Sunday, April 09, 2006

Naval river warfare during the Razadarit era (c. 1416) VII

How raids and scorched earth tactics were carried out by river as they were by land is described in this extract from the later part of Razadarit Ayeidawpon (based on San Lwin’s unpublished translation) (c. 1400):

Extract 4: Raiding by river around Bassein (c. 1416)

After his victory over the Mons at Panko, Minyekyawswa sent scouts along Yapyaw Tamut stream to find an out of the way route which they could use to advance on Bassein without being detected, but this stream was found to be too shallow. Around 1416, Minyekyawswa, unable to take Bassein marched towards Myaungmya. Minyekyawswa was unsuccessful in his attack on Myaungmya and withdrew passing by Bassein once again, traveling to Ola upstream from Lamaik.

At this point in its narrative Razadarit Ayeidawpon provides some rich details about life in an environment of endemic and constant warfare. Raiding and scorched earth tactics could suddenly transform an area and make it uninhabitable just when it seemed peace and tranquility had finally returned:

“People from Bassein poured out from within the confines of the city walls thinking that the besiegers had gone away for good. They visited the gardens and parks savouring them when Minyekyawswa then at Kyet Kanet, sent warbboats and other craft accompanying them to take captives. He also had coconut and betel nut plantations razed. Wanting to use the Ngawun river route and and finding it to be too shallow, he had earthen damns built.” The dams however broke and he moved off to Yapyaw Tamut, Razadarit meanwhile moved from Panhlaing to Mitaloun landing, thence to Dala where he had defensive works repaired where necessary” (San Lwin, 136).

Minyekyawswa traveled back to Ava to present the captured nobles to the king. After hearing of the exploits of various warriors, the king of Ava bestowed titles and awarded appanages to them. Minyekyawswa was given a wife.

Some notes on the conventions used here:

1. Dates and the sides of participants are provided in the text only sporadically. I favor the dates from U Kala’s Burmese chronicle which seem more reliable and certain than the dates of Razadarit Ayeidawpon.

2. In choosing “Ava” and “Mon” to describe the two sides in the war, I have chosen clarity and conciseness as being most important. I could have easily chosen a whole panoply of confusing designators for the two sides: Pegu, Peguer, Peguan, Hanthawaddy, Hamsavati, southerner, southern confederation, Razadarit’s side, Talaing, Ramanya, or Ramanna-desa. I do not use “Talaing” because Mons now consider it offensive, how it got to be that way is beyond the scope of this investigation.

3. The use of the simple designators, Ava and Mon, is meant to provide clarity to the narrative, not imply that the Mon state or chieftainship was stronger and more unified than it actually was. The Burmese text itself often becomes difficult to read when the side of historical actors is not clearly indicated in the narrative.