated his army back to face the Lao army in Lawek. After many bloody battles, the Lao king ordered his troops to retreat back into the Lao territory. Lao troops who were left behind were captured and distributed as slave labors among many cities of Kambodia. Back in their country, the Lao court regrouped themselves and prepared for the next year's assault. Their plan to attack Lawek however had to be postponed after Prah Chao Fa Mangkri of Hamsavati launched his own attack against Luang Prah Bang. Soon after ascending the throne, the new King of Hamsavati brought-up a big army to start on his eastern campaign. After winning-streak over the northern Siam countries, Chao Fa Mangkri raised new recruits from the conquered countries and headed straight to Lan-xang. Among the commanders of his coalition army were Prah Maha Dharmaraja, the new Siam king and his son Narendrasura. During the trip, Narendrasura became sick forcing Chao Fa Mangkri to send both father and son back to Ayudhya. Since it was already late in the rainy season the campaign itself did not last much longer. After a few attacks, the impact of the rains on the effectiveness of his army forced the Burmese court to withdraw his troops and returned back to Hamsavati. Nevertheless, the Lao King decided to stop altogether his own campaign against Lawek. Relieved from the Lao's attack, king Boromindaraja prepared his next assault on Ayudhya in 1574. He recruited Chinese migrants to form an army of 10,000 troops of which headed another 10,000 Khmer troops and assigned a Chinese commander named Pohna Chin to lead the attack. It is said that they were very efficient in breaking down the Siam defense and inflicted damage along the way. The practice of using foreign mercenaries became more and more widespread, not only in the Khmer court, but throughout out Southeast Asia. Their efficiency was due in big part to their aggressivity and the will to induce damage to the other side without restrain.
The Pact between Ayudhya and Lawek
While the Chinese cammander Pohna Chin was creating havoc to the Siam country, King Boromindaraja himself led another Khmer army straight to Ayudhya where he stationed his troops at the outskirts of the city. He then sent messengers to carry a message to the king Sri Dharmaraja.
Now we, the son of Prah Chan Raja and the younger brother of Prah Dharmaraja, the king of Siam, brought an army here to your palace. We invite the elder brother to come out and fight with us. If you choose not to, we request you to hand over the control of Bachinpuri, of Chandapuri and of Nokorrajasima provinces back to Kamboja Kingdom. (CKH: The reign of king Boromindaraja)
Facing with a big number of the Khmer army, Prah Dharmaraja was forced to withdraw all his army into the enclosed wall of the city. After receiving the request, he replied back to the Khmer king:
We, the elder brother, received your message and acknowledged your request about the control of Bachinpuri, of Chandapuri and of Nokorrajasima provinces to be handed back to Kamboja Kingdom in accord to the border set by Prah Botumsuryavang in the past. We agree to your proposition and wish to form an alliance of brotherhood between the two countries. (CKH: The reign of king Boromindaraja)
As mentioned in the passage, the reason behind the relinquishing of the territory back to the Khmer control was according to the past accord between the Angkorean court and Prah Ruang of Sokhodaya (Notes: The frontier between Siam and Cambodia). According to the Khmer chronicle, the official settlement of the new frontier was carried on in an open ceremony. Members of both courts as well as high-ranking monks were invited to witness the settlement and the pact of friendship between the two countries was acknowledged at the same time. The pact required the two countries to become partner and to provide mutual assistance, in both internal and external affairs against outsider's incursion or intervention. According to the Khmer chronicle, Sri Dharmaraja genuinely appears to honor the new agreement as justly conforming to the ancient accord and saw in their new alliance a good chance to settle the conflict of both countries. With the accord, the past consortium of the three kingdoms, Hamsavati, Ayudhya and Lawek could be formed and had the best chance to stabilize the Indochinese affair again. Unfortunately, we shall see that his son, Narasuan did not share his father' s view. According to Siam sources, Narasuan' s strong personality and military skill in no time caught the unwanted attention of the Burmese King. His effectiveness in the battlefield induced zealousy from the heir apparent of the Burmese court. As animosity between them grew, Narasuan found himself in danger inside the Burmese court. The Khmer chronicle