May 8, 2007

Muay Thai Legend - Pra Chao Suua - ( The Tiger King )

Pra Chao Suua was born in 1662 and began his reign in 1702 at the age of forty. His reign was very short lasting only seven years. The King had a passion for all sports - hunting shooting, fishing, but most especially Muay Thai (Thai Boxing). The sport had ha reached the height of popularity. Siam was at peace with Burma and her other neighbors, and Muay Thai became the favorite pastime of the population.

Fighting camps developed and numerous tournaments were promoted. He was fond of going out in disguise attending village Muay Thai matches, where he could display his skill and ability as a boxer. Numerous nobles and feudal lords owned or managed boxing camps and organized bouts between different camps. Burmese, Thais, Cambodians, Karennis Mons and others actively competed against each other. Pra Chao Suua modified some of the techniques to improve Muay Thai, some of the strategies used today are said to have been developed and based on the "Tiger King's " style of boxing.

On one such occasion, he attended a village Muay Thai match and successively challenged two champion boxers. He defeated them both, one after the other and was paid two Ticals by the ringmaster. He left the village still undetected. As King he erected many temples and repaired the older ones, notably the temple of P’rabat. He improved the canal known as Klong Mahajai between Bangkok and Tachin, so that the canal could be used for trade ships traveling from the coast to Bangkok.

During an inspection trip of the river (Klong) surveying his work, the steersman of the royal barge, carelessly ran aground. According to the law of his time, this offense was punishable by death. The King, being in a gracious mood, caused a mud image of the steersman to be made and decapitated this instead. This did not satisfy the steersman, who pleaded piteously for his own death, lest the law of the land be brought into contempt. The King had no option than to carry out the steersman’s wish and beheaded him. The King had a shrine erected on the bank of the canal in memory of the steersman.

The King was also known for his fits of fury. Once when hunting elephants he sent his sons ahead to build a causeway across a marsh. When the King and his retinue crossed the causeway, the king’s elephant sank into the mud. he flew into one of his fits of rage accusing , the two Princes of plotting against him and would have had them flogged had not the chief queen interceded on their behalf.

During his reign Siam was affected by the most fearful famine and drought. The rice was exhausted and the river was covered in an evil-smelling green slime. Most of the fish died and the few that lived were poisonous to eat. Sickness and disease broke out throughout Siam. The King fearing a rebellion announced that the god, Indra had come to him at the City gates and told him that the green scum on the river was a panacea for all the diseases in Siam. The people rushed to the river to anoint themselves with the slime, after fifteen days, heavy rains fell causing the waters to overflow.

The disease and famine soon came to an end. Shortly after this the King took to drinking. Worn out by heavy drinking, his short reign came to an end, he died in 1709 aged forty seven. he is best remembered by Thailand’s Nak Muay (Thai Boxers) for his skill and bravery in the ring.

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