One hundred years ago – on October 14, 1902 – a young Danish soldier in the service of HM King Chulalongkorn prevented the whole Northern part of Thailand to fall into the hands of the British by quelling an uprising by the Shan population acting in covert cooperation with the British forces in Burma.
Celebrating the 100 year anniversary of his deed, a special ceremony
will be held at a monument erected in his honour in Phayao where he fell in pursuit of the insurgents.
Captain Hans Markvard Jensen had arrived two years before to Siam to serve in the Provincial Gendarmerie established by the likewise Danish General Schau to unite the Kingdom into a more centralised state under the clear supreme command of His Majesty King Chulalongkorn.
The five small states of Chiangmai, Lampun, Lambang, Phrae og Nan had at the time for decades been under the command of local regents with their own regime in a more loose alliance with the King of Siam. The population even wrote, read and spoke a language different to the language used south of Tak. Under King Chulalongkorn, a Commissioner appointed by the King was posted to each province. The first was instated in Chiangmai in 1877 and by 1897 each of these Lao state had a Royal Commissioner.
Previously, the people had paid taxes to the local regent in the form of goods or labour, but now the state was required to pay four baht per inhabitant to the Royal Thai Government in Bangkok. Many Shan people living in the provinces had immigrated from Burma and were consequently considered British subjects. Still, they were required to pay taxes to the King as they were considered residents of Thailand.
The dissatisfaction of the Shan was partly with the new Thai administrators posted to their provinces, partly the growing exploitation they were subjected to by immigrated Chinese businessmen.
The powder keg blew up when a village headman was ambushed and robbed of the 1000 Baht he had just collected by a group of Shan hiding in the hills east of Lampang. The Thai commissioner pursued the bandits with a mixed force of soldiers and gendarmes, but when camping on the night of July 23,1902, the Shan attacked and the soldiers and gendarmes fled in panic leaving all their elephants, mules, weapons and ammunition in the hands of the Shan.
The Shan saw this as their chance. On July 25 they conducted a surprise attack on the camp of the gendarmerie in Prae and killed most of the gendarmes. The commissioner, the Thai civil servants and a number of Chinese businessmen fled the city. The commissioner was a few days later captured by some local people who handed him over to be killed by the Shan.
Following their victory, they next overran the prison where they freed the prisoners and shared the loot of 40.000 rupi. Some of this money was used to issue a reward of 300 rupi for the decapitated head of any Thai the local people could bring them.
The local regent welcomed the Shan insurgents and later sought refuge with the French on the other bank of the Mekong River.
The local commander of the gendarmes was degraded in front of his
soldiers, his shoulder distinctions were torn off, his sable broken and his uniform burnt in from of the camp.
After the victory at Phrae the Shan turned their attetion to Lampang where the young Captain Makvard Jensen had been posted only a few days before on the 29th of July from Chiangmai together with a force of 1 lieutenant and 54 private soldiers and now manned the city’s barricades day and night.
At dawn on August 4 the Shan attacked. Many of the private gendarmes fled but Markvard Jensen managed to hold the barricades and push back the Shan force. The heads of the killed Shan rebels were put on sticks outside the house of the Prince. In his report, Markvard Jensen writes that he counted 19 killed Shans and later another six were found. In the local prison another 26 Shan were kept under arrest. Fearing their escape the local regent ordered them all decapitated which doubled the loss of the Shan.
By now, major reinforcements had arrived North Siam from Bangkok and other places and the Shan were repulses and gave up and fled across the border.
In early October, Markvard Jensen became aware of a regrouped rebels force was closing in on Lampang from the North and he made off for Phayao with a force of 270 men. On the 13th of October he had reached an area few kilometres south of Phayao. As his troops needed rest he continued himself with one lietenant and 23 men on the next morning. When about to cross a small stream they noticed some of the Shan in the jungle on the other side and opened fire which was returned.
Captain Markvard Jensen and his lieutenant were standing behind a tree directing the fight when he was hit by three shots in the chest. When seeing their officer in command falling the men retreated as their ammunition was also depleted. Next day they returned in full force and retrieved the body of their commander and brought it to a temple in Phayao. The Shan had cut him open and removed his heart and kidney to eat in keeping with their animistic beliefs.
The body was put in a coffin and later collected by another Danish Captain Halfdan Trolle who took it to Lampang where he was buried with full honours at the Presbyterian Churchyard. The Royal Siamese Government erected a monument on the grave which was surrounded by marble corner stones and cordoned off by heavy chains.
The inscription on the monument reads:
Captain in the
In DENMARK 1878
Killed by Dacoits
on the 14. X. 1902
Shortly after the Second World War the Churchyard was removed. On the initiative of then British consul in Chiangman, E. W. Hutchinson, the remains of Hans Markvard Jensen and the monument was moved to the Protestant Churchyard in Chiangmai, where it is still maintained today. The corner stones and the chains remained, however in Phayao.
HM King Chulalongkorn honoured Captain Hans Markvard Jensen with an annual pension of 3000 Baht which was received by his mother every year until her death in 1936.
Eleven kilometres south of Phayao a sign in Thai language directs visitors to the site, where Hans Markvard Jensen was killed. Here, a wreath is laid down every year on the 14th of October by the local Police and Military commanders.
This year, a special ceremony is under preparations in consideration of the 100 Year Anniversary of the incident.
Hans Markvard Jensen was born on April 3, 1873 in Nasbyhoved Broby near Odense in Denmark. He served as private in the Royal Danish Guards and was promoted Lieutenant in 1898. He arrived Siam in 1900 where he served in the Provincial Gendarmerie established in 1897 by the Danish General Gustav Schau.
A total of 101 Danes has over the years served in the Royal Thai Army. Of these, 21 served in the Provincial Gendarmerie. Four of the Danes were killed in the line of duty in Siam.