Other Mon and Malay States

   by Charles Kimball

While Funan was in the limelight, civilization spread from the coasts to the interiors of Thailand and Malaya. Two more Mon states, named Dvaravati and Haripunjaya, were founded around 500 A.D. in central and northern Thailand respectively. In the Malay peninsula, several small states appeared with names like Pan Pan, Lankasuka, and Tambralinga, stretched across the Isthmus of Kra in different locations. The Malay states prospered by offering traders a short cut that was both quicker and safer than the Strait of Malacca: portage by land across the isthmus. The portage was not difficult either, because at one point only five miles of land separates rivers flowing into the Gulf of Thailand and the Bay of Bengal. The Mon States were not in a favorable trading location, so they probably relied on agriculture to make a living.

We know little about these kingdoms today. Numerous artifacts have been found, but all of the inscriptions on them are religious texts; no information on the politics/history of the states can be gleaned from them, aside from the fact that they practiced Theravada (Hinayana) Buddhism. The Malay states gradually came under the rule of Srivijaya, the first Indonesian empire, in the eighth century. Dvaravati and Haripunjaya became part of the Khmer empire in the tenth century, and the other Mon state, Thaton, was conquered by Burma in the eleventh. The Mons were never displaced as residents, though; in Thailand they retained their separate ethnic identity during the whole Khmer period, and were absorbed into the Thai kingdoms that were established in the 13th century. They were still the largest ethnic group in the lower Menam (Chao Phraya) River valley as late as 1350.

  ©Copyright 2000 - 2003 Charles Kimball