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The Melaka Empire

The Thai Nemesis

The most powerful power on the Peninsula at the time of Melaka were the Thais. Though Majapahit did lay claim to lands in the southern half of the peninsula, it was the Thais who saw themselves as the successors to Sri Vijaya on the peninsula, having conquered the old Malay kingdoms of Langkasuka and Kedah, as well as their possessions. They certainly claimed suzerainity over Melaka and saw with a great deal of anxiety the rising military power of the city state as it conquered the states surrounding it, both on the Peninsula and across the Straits in Sumatra. It should also be remembered, according to Portuguese histories such as Pires', Parameswara himself fled Singapore because of a Thai attack there.

It is known that the Thais had attempted to invade Melaka territory on at least two ocassions - once in 1445, using its Pahang base, and a second time by sea in 1456. Below is the Sejarah Melayu's account of the first attack:

From ancient times the country of Siam was known as Shahru'n-nuwi, and all princes of these regions below the wind were subject to Siam, the Raja of which was called the Bubunnya. And when the news reached Siam that Malaka was a great city but was not subject to Siam, the Bubunnya sent an envoy to Malaka to demand a letter of 'obeisance': but Sultan Muzaffar Shah refused to own allegiance to Siam. The Raja of Siam was very angry and ordered an expedition to be made ready for the invasion of Malaka. Awi Chakra was to command the expedition and to take a vast army with him. And word was brought to Sultan Muzaffar Shah that the Raja of Siam had ordered Awi Chakra, his war-chief, to lead an army, in numbers past counting, overland to Ulu Pahang. When Sultan Muzaffar Shah heard this, he gave orders that all men of the outlying districts be assembled and come up river to Malaka. And all the men of the outlying districts foregathered in Malaka.

Now Tun Perak had brought the men of Klang to Malaka with womenfolk accompanying them . . . Tun Perak came to present himself before the Raja, At the present time His Highness the Ruler here in this city has his consort with him and all that he requires. Is it right in your judgment that we should come hither just we men by ourselves, with Klang so far away? If Malacca here is in trouble, what will my men (far away in Klang) care? That is why 1 have brought the men of Klang along with their womenfolk so that they may battle against the enemy to the best of their powers. For they will be not so much fighting for his Highness the Ruler as using their spears with might and main for the sake of their womenfolk!" And Sultan Muzaffar Shah smiled when he heard the words of Tun Perak, and he said, "Tun Perak is right." And taking sireh from his bowl he gave it to Tun Perak, saying, "You are wasted at Klang, Tun Perak! You must come and live in the city."

Meanwhile the men of Siam arrived, and they fought with the men of Malaka. After a long battle, in which many of the soldiers of the Raja of Siam were killed, Malaka still held out and the Siamese withdrew. On their retreat they flung down in Ulu Muar the rattans they had used for tying their baggage. These rattans took root and grew, and they are there to this day, known as the rattans of the Siamese.....

The next Thai attack was to come eleven years later and, by this time, the Penghulu of Klang had already become Bendahara. This time, the attack was to come by sea:

And after a while the Siamese again attacked Malaka, under the command of Awi Dichu. And when the news of their coming reached Malaka, Sultan Muzaffar Shah commanded Bendahara Paduka Raja to make ready a fleet to repel the attack When the fleet was ready, Bendahara Paduka Raja set out to repel the Siamese... The Siamese by this time had almost reached Batu Pahat.

Now the Sri Bija 'diraja had a son named Tun 'Umar who was a great fighter and a man of 'reckless bravery. This Tun 'Umar was sent by Bendahara Paduka Raja to reconnoitre, and he set forth with a single boat, now edging forward, now coming back. And when he encountered the Siamese fleet, he straightway attacked and sank two or three Siamese ships, then shot off to their flank. Then he returned and attacked other ships, again sinking two or three, after which he withdrew. The Siamese were astounded.

Then when night had fallen Awi Dichu advanced, and Bendahara Paduka Raja ordered firebrands to be fastened to mangrove and other trees growing along the shore. And when the Siamese saw these lights, so many that no man could number them, their war-chiefs said, "What a vast fleet these Malays must have, no man can count their ships! If they attack us, how shall we fare? Even one of their ships just now was more than a match for us!" And Awi Dichu replied, "You are right, let us return home!" Whereupon the Siamese returned to their country and the retreating Siamese were pursued by Bendahara Paduka Raja as far as Singapore.

After that naval attack, Melaka's strength had been proven. Not wanting to antagonise the Thais any further, Sultan Mansur sent embassies to the Thai court and gradually, through shrewd diplomatic manoeuvres, good relations were established between the Thais and Melaka. The threat to Melaka's survival was to come from another power, much further west.


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Write to the author: sabrizain@malaya.org.uk

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