Thursday, May 18, 2006

Razadarit’'s expedition to Prome (1401)
(Warfare in the Razadarit era, c. 1385-1421)

When Razadarit learned that his daughter had been abducted, he vowed to sack Prome and Sale which belonged to Ava (San Lwin 83-84). Razadarit marched on Myanaung [Kudut] and took the town once again followed by the smaller towns of Uyinpu, Kyakhat, and Shwedaung, sacking these towns and taking captives. His assault against Tayokmaw failed, so he laid siege to the town, the ruler fled from the town into the jungle. Maintaining the siege at Tayokmaw, Razadarit marched on to Prome, his generals advising him that if Prome was taken, then Tayokmaw would fall easily (San Lwin 84).

Prome was ruled by Letya Pyanchi, son-in-law of Laukpya. Razadarit launched three assaults at great cost against Prome to no avail. He finally decided to lay siege to Prome from the land side. As the siege dragged on, the inhabitants of Prome within the walls faced famine. Ava sent forces from Kukhan, Talokmyo, Kinda, and Pinle to relieve the siege (San Lwin 84). To avoid being attacked from two sides, Razadarit maintained the siege with his naval forces, while the seven remaining land regiments went to attack Ava’s approaching forces.

When Razadarit’s scouts sighted Ava’s advancing troops near the village of Theymathaw. They were led by a Tai contingent from Kale. The Mon army itself behind a range of hills. The Mon commander Byat Za tried to get the other leaders to wait for an opportune time to attack, but Lagunein refused to follow his orders and ventured out onto the plain with the intention of instilling fear in his opponent. Another commander, Upakaung, followed. Lagunein’s charge scattered the Tai vanguard which managed to reform and charge back, throwing Lagunein’s forces into disarray with 60 casualties. Byat Za, his elephant in Musth, learning that the four regiments had been put to flight, emerged from hiding and attacked the pursuing Avan regiments, not in orderly formation themselves, and scattered them. Byat Za also set fire to a stockade that had been set up by the ruler of Tarokmyo, forcing its inhabitants to flee. Lagunein regrouped his elephants in a nearby forest and managed to capture many of the soldiers, horses, and men which Byat Za had routed. Arriving back at the capital first, Lagunein presented the victory as his accomplishment and was awarded by Razadarit. Later after Byat Za arrived back, Lagunein admitted that “his troops had been put to flight at the beginning, but that he had later taken the opportunity to capture the enemy that had been scattered by the general Byat Za’s counter-attack” and was upbraided by Razadarit for lying (San Lwin 85-86).

Byat Za informed Razadarit that the ongoing siege of Prome could only be won by waiting it and forcing starvation inside the walls of the town, but many from the Mon side would also die because of the bad environment [unclean air] the soldiers had to live in during the siege. Byat Za suggested, “Since the enemy reinforcemments had been put to route…only three regiments should be placed at Nawin and the main force, both riverine and land concentrate at Thale where the climate was salubrious” (San Lwin 86).

Prome eventually started suffering from starvation with its inhabitants forced to live on rice bran and the pith of toddy palm. Realizing how urgent it now was to relieve the siege, Minkhaung quickly gathered together a large army and marched south to Prome. When Razadarit learned of this, he was encamped upriver at Myede. He consulted his generals who were divided as to whether to continue the siege or retreat. Byat Za and Deinmaniyut advised retreat, arguing that their defenses, consisting of wooden stockades surrounded by a ditch, were no match for the fortifications of Prome which consisted of “brick walls and a wide and deep moat.” Razadarit decided to continue the siege.

As Minkhaung approached Prome the four generals who had been defeated earlier are said ot have rejoined his forces. Minkhaung made an assault on the Mon stockade at dawn on Tuesday, the 5th day of the waxing moon in the month of Dabodwe (January). According to Than Tun’s calendar this could only be the year 1395 [BE756], however in the narrative of Razadarit Ayeidawpon, this event comes after Minkhaung becomes the new king of Ava in 1401, so 1401 seems more reasonable. This would mean that Than Tun’s calendar was one day off though, since Tuesday was on the 4th of this year.

At dawn Ava attacked the Mon stockade which was overrun and with 700-800 of the soldiers defending it killed. Razadarit Ayeidawpon reports that, “an equal number of Shans were captured.” The Tai troop levies included in Ava’s forces were so numerous that soldiers on the Ava side were sometimes just referred to as “Shans”. There is an element of ambiguity here as to whether casualties on the Ava side were Tai troop levies or not.

Razadarit orders the execution of deserters

The river was filled with soldiers fleeing from the Mon Nawin stockade. When Razadarit found out that they were fleeing like this, he ordered them to be pursued and killed. Another commander pleaded with Razadarit, arguing that attacking his own men would be like helping the enemy, so Razadarit had the order rescinded and ordered that the fleeing soldiers be rescued (San Lwin 87).

After the battle was finished, Byat Za advised that the supplies that they had brought with them by means of porters would soon be exhausted and they would have to live off the land and find provisions from the Ava territory that they now occupied. Byat Za believed that they would eventually win the battle this way. Prome being unable to collect supplies/provisions would eventually starve, so Byat Za advised Razadarit not to negotiate with the king of Ava Minkhaung: “with three to four hundred boats and picked men led by nobles we will see that rice from Myede-Thayet-Magwe-Malun is collected and any amount remaining is burnt and destroyed. This scorched earth policy was carried out in every town and village in the area.” When Minkhaung was unable to obtain supplies he sent a submissive letter and returned the war hostages he had taken (San Lwin 87-88).

After a series of letters are exchanged between Razadarit and the king of Ava (San Lwin 88-90) culminating in a meeting at Myathitin pagoda were the two kings exchanged gifts, discussed affairs, and demaracated the boundary between their two kingdoms. They designated Tapindaraung as the western border point, Thapaka in the east” (San Lwin 90). Razadarit promised to remove his garrison in Talehsi where it was currently stationed. Immediately upon returning home, the king of Ava checked to see if Razadarit had removed his garrison yet. When he found out he hadn’t he vowed to attack and take first Arakan and then Pegu. Towards this end he sent a envoy an to Chiang Mai asking for his help in this matter.