Khmer Culture And The Thai People
Who are the Khmers? What is the Khmer culture? Who are the Thais? Where did they come from?
Khmer are peace-loving people who never fight one another. They are a people who were born and lived in the Golden Peninsula (Chroy Sovannaphum) since a long time ago.
According to the evidence from the pre-historic sites of Spean Neak Bridge at a reservoir northwest of Cambodia, it show that the Khmer people lived in the areas since years before the Christian Era. The Khmer people practised Khmer culture, which was a culture that taught Khmer people to behave appropriately, to become law-abiding citizens. It is a culture that teaches people to always respect elders, especially their parents, their teachers and older people.
The culture Khmer is the Khmer language, Khmer literature, ancestors worshipping, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Khmer traditions and Khmer arts etc. Khmer culture teaches Khmer to be intelligent and sow the seed of a hard working Khmer race. Khmer culture educate Khmer to be a dignified race, the first settlers in the territories of Nokor Phnom (Funan in Chinese). At the beginning of the first century of the Christian Era, Khmer culture was the most civilised culture during the Angkorian Era of802-1431 AD. The Khmer people speak Khmer language which was the oldest language of the Khmer-Mon family in the region. During the Funan Era, the Khmer language was the most developed language due to the integration of the two languages of ancient Khmer language and the Sanskrit language of India.
Khmer have created the system of writing in the 7th century AD, which was evidenced by the first stone inscription in AD at Angkor Borei in Takeo province. This system of Khmer writing, which was a source of Khmer values, have helped develop a more advanced culture until this present day which is the Khmer cultural assets including Khmer literature, traditions and arts. This culture has helped built many fine Khmer ancient temples, including the temple of Angkor Wat which was built in the12th century and the Preah Vihear temple which was built in AD.
Who are the Thai? Where did they come from?
The proper answer is very easy and that is the Thai people were wanderers who have moved to settle on the former Khmer territories. According to Mr. Henri Parc Monde (spelling?), a French author who wrote a book titled “Angkor” published by a Phnom Penh bookstore in , wrote in page that “The Thai people, who have a T’ai bloodline, came from southern China to settle in the Khmer territories, influenced by Khmer civilisation and have considered Khmers as their masters, but the T’ai people didn’t wait too long before usurping against their masters, the Khmers, through wars and at the end they have conquered the whole of Khmer territories.”
Mr. Dolfin Miniere (spelling?), another French author who wrote the “History of Cambodia” which was published in , wrote in page that “the T’ai people have created a state called ‘Nanchao’ in the 8th century in Yunan province of China and later moved to live in the mountain valleys of central China and Burma. Taking the chance when Burma was sacked by the Mongols led by Kublai Khan, the T’ai have taken control of most parts of Burma and learned the military strategy and tactics from the Mongols and copied the system of Khmer writing and later the T’ai managed to gain control of the whole Khmer administration in the Menam region."
The Khmer have fought against the T’ai (Thai) fiercely but lost and the T’ai established their capital at Sukhothai, which was a former Khmer capital. Even Mr. Anumarn Rajathorn, a Thai professor of the University of Chulalongkorn and a chairman of Thai History Review Committee, in wrote similar to what Mr. Parc Monde and Mr. Miniere had written.
Mr. Anumarn had written a book titled “Essay on Thai folklore”, published in Bangkok in in which he wrote on pages 8-11 that the T’ai people were originated in the south of the Yang-tse Kiang River in China and the Chinese people have recorded in their history book that called the T’ai as “jungle people”. In the7th or 8 th century, the T’ai people have created a state called “Nanchao” which was a name originated from the combination between the T’ai and Chinese words formed together. The word “nan” in Chinese means south and the word “chao” in Thai means prince/king.
In the 13th century, under the leadership of two leaders, the Thai have taken control of the Khmer capital of Sukhothai from the Khmer king and established their capital at Chiangmai. At the end of the13th century in , the Thai king, the third king of Sukhothai named Ramakamhaeng, had modified the Khmer alphabets into Thai alphabets, which the Thai people considered as the historical year of the Thai culture.
Before they have their own alphabets, they used Khmer alphabets in writing and because they have used Khmer alphabets they were able to seize Sukhothai from the Khmers. After they have created a state at Sukhothai, the Thai still use Khmer alphabets in their writing, especially Buddhist literatures which the Thai used to write on “Rith” leaves to make religious scriptures because the Thai believe that Khmer alphabets are sacred letters. After they sacked Sukhothai, the Thai were not satisfied and began their military expeditions to sack Angkor, which in , years after the sacking of Sukhothai, the Thai sacked Angkor and plundered almost all of Khmer cultural assets which caused miserable separations of Khmer families for hundreds of years afterward.
Since then, Khmer people do not know clearly what is Khmer culture which is an obstacle to the developments of Khmer society. Mr. Anumarn wrote in page in his book “Essay on Thai Folklore” which describes that “ The Thai have combined little by little the Mon and Khmer languages into the Thai language and literature.”
In fact the Thai language is a language of the natives of Nanchao but the Thai borrowed many Khmer vocabularies. For example, the Khmer word “tess diel”(criticism), the Thai write and read as “tik tien”. The Khmer word of “kol” (movie), the Thai pronounced as “kon”, “kampeng“ (fortress/wall), the Thai pronounced as “kamphaeng”, thnol (road), as “thnon”, “rup reang” (form/shape), as “rup rang”, salarien (school), as “rong rien’, “chamroen” (prosperity), as “charoen”, preah vihear (temple), as ‘phra viharn”, ktum tess (water crest), as K’thum thet” etc. Mr. Anumarn wrote that the royal vocabularies that have been used by the Thai royal families were also borrowed from the Khmer royal vocabularies.
The Thai copied Khmer culture of the young respecting the old, copied the Khmer traditional code of dress like wearing sarong and they copied the Khmer architecture of building their houses in Khmer styles. In Khmer literature, the Thai copied from Khmer the Reamker epic (Ramayana) and called it “Ramaken”. The Khmer prawn soup “sngor nheaim“, the Thai called it “tom yam”. And the Thai ‘h’mok” (steamed spicy meat/fish paste) which Khmer called “amok” is also a Khmer food.
In arts, the Thai have copied many Khmer artistic performances, but they changed they way they dance to differentiate from Khmer.
In the Brahmanic (Hindu) belief, the Thai have copied many ceremonies and festivals from Khmer such as the royal ceremony of Royal Ploughing, Water Festival (om touk), kite flying etc.
Mr. Peter Jensen wrote in the Hindustan Times published on the 18th May, 2008 which quoted Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa, a renowned Thai historian on Khmer empires, who said that “The Thai invasions of Khmer territories made the Khmer to become weak, but the Thai copied all Khmer cultures and traditions, including the belief in the god-king and the ceremonies in the royal palace and the most influential belief among the circles of present Thai politicians is the “Khmer black magic”.
The above brief history show that the Thai people came from Nanchao of southern China in the 13th century to invade Khmer territories. Now, in the 21st century, the Thai still harbour the ambitions and still invade Khmer territories and plunder Khmer cultural assets. The Thai actions can only be likened to the words of Mr. Anumarn, the renowned Thai historian, on page10 of his book “Essay on Thai Foklore” which he said “The Thai never ceased to be on the move.”
Indeed, they are still on the move……
Posted by Phan Khunna