however explains the outcome differently. Since he was held and raised at Hamsavati, Narasun had displayed signs of insubordination that concerned the court of Hamsavati (Notes: The threat of Narasuan). In the Burmese court, Prah Chao Fa Mangkri had brought him up as one of his sons and brought him along in many campaigns against northern Shan and Lao States. In a campaign against the Lao kingdom of Lan-xiang, the Burmese King had to abandon the fight due to a sudden sickness of Narasuan. It was one among many other signs showing that Narasuan was not happy as an apprentice of the court of Pegu. Feeling threat of his insubordination, the Burmese King decided to rid off the Siam prince before he started on a full-blown rebellion. Narasuan was tipped of the Burmese king's intention and managed to escape back to Ayudhya. As conflict between the two courts aggravated, Ayudhya had to seek alliance with Cambodia to stand against Pegu. The pact between Lawek and Ayudhya came at the unfortunate moment when the Hamsavati court, in pursuing the prince Narasuan, came to attack Ayudhya. As we shall see, Narasuan won over the Burmese attack and by breaking the accord with Lawek, he took back the three contested provinces. His success was later glorified by the Siam source of being highly patriotic and heroic through out the modern Siam's history. His audacity had brought Hamsavati into a standstill and Lawek into a complete destruction. Nevertheless, we shall see that Narasuan would induce Ayudhya to suffer the long-term consequence of his short sighting in regard to its two neightbors. His quest for Siam supremacy ended the Khmer-mon consortium for good and to no evail the Ayudhyan court itself will be prey to Burmese retaliation.
THE FALL OF LAWEK
The fall of Lawek is an iconic event in the modern history of Cambodia. It shows that circumstances had played a big role in the fate of a country regardless of its leadership' s role. The epic of "Prah Ko and Prah Keo" was soon compiled a short time after to conveys the real situation that led to the fall of the capital city of Cambodia at the time. The fight to survival of the two brothers represented the fate of the Cambodian people being deprived of their spiritual founding fathers of the past (Nokor Champa: The Last of the Indianized State: The Last Legacy of the Bull Nanda). Superstitious or not, the next story about the scattering of the Bamboo's enclosure to retrieve the Siamese coins reminds Cambodians that they were also to blame, among many other factors that contributed to the fall of Lawek.
The Reign of king Mahendraraja, known also as Prah Satha or Prah Angka (1585-)
After King Boromindaraja died in 1578 after a reign of 11 years, the throne of Lawek went to his eldest son, King Mahendraraja. He ascended the throne in 1585 at the age of 37 years old. He appointed his brother named Suryapur as oparaja (army general) of his Kingdom. His reign was, otherwise uneventful, if there is no connection to the new conflict between Ayudhya and Hamsavati. Through the accord that was made during the reign of King Boromindaraja between Ayudhya and Cambodia, the two countries were expected to join force against any external intervention. When Hamsavati launched another campaign against Ayudhya in 1580, it was a good time for Ayudhya to take advantage of the accord. Ayudha then sent messengers to the Khmer court, requesting for help. Bound by the agreement of his father, the Khmer king sent his brother Sri Suryapur to lead Khmer troops to Ayudhya as requested. When they arrived, they soon found out that they were duped in the whole affair. According to the Khmer sources, Narasuan went ahead before the arrival of the Khmer troops, to draft for his own army from the three provinces handed over earlier to Cambodia. In the agreement, they were supposed to be off limit to Ayudhya for military recruitment. Narasuan ignored the accord and after subduing the Khmer authorities taking control of the regions, went ahead mobilizing his own troops to face the Mon's attack. With a bigger army, Narasuan took no time to drive the Mons back to Hamsavati. Informed of Narasuan's bold maneuver, the Khmer Obraja was upset. During their short encounter, Sri Suryapur and the Siam prince Narasuan had developed a deep animosity toward each other. Each one of the two accused the other of breaking the alliance. From his side, Narasuan accused Suryapur of non-cooperation during their joint battle against the Burmese army (Notes: The join campaign between the Khmer and Ayudhyan troops). It is important to note that Narasuan might have all the reason to suspect the Khmer obraja of yielding to Hamsavati (still referring in Khmer chronicle as the Mon country). As we had argued, the actual Khmer court was