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The Kedah Blockade

The end of Langkasuka
The rise and fall of the Malay kingdom of Patani.


Patani probably rivals Kedah as among the oldest Malay states on the Peninsula. The lost Second Century kingdom of Langkasuka may have spanned the peninsula from Patani on the east coast, to northern Kedah on the west. Wu-pei-chih, certainly firmly places a Lang-hsi-chia to the south of Songkla (Singora), up to the Patani River and the fabled spirit land of Lakawn Suka still features in the mythology of Patani Malays. Patani was probably one of the Sri Vijayan empire's conquests and ' Ilangasoka, undaunted in fierce battles' was certainly recorded as one of Rajendra Cola's conquests in his raids into Southeast Asia into the empire in 1025.

Patani is also probably one of the earliest Malay states to convert to Islam - certainly well before Melaka. The Hikayat Patani tells the story of its king Raja Phya Tu Nakpa who falls gravely ill, with no apparent cure to his ailment in sight. A holy man by the name of Syeikh Said claims he can cure the ruler but only if he promises to convert to Islam as soon as he is healthy. The desperate ruler promises to do so and, as a result, he makes a miraculous recovery. However, he forgets his promise and falls ill, and again seeks the holy man's blessings. This happens three times - but he finally makes good on his promise the third time and becomes a Muslim, calling himself Sultan Ismail Shah.

It is under Sultan Ismail Shah's reign that the state takes on the name 'Patani'. Seeking a location for a new capital, he comes across an ideal spot on the coast and exclaims to his followers 'Pantai Ini!' ('This beach!). Another account says that he finds a farmer's hut at this spot and calls his capital 'Pak Tani' ('farmer'). This capital is thought to be in modern day Kampong Grisek (Kru Se).

Patani was certainly known to the Portuguese, who first visited the port in 1516, with Godinho de Eredia going as far as describing 'Patane' as the first seat of the Malay Empire. The fall of Melaka to the Portuguese in 1511 certainly increased Patani's popularity with India's Muslim traders. Its location on the east coast of the Peninsula gave it the added advantage of being the ideal emporium for goods from China. This economic growth may have strengthened its military power as well. Taking advantage of a massive invasion of Ayutthaya by the Burmese in 1563, Sultan Ismail's successor, Sultan Muzaffar Shah, launched an attack on the Siamese, with 200 ships and thousands of men. He died suddenly during the campaign and is said to be buried at the estuary of the Menam Chao Phraya.

In 1584, Patani entered its golden age with the rule of four successive Queens, Ratu Hijau ('The Green Queen'), Ratu Biru ('The Blue Queen'), Ratu Ungu ('The Violet Queen') and Ratu Kuning ('The Yellow Queen'). Patani expanded its borders to include Kelantan and Trengganu and became the most powerful Malay state after Johor. It was during this time that Patani became renowned for manufacturing cannon, producing three of the largest bombards ever cast in the region - 'Mahalela', 'Seri Negara' and 'Seri Petani'. With each measuring over six metres in length.

Certainly, this technology may have contributed to Patani successfully beating back no less than four Siamese invasions in - at times with the help of Malay forces from Johor and Pahang.

However, by the middle of the 17th Century, during the reign of the last of the Queens, Patani fell into gradual decline. This decline probably prompted her to submit to Siam as a vassal state and send the 'Bunga Mas' to Ayutthya. She died without an heir and the country descended into decades of political chaos and conflict. Fortunately for Patani, Siam was too weak to take advantage of the situation, being too busy driving off crippling Burmese invasions into her territory, culminating in the pillaging and complete destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767.

The Siamese general Phraya Taksin led a war of independence that drove the Burmese out of Siam and his successor Rama I established the Chakri dynasty, which was to rule Siam to this day. A resurgent and much stronger Siam demanded troops and supplies from Patani to face yet another Burmese raid.

When Patani's Sultan Muhammad was reluctant to send troops, Rama I's son, Prince Surasi, attacked Patani in 1786. Sultan Muhammad was slain in battle and his capital was burned to the ground. 4,000 Patani Malays were brought in chains and marched barefoot the 1,300 km to Bangkok. It was said that the captives had to have their ear lobes and legs sewn together with strong rattan to prevent escape. In Bangkok, they became slaves and were made to dig the city's system of canals or 'klongs'.

As the ultimate humiliation, the symbols of Patani's strength and power - the 'Seri Negara' and 'Seri Patani' cannons - were brought in triumph to Bangkok . Both can still be seen today gracing the entrance to Thailand's Ministry of Defence building.

Further rebellions erupted in Patani in 1791 and 1808, following which Patani was partitioned into seven states - Patani, Teluban (Sai), Nongcik, Jalor (Yala), Jambu(Jering), Legeh (Rangae) and Reman - and administered directly by the Raja of Ligor. There were few months of independence when four of the states joined the Kedah Malays in driving the Siamese out of the peninsula - but their success was short-lived and they were re-conquered easily. In 1906, the seven states were reconstituted into a single province. From the mythical Langkasuka to the seat of Malay empire, the province of Patani was now formally annexed as an administrative division of the Kingdom of Thailand.


Sources:

Ibrahim Syukri, Sejarah Kerajaan Melayu Patani, Kota Bharu: Percetakan Pasir Putih, ca. 1961. First published ca. 1950. Translated by Conner Bailey and John N. Miksic, History of the Malay Kingdom of Patani, Ohio University Monographs in International Studies, 1985.

Wheatley, Paul,1961.The Golden Khersonese : Studies in the Historical Geography of the Malay Peninsula before AD 1500.-Kuala Lumpur : University of Malaya Press

Godinho de Eredia 'Desciption of Malaca' Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Reprint 14, 1997


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