Archive for July, 2008

Coins and History

July 10, 2008

While wondering around an old market outside Bangkok we found a seller of religious amulets and old coins. The coins were interesting because he had arranged them in sequence and the earliest, before Dvaravati, were from the Funan Empire. Taking it that they were found in Thailand it does begin to give a sense of who controlled parts of Thailand in the first few centuries AD. We know the Mons were here very early but we do not know for sure the people who were under the influence of Funan back then. In fact the ethnic make up of the Funanese people themselves is in doubt. We can guess they might have been an early Khmer nation. They were centered in present day Vietnam and Cambodia. “Money makes the world go round” maybe, but it certainly hints at influence in these early times.

Preah Vihear Dispute Heats Up

July 8, 2008

As with the previous post politics gets involved with history again. This time, although the question being argued over is sovereignty over the Preah Vihear Khmer temple site, the politics is much to do with an internal factional fight in Thailand.

In the end the sovereignty of the site isn’t going to change any time soon and getting the site listed with UNESCO may help its preservation and increase tourism to the area on both sides of the border.  The problem is that playing the nationality card works well on both sides of the border.

There is a good overview of the problem from the Thai perspective on the SEAArch taken from a Bangkok Post article here.

Ethnicity, Religion and Politics

July 3, 2008

It’s not surprising I guess that ethnic history often gets mixed up with present day politics and religion. A great post about this and how Malays look upon their own history is at a blog called the__earthinc in an article about the ancient Malay kingdom of Srivijaya. Here the present day historical concentration on the Malaccan Empire and almost total ignoring of the earlier, large and longer lasting Srivijaya Empire is explained as the former being Moslem and the latter being Buddhist and Hindu.

The writer puts it this way. “I truly believe that Srivijaya was that brilliant light that stayed bright from nearly a millennium. Malacca was a just spark, though brilliant as it may be.”

Srivijaya was known to exist in the 7th. Century because of Chinese writing at the time. Although centered in Sumatra it covered peninsula Malaysia and probably parts of what is now southern Thailand.

There’s a great map of the Srivijaya Empire in the 10th. Century at Wikipedia here.

Ban Chiang

July 1, 2008

Ban Chiang PotteryI visited the National Science Museum on Sunday and was impressed by the Ban Chiang Pottery. I hope they were not copies. The colours were superb. If you haven’t seen them they are a maroon design on buff background. These are from a bronze age community living in the northeast of Thailand in a period ranging from 2000 BC to 200 AD. I’m not sure where the pottery dates inside in this range.

I don’t think much is known about who the people of Ban Chiang were but we know both the Mons and the Khmers were around sometime in this range. Red does seem to be a popular colour with the Mons but I don’t think there is any indication of Ban Chiang being a Mon settlement.