originated from the Mon's state of Lampang that was traditionally a close relative to the Mon State of Hamsavati (Ramanadesa: The Mon Countries: The Mons of Haripanjaya). Since its establishment at Angkor, the Khmer court never received any threats from the latter. Under the Burmese court of Ava, Hamsavati's politic was seen even closer to the Khmer court of Lawek. The combined Burmese and Mon' s invasion of Ayudhya, Lanna and Lan-xang appeared to be in many occasions, in tune with the Khmer court being under oppression by the aggressiveness of these neighboring countries. To response to the Khmer ill cooperation, Narasuan ordered his men to cut the heads of some Burmese war prisoners and displayed them in front of the camp where the Khmer troops stationed. The Khmer obraja was very offended but restrained himself not to go ahead retaliating before consulting the Khmer court first. Heading his troops back home, he let the Ayudhyan court know of his feeling by creating havoc to Siamese controlled communities along the way. Arriving at Lawek, he informed the Khmer court about the incidents. The Khmer court then sent troops to take back all the three Khmer provinces from the control of Ayudhya. The victory however induced a greater consequence. As soon as he heard the new, Narasuan started preparing for the retaliation. This time it was Lawek that became the target. He sent spies to study the condition of the country and soon headed his army to attack the Khmer capital. Out of bad situation or a part of his plan, the Ayudhyan army withdrew after failing to subdue the Khmer court. It is said that the Bamboo enclosure of the Lawek court was so thick that the Siam army could not pass through to reach its target. Before the withdrawal, Narasuan instructed his army to shoot coins into the thick bamboo enclosure that protected the Lawek court. After Narasuan withdrew his forces, Lawek celebrated its victory and life went back to normal. As usual, people went ahead to take care of their own business as it was a good time ever to launch new ventures or resume previous activities that were on hold by the war. The Khmer King took that opportunity to strengthen his court for his own family's account. For the love of his sons, Prah Mahendraraja anointed his eldest son of 11 years old to be king beside him, under the name of Prah Cheychetha. He then anointed his younger son of 6 years of age, named Ponha Tan, as an Obraja. To make up with his brother Suryapur whose title of Obraja was given to Ponha Tan, he anointed him as Obyauraja (second king). This unusual arrangement created an upheaval in the court of Lawek as well as in the whole country. Orders were neglected and anarchy settled in every layers of the Khmer society. It happened when signs of the Kala yuga were noticed and were reported to the court of Lawek (Notes: The signs of Kala Yuga). When informed, the king played done the report and instead of preparing for the worst, opted for an optimistic view that everything would be for the best in any time soon.
The Lawek' s dark Age
By the time that the conflict between Ayudhya and Lawek became imminent, western culture had already made its way into the mainstream of Southeast Asian power elite. Lawek already allowed foreign mercenaries who turned themselves into becoming court advisors to make their regular visits to the court. A Portuguese by the name of Louis Veloso who was particularly close to Prah Mahendraraja, might have been the reason why the king took on an unorthodox stand against the superstitious concerns of his Khmer subjects. Needless to say, his negligence led to more deteriorating of the state affair. While Ayudhya was preparing for its next attack, Lawek went into chaos and anarchy. Caring no more about the Siam attack, the needy people started to search for the Siamese coins that were shot into the thick Bamboo enclosure. Even with the warning of the Obyauraj Suryapur, they did not stop and most of the bamboo enclosure was soon scattered. Surely enough, upon hearing the bad situation in Cambodia, the Ayudhyan king took the opportunity to launch another campaign against the unprepared Lawek. In haste, king Mahendraraja escaped with all his court that included his two beloved sons to Sri Sor-chor (Sri Sandhor of today). He then tried to induce a famous warlord king named Rama Jeng Prey (the King of the Jungle) to fight against the Siam troops on his behalf. The latter who already had his own secret agenda, agreed to the king's request but did not take any actions. Instead he used the insignia given by the king to carry on the King's mission, to recruit more troops for his own campaign. When the auspicious moment came, he launched his troops to attack, not the Siam army, but the King's family in distress. In