Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Joan of Arc? - Try The Heroines of Phuket


Have you ever been to Thailand? Been round the roundabout on Thepkasattri Road in Thalang? Glanced up at the two grey female figures and wondered what they are about?
Those two grey figures are the sisters Lady Chan and Lady Mook, the heroines of Phuket, and they are as important to the Thai culture as Joan of Arc is to European culture.

In 1785, Captain Light, the founder of the British colony at Penang, had his headquarters (an old French trading post) at Siam near Phuket. It was his location here that allowed him to vitally assist the Thai as he gave them enough advance warning when the Burmese army, who had been repelled twelve months earlier, arrived again with a large fleet, threatening an imminent invasion of Thailand.

He notified the authorities at Phuket, but the island's Governor had recently passed away and it was his widow Lady Chan and her sister Lady Mook who stepped up and took charge in his stead. Swiftly rallying the people to the island's defense.
They gathered what forces they could and then organised all the women to dress as men. It was this act that convinced the Burmese that the village was defended by an invincible army of soldiers and any attack would be futile. So, after a month long siege they withdrew their troops. Their invasion in tatters.

Lady Chan and Lady Mook became the Phuket Heroines. Honoured after the defeat of the Burmese invasion with the Royal titles of ThaoThepkasattri and Thao Sri Sunthorn by King Rama I (1736–1809) founder of the Chakri Dynasty.

Today, there stands this inspiring monument. The Phuket Heroine's Monument. Loved by the local people, they often come and say hello or goodbye there in the hopes that nothing bad will happen to them when they leave the island - as there is a small shrine at the base of the monument. Often students will come and say goodbye or ask for protection as they leave the island in search of a formal education.

Thai visitors from all around regard the monument as a must see location and a 'first stop' as they enter the city, where they will buy offerings from nearby stands or bring garlands of marigold flowers or incense sticks or even gold leaf (which is stuck to the smaller statues of the women) to leave on the shrine.

So next time you are in Thailand, or thinking of going, don't just jump in your tuk tuk and zip around on your way to a Hilton Hotel. Ask your driver to stop, buy an offering at one of the stands, and leave an offering of thanks to the Heroine's of Phuket. Because without these ladies quick thinking, there might very well have been an entirely different monument there this day. A monument to the many thousands of lives lost in a Burmese Invasion of Thailand.


- MM



4 comments:

  1. Fantastic story. So inspiring! I love sharing these stories with my daughters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is little info about this story online, which is a shame. Some tourists if they are on a bus being transported to their hotels, will be told by the tour guide as the bus passes the monument, but there are many tourists who don't know the significance.
      It is a very important part of the Thai culture.
      :)

      Delete
  2. I am woefully ignorant of Asian culture and its heroines and heroes. Thank you for sharing this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thought all you guys might like to know this story. :) As fans of history I knew you all would appreciate learning something from this part of Asia. :)
      My hubby mentioned it to me the other day (as he has been to Thailand) when he saw the monument in the background of a documentary. He didn't know the whole story. The tour guide pointed out the monument and told the travellers what it was called when he was on a bus trip from the airport to his hotel. I had to look for the rest of the story online and found it fascinating.

      Delete