The historic tomb of former Siamese King Uthumphon, located near Mandalay City in Upper Burma, is set to be destroyed to make way for a new urban development project, according to local historian sources.
The magnificent burial place, which is larger than most and measures the size of a small pagoda, is situated inside prominent Linzin (former Burmese name for Laos) Hill graveyard on the edge of famous Taungthaman Lake in Amarapura Township, Mandalay Division.
“Thai people visiting Burma come to this tomb regularly to pay respect to their king,” a local resident told The Irrawaddy. “I have heard that this graveyard will soon be cleared for some sort of urban project.”
According to Burmese history records, King Hsinbyushin (1736-1776), the third king of Burma’s Konbaung Dynasty, invaded the ancient Thai capital Ayutthaya in 1767 and brought as many subjects as he could back to his capital Ava, including Uthumphon.
“The records say the Thai king was in monkhood when he was brought back as a prisoner of war and when he died in captivity his body was buried at Linzin Hill,” Dr. Tin Maung Kyi, a well-known Burmese historian and Mandalay resident, told The Irrawaddy.
He said experts believe Uthumphon died during the reign of King Bodawpaya (1745-1819), the sixth king of the same dynasty.
The authoritative History of Ayutthaya website says Uthumphon, who is better known as King Dok Madua or “figflower” is Siamese history, was the youngest son of King Borommakot (1733-1758) and a minor queen called Phiphit Montri, and was appointed as Uparat (Crown Prince) by his father. Uthumphon also means “figflower” but in Sanskrit.
The website adds that Uthumphon succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father, but his position was insecure so he decided to abdicate in favor of his elder brother Suriyamarin (1758-1767) who was constantly meddling in court affairs.
He then retired to a monastery he built called Wat Pradu Songtham. In 1767, after the fall of Ayutthaya, Uthumphon was taken out of his temple and led away to Burma where he died in captivity in 1796.
Scholars in Mandalay have raised concerns that the new project will not only mean the loss of considerable heritage but also affect the country’s nascent yet potentially huge tourism industry.
“Thai people regularly come to their ex-king’s tomb to pay respect. I always have to clean the tomb before their arrival. They will also feel hurt if the tomb is destroyed,” said Nyein Win, an archaeologist in Amarapura.
Despite proposals from historians to preserve ancient tombs and cemeteries which are deemed historically important, the Burmese government has nevertheless replaced a large number with new buildings and urban projects.
In 1997, the Burmese military junta destroyed Kyandaw graveyard in Rangoon, where well-respected individuals from political, economic, social and other prominent arenas were buried.