a relentless chase, his army drove the falling court deep to the north into the province of Stung Treng. Faced with hardship, the king died shortly after. His eldest son who was his associate king named Prah Cheychetha also died soon after his father. The Obyauraj Suryapur who was, at the time in mission outside of Lawek, was himself besieged by another Siam contingent. He was very upset upon hearing the bad new and managed to break free from the Siam encircling. Even though having just a small band of troops left, he headed them back to Lawek and prepared the city to stand against the Siam's final assault. After setting fire to the scattered bamboo enclosure, the Siam troops had no problems whatsoever to crush the small Khmer army. Narasuan then took Sri Suryapur and his two sons as prisoner to Ayudhya after setting the Lawek' s throne under the control of a Siam official. As his predecessors have done in the past, the Siam king also forced many Khmer families to go along to Ayudhya as war trophy (Notes: The re-population of Ayudhya). Before leaving, the Siam king appointed a Siam minister to govern Lawek and left him with just a small Siam army for defense. He was wrong to think that the Siam minister was facing no threat after the court of Lawek was completely destroyed. It was a good opportunity for the warlord King Rama Jeng Prey to take the throne of Lawek for himself. After ousting the Siam minister back to Ayudhya, he ascended the throne under the name of Ramadhipti in 1593. Using only his close family as court officials, he ruled Lawek in his warlord way. In a dictator's style of governing, any slight challenges and threats to his rule were crushed. One of such threats came from the Portuguese Louis Veloso who was a close friend of the late King Prah Mahendraraja. During the crisis, he was absent from the Khmer court visiting his country. When he returned back and presented to the court, the court of Ramadhipti soon conspired to eliminate him. Tipped off, Louis Veloso made his own plan to outmaneuver the new king. He requested the see the new king and rendered homage with armament and other valuable objects brought from his country as present. The king granted him and his men an audience during which, Veloso managed to kill the king instantly and took over the court. Veloso and his men riddled off the Lawek court with the same guns brought to the court as present to the King. He then invited the second son of the last king Mahendraraja named Ponha Tan to ascend the throne in 1597. Being not competent, he left most to the state affair to his ministers while warlord kings emerged everywhere in the lower stratum of his administration. In 1598, two members of Cham royalty of Champapura who took refuge at Cambodia, rebelled against local warlords and the conflict aggravated into a big scale revolt. They managed to win over Khmer troops that were sent from Lawek to crush them down. When the king decided to head the troops himself, the two rebellious Chams changed their strategy and sent messengers to the king asking to surrender. They invited him to a ceremony that was organized by them to celebrate the submission of the Cham communities to the Khmer court. Unsuspected of the plot, the king was killed by a group of Cham mercenaries during the feast.
The Last of Lawek Court
The fall of Lawek was an iconic event in the post-Angkorean history of Cambodia. It was in the opinion of the rural Khmer people, a lesson not to be forgotten among many more misfortunes that contributed to the downfall of Cambodia during the next few centuries to come. On foreign affair, it was a rare chance that the three brotherly courts got together to form an alliance and secured their s countries for good against foreign intervention. With the Ayudhyan court fell back under Prah Dharmaraja who belonged to Sokhodaya house, the three courts could related themselves to past alliance that worked out perfectly after the fall of Angkor (Nokor Caktomukh: The New Angkorean Court: The Refugees from the Mon Countries). Nevertheless, there were leadership styles that, in some circumstances could work for the better relationship between the three brothely courts but at that specific moment drove them apart into bitter rivalry. The first one is the Khmer King Mahendraraja who was bound to family tradition and formality. His love for his sons was at the first place the start of the crisis by making them the worst rulers of Cambodia in the time to come. The second one was his brother Suryapur who was bound to his personal honor and righteousness and due to his own principle suffered the most mistreatment from others. The third one was the Ayudhyan king Prah Dharmaraja who, through his wisdom and good judgment, honored the ancient alliances with both Hamsavati and the Khmer court to make the alliance of the three courts possible. Nevertheless, he was powerless in front of his son Narasuan who, very much conscious of his personal power and pride, start to rebel against the Mon court of Hamsavati. In his drive to bring up the glory to his personal gain and satisfaction, he destroyed the only chance of recovering back the Khmer-mon consortium. Despise his father's advise, Narasuan challenged the authority of the Mon King and looked down upon the suzerainty of the Khmer Court. With audacity, he succeeded to win over both courts but had to pay a heavy price to his mistake (The Kingdom of Syam: The Last of the Ayudhyan Court: The Fall of Ayudhya). The next attack subdued the Lawek court and left it in total dysfunctioning chaos. Following the death of Chao Ponha Tan, the next reigns were also short and plagued with crisis. The next king whose name was Chao Pohna An, ascended the throne in 1599 under the name of Prah Angka Borom ramathipdi. His attraction to the wife of a county's officer led him to commit atrocity against her who chose to resist his advance. Out of contempt, he ordered to send her to jail where she died soon after. The distraught husband then begged a warlord king named Keo Prah Phleng to revenge his faithful wife. In a ceremony, the warlord king and his men managed to infiltrate into the crowd and killed the unjust king on the spot. The next king who ascended the throne in 1600 under the name of Prah Keo Pha, was the youngest son of the last king Mahendraraja. He was also negligent in the state affair and spent most of his time for self-indulgence. Seeing the country was degenerating more and more into anarchy, the queen grandmother who headed the vacant court decided to request Ayudhya to return Prah Suryapur back to Lawek. According to the Khmer source, the Siam King Narindrasura started to see in his former rival, a sense of honor and righteousness that he himself lacked. During his stay at Ayudhya, the Siam King treated Prah Suryapur and his family well (Notes: The fate of Prah Suryapur). With the agreement of King Narindrasura, Prah Suryapur returned to take control of the Khmer country. His first mission was to subdue all unruly warlords and to put down rebellion of the deposed king Prah Keo Pha, his nephew, from creating more havoc to the country. In the fighting, he requested the release of his two sons who were brought also as prisoners to Siam. Out of concern for insubordination, the Siam king only sent the younger son named Uday back to Cambodia and kept the oldest son named Prah Chey Chetha at Ayudhya for security. To make up with the demand of the Khmer king, he sent his own son named Sri Dharmaraja to head Siam troops into Lawek and helped subduing the rebels. Either by his own will or in a political stunt, Prah Suryapur ordered his court to dress-up as in Ayudhyan court. Pleased of the latter's show of subordination, the Siam King finally released Prah Chey Chetha II to return back to Cambodia. The khmer King then abdicated his throne for his eldest son in 1618 to rule Lawek and died a year later.
- ISSA: The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, by G. Coedes
- MSA: The Making of Southeast Asia, by G. Coedes
- HSEA: A history of Southeast Asia, by D.G.E. Hall
- CKH: The Chronicle of Khmer heroes, by Sot Eng
- CRC: Chronique Royale Du Cambodge, by Ochna Vong Sarpech Nong, French Translation by M. Francis Garnier
- CNSD: The Christal Sands: the chronicles of Nagara Sri Dharmaraja: Version B, Translated by David K. Wyatt
- SIAM: Royaume Thai ou Siam, by Mr Pallegoix
1346-1351: The reign of Prah Lampangraja at Angkor; 1350: King U-tong built Ayudhya; 1351: Angkor fell to Ayudhya; 1359-1369: The reign of Prah Suryavang at Angkor; 1373-1383: The reign of Prah Dharmasokaraja; 1382-1429: The reign of Prah Bat Ponha Yat; 1429-1433: The reign of Prah Narayraja at Catomukh; 1424-1448: The reign of king Boromaracha II at Ayudhya; 1433-1478: The reign of Sri Raja; 1448-1488 The reign of King Borommatrailokanat at Ayudhya; 1471: Prah Suryauday; 1468-1504: The reign of Sri Dharmaraja; 1505: The reign of Sri Soganbath; The reign of Ponha Chan Raja at Lawek; 1548-1569: The reign of King Maha-Chakrapath-Raja-Thiraj; 1555-1567: The reign of king Boromindaraja: 1585: The reign of king Mahendraraja; 1590-1605 ?: The reign of King Narasuan at Ayudhya;
- The source of historical records
In the old days, even though the country was incurring destructive wars, temples or pagodas were considered as sacred ground and were mostly left alone. All records and manuscripts were brought for safekeeping in the temples. As printing was not available at that time, the monks were the only recorders who had to copy and distribute among themselves.
