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Chiang Mai Citylife > Articles > 2009 > 2009 Issue 08 > CULTURAL INSIGHT Identity Crisis

CULTURAL INSIGHT Identity Crisis

When, in 1775, the Burmese were finally defeated and driven out of Chiang Mai and the north, the Chiang Mai Chronicle says: all were starving and emaciated and weak, [since Citylife has food as its theme this month the following remarks from the Chronicle are included _ The inhabitants were starving having eaten all their elephants, horses, buffalo, ducks, chicken, pigs, dogs, tubers and bananas…seven of the Burmese who entered were killed and completely eaten.] and some went north while others went to the south. Chiang Mai was abandoned, and overgrown with weeds, bushes and vines. It was a place for rhinoceros, elephants, tigers and bears, and there were very few people. It was not until 1797, that King Kawila moved from his temporary capital at Pa Sang, near Lamphun, to Chiang Mai.
When Taksin, King of the Siamese, asked Kawila, in 1782, to rule the north with the help of his six brothers, he called for a list of able-bodied men _ there were only 700 Thai Yuan and Mon. The first task was, therefore, to repopulate the country. Karen guarding the border along the Salween River were swept up (to use the felicitous phrase of the translators of the Chiang Mai Chronicle) and brought in. Expeditions were sent off to the west of the Salween, to Laos, north of Chiang Saen and as far as the Sipsong Panna in China. The silversmiths brought from Ngua Lai still work in Chiang Mai. People swept up from the Shan States were settled outside the walls of Chiang Mai. ‘Then’ we read, ‘the King commanded a brave force to attack Ban Sup Teng and took Mun Khantha and Mung Prom and all their people, whom he brought back to settle in the country.’
And so it went on. Debtors fleeing from justice in Bangkok were allowed to live at Nong Hoi; Thai Lue were brought from Yunnan and many settled in Nan; the people of Tak who had fled to the south were persuaded to return; after the fall of Chiang Saen, the last Burmese stronghold, in 1804, the inhabitants were scattered throughout the countryside. In they came _ Thai Yai from the Shan States, Lao and Thai Lua from the north, Lawa and Karen from the hills, Mon, Thai Yuan and Thai Yong.
So who and what are the khon muang people of Lanna? What is Lanna culture and tradition?