Bang-Rajan (2000) 



Director:  Tanit Jitnukul.

Starring:  Jaran Ngamdee (Nai Jan), Winai Kraibutr (Nai In), Theerayut Pratyabamrung (Luang Phor Thammachote), Bin Bunluerit (Nai Thongmen), Bongkoj Khongmalai (E Sa), Chumphorn Thepphithak (Nai Than), Suntharee Maila-or (Taeng-Onn), Phisate Sangsuwan (Nemeao Seehabodee), Theeranit Damrongwinijchai (Mangcha-ngai).

Burmese invaders of 18th century Thailand resisted by the villagers of Bang-Rajan


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

1763.  King Mangras ascends to the throne of Burma.  He suppressed the dissenting states of his empire, many of which were receiving aid from Ayutthaya in Siam, thereby fanning their rebellion. King Mangras decides he must attack Ayutthaya, the very heart of Siam.    

1765.  the king of Burma sent a huge army to attack Ayutthaya by two different routes.  100,000 troops enter Siam from the west side, while another 100,000 (under General Naymeo) enter from the north.  These troops did not make it to Ayutthaya in time to meet up with the other units because they were held up by the villagers of a small settlement known as Bang-Rajan.  This is their story. 

1765.  An invading Burmese General has been shot and has died.  The villagers of Bang-Rajan decide now to attack the Burmese taking a respite in the jungle.  Then the bad news comes that their chief Taem has been wounded in the leg.  And so begins the search for a new leader for the village.  One of the villagers says he has heard a lot of good things about a warrior from Nang Buat Mtn.  The man's name is Chan Nuat-Kheo.  They decide to send a delegation to locate the warrior.

Burmese chariots are taking canno to Ayutthaya via Prasop Canal. 

The village delegation runs into Chan.  They tell them what they want of him and he agrees to go see Taen.  Taen explains the situation and asks Chan if he will lead the villagers.  Chan protests that he and his men are just vigilantes, but agrees to take command.  One of his first actions is to request cannon from Ayutthaya.  The messengers travel to Phraya Ratanatibeth for the help needed but no help will be forthcoming from Ayutthaya. 

A young woman named Taeng-Onn teases a young man named Meuang at not being the shooter of a boar brought into the village.  Taeng-Onn wants Meuang to teach her to use the sword, but he is reluctant.  Meuang likes Taeng-Onn very much and says he will always be there to protect her form the Burmese. 

One of the colorful men in the village is the drunken warrior Tong Menh.  He is always drunk it seems, but he is a terrific hunter of the Burmese.  He often goes out by himself and always brings back proof of his kill. 

The village monk arrives.  

A decision is made to have the villagers harvest the rice belonging to a now abandoned village.  While harvesting, Taeng-Onn learns that her friend Sa is pregnant and she doesn't know how to tell her husband Inn. 

News arrives that 30 Burmese are in the area along with 20 prisoners.  The men stop harvesting and organize an attack.  But the drunkard rushes in too soon and gets a village woman killed unnecessarily.  The Burmese are killed and the surviving prisoners are released, but Chan is so angry at the drunkard that he has him imprisoned in a small box hung in a tree. 

Burmese camp at Wisetchaichan.  The Burmese are making further preparations for war.

Taeng-Onn tells Inn that his wife is going to have a baby. 

A small group of villagers are impatient waiting for the Burmese to attack.  So they decide to act like rangers and make a night attack to kill a Burmese general.  Inn is the force behind the plan.  But their attack does not go well and they have to settle for less than full success.  But what is much worse is that they went out on their secret mission on the very night the Burmese chose a night attack on the village.  The Burmese inflict heavy casualties, but they are repulsed. 

Chan demands to know why Inn was not at his post.  Because of his and his men's absence, the Burmese were able to push farther into the village than ever before.  A woman comes up to Inn, hits him with her fists and cries that he has killed her son because of his irresponsibility.  Many of the villagers decide to leave Bang-Rajan.

Phraya Ratanatibeth comes up to Bang-Rajan and tells them he can help the villagers make their own cannons.  He has them gather all the extra metal (much of it from Burmese metal armor), melt it down and make the cannon. 

The Burmese camp at Prasop Canal.  General Naymeo, Commander of the Burmese forces, is extremely mad when he learns that the village of Bang-Rajan has again defeated the battalion farther to the north.  He decides that they must get rid of the thorn in the Burmese side.    The General travels to Wisetchaichan camp and ask the commander there: "What's the problem Mang-Changai?"   The General then asks commander Suki if he can do a better job.  He is willing to try.  He comes up with a plan to kill the monk of Bang-Rajan by deception.  They shave a volunteer's head and dress him as a monk so he can gain access to the real monk without arousing suspicion. 

The new commander is a real son-of-a-bitch.  He has his men murder their prisoners.  They then hang the victims from trees as if they were large fruits. 

Back in Bang-Rajan things are getting worse.  The cannon are cracked.  (But later someone saves the day by binding the cannon barrels together with strong ropes.)

The Burmese make their final assault.  In the fighting, Chan is able to kill General Naymeo.  But the result is the complete defeat of the villagers of Bang-Rajan and the burning of their fort and village.

The villagers of Bang-Rajan held out for five whole months.  They repelled eight Burmese advances. 

It took the Burmese a year to finally take Ayutthaya. 


Good movie.  The emphasis in this movie is action.  There are a lot of sword fighting scenes with hundreds killed.  The emphasis is on the heroism of the villagers of Bang-Rajan.  We don't learn much about the villagers as a group of any of the villagers at all.  There is some love interests, but there is not enough time to develop them to any real degree.  And many of the scenes are very dark making it hard to see what is going on.  Obviously, the ending is not a happy one, but that news  is blunted by the admiration for the courage and fierceness of the fighters in the village. 

The fellow playing Chan Nuat-Kheo is pretty fearsome looking, adding to the excitement of the action scenes. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:


See The Legend of Suriyothai (2001). 



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