Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Political theory
in Razadarit Ayeidawpon IX

Razadarit's minister Deinmaniyut on chain of command (c. 1383)

The very day that Razadarit ascended the throne of Pegu, the Razadarit Ayeidawpon begins a long excursion on political theory, investigating the nature and impact of political subordination among the ruling elite.

Immediately after his coronation in 1383 Razadarit calls his father’s minister Deinmaniyut to his presence and orders that he be executed. The minister demands to know why he is to be executed, claiming that “only by executing those who committed wrongs would a king’s power and glory increase.” Razadarit explains that, unlike other members of the ruling elite, Deinmaniyut had not approached him before he became king and shown his “respect and fealty". Razadarit accuses the minister of opportunistic behavior, "Now that you come to me only when I am at the pinnacle of kingship with your sweet words, this is your great mistake.” The minister counters that the behavior that Razadarit expected of him was in fact opportunistic and draws a clear picture in Razadarit’s mind of the incentives he is putting in place if he carries out his decision to execute him:

“I had been a servant to your father, the king and had enjoyed his trust. In return I had been awarded the fiefdom of Syriam (Thanlyin). I pay court only to a king who wears a white umbrella, not to on who is without this emblem of kingship. If you should take umbrage for this and have me executed, I lose nothing more than my life but the underpinnings of good administration would be uprooted for good. People would point out my fate as an example of losing one’s life and leaving one’s wife destitute for being loyal only to a crowned king and omitting to make overtures like offering advice to a pretender who later becomes king” (San Lwin, 59-60).

Razadarit understands that he would be setting a bad precedent, so he withdraws his decision to execute Deinmaniyut. The soundness of this logic is proven over and over again during the Mon-Burmese war (c. 1385-1421) as each side tries to win over local rulers to their side. Often the economic calculation is given for not changing sides, hinting that short-sighted political cunning and gamesmanship similar to that found in the writings of Machiavelli often superceded higher-order moral principles like this one.