- Sri Raja and King Cakrapat
The Chronicle of Khmer Heroes places the advent of Sri Raja invading Ayudhya during the internal crisis schemed by the princess Sri Sodachan. This contradicts the Siam sources of dating this event immediately before the reign of King Cakrapat at 1548, almost a century later. The crisis that provided Sri Raja the motivation to invade Ayudhya was happening during the reign of Borommatrailokanat (1448-1463).
- The city of Prey-nokor
It is important to be not confused between the ancient Kingdom Prey-nokor, that the Chinese texts referred as Lin-yi, with the new city of Prey-nokor. Prehaps, named after the ancient legacy of the Kingdom of Prey-nokor, the new city of Prey-nokor was founded as a port city of the low land of Cochinchina.
- The will of God
It was believed that God' s will could impact the outcome of the contest. In a brotherly feud between two neighboring nations, the contest avoids the use of a bigger impact' s mean of solving the problem. In general speaking, it was the extention of making decision through randomness by throwing the coin in the air and check the for the front or flip when its dropped on the ground. Nevertheless, dishonesty was at the time found impacting the outcome also.
- The frontier between Siam and Cambodia
The new frontier between Siam and Cambodia was settled to reflect the request of Khmer court of the three provinces, Bachinpuri, Chandapuri and Nokorrajasima, back to Cambodia.
To the South, the seacoast (frontier) of Chandapuri, to the east, the frontier of Nokor Rajasima, to the north, the frontier of Lan-xang. The west of the line belongs to Ayudhya and the east belonged to Cambodia. (CKH: The reign of Prah Boromindaraja)
It was a line drawn to include the three provinces as part of Cambodia.
- The join Campaign between the Khmer and the Ayudhyan troops
In another version, the Siam King Narasuan ordered the Khmer contingent to play trick with the Mon army. By pretending to lose the battle, the fleeing Khmer troops were supposed to lure the Mon army into the trap set by the Ayudhyan army. The Khmer obraja however refused to carry on the plan and Narasuan was very angry.
- The Signs of Kala Yuga
Inheriting from the Hindu culture, Brahmans of the Khmer court had ways to detect up front the bad omen of the Kala Yuga. Superstitious as it may be, the signs are believed to warn about crises that were going to happen in the near future to come. It is imperative that the court takes the signs seriously and prepared for the crisis to strike. With proper preparation, the crisis could then be minimized or altogether avoided.
- The re-population of Ayudhya
The last time that Hamsavati raided Ayudhya, they depleted the latter population. In turn, when Ayudhya invaded Cambodia, they captured as many Khmer families as possible to repopulate Ayudhya.
The King of Siam Narasura, appointed a Siam official with the title of Mahamantri (the great minister) to take care of the Khmer Kingdom. He then took the Obyauraja Prah Sri Suryapur and all his family to Siam. He also ordered his army to capture Khmer families, at both sides of the way back from the province Sanraung Toang, Lawek, to the province of Neang Roang altogether 120,000 souls. (CKH: The reign of Prah Bat Cheychetha)
Of these Khmer captives, many escaped back. The measure indicates that at this late stage, Ayudhya was still scarcely populated.
- The Threat of Narasuan
One day when Narasuan presented himself in front of the Mon King, Prah Chao Fa Mangkri, the latter notice a phenomena that shows Narasuan with four arms, a sign of high merit. It was also a sign of threat to the Burmese King since Narasuan, through his connection with previous members of Vareru's family, could induce the Mons to rebel against him. According to Burmese sources, Narasuan was already suspected to plot against the court of Prah Chao Fa Mangkri when he was ordered to be arrested.
- The Fate of Prah Suryapur
Most Siamese sources are quiet about the fate of Prah Suryapur at Ayudhya. One version however has an account about a Khmer King who was a war prisoner of Narasuan being killed by the latter. The Siam King than took his blood to wash his feet (SIAM: Deuxiem Partie: P. 86). Not only that the story is unverifiable, the identity of the Khmer King in the account is also obscure. It could be referring to Prah Suryapur who was at the time second king (objauraja) of Lawek and was actually taken as prisoner by Narasuan. According to the Khmer sources, he was not killed and was released later to become king of Lawek.