Kawila (Thai: กาวิละ, Northern Thai: LN-King Kawila.png, 1742–1816), also known as Phra Boromrachathibodi (Thai: พระบรมราชาธิบดี), was a Siamese nobleman of the Chet Ton Dynasty who ruled as king of Chiang Mai during the early Rattanakosin period. He is credited with rebuilding the population of the city of Chiang Mai after the long-running wars between Siam and Burma.

King Kawila.jpg
Portrait of Kawila
Ruler of Lampang
Reign1774 - 1782
Ruler of Chiang Mai
Reign1782 - 1816
Born31 October 1742
Diedunknown date in 1816
HouseChet Ton Dynasty
FatherPrince Keaw
MotherPrincess Chantadevi


Kawila was born on 31 October 1742, the eldest of the ten children of Prince Kaew and Princess Chantadevi; seven of the ten were sons, collectively known as "the seven princes".[1] His father and grandfather had ruled Lampang Province.[2] Among his brothers were Thammalangka, who would later serve as Kawila's regent before succeeding him as king of Chiang Mai, and Khamfan, who would also go on to rule Chiang Mai.

Burmese-Siamese WarEdit

Kawila was one of a group of Lan Na nobles who rebelled against the Burmese in northern Thailand during the Burmese-Siamese War of 1775-6. In 1782, Kawila was appointed as the ruling king of 57 cities by Rama I of Thailand.[2]

Restoration of Chiang MaiEdit

Kawila was the ruler of Lampang and Chiang Mai, in the northwest portion of Thailand

Among the cities under Kawila's rulership was Chiang Mai, which had been largely abandoned during the long-running wars between the Burmese and Siamese armies; nearly twenty years of being on the front lines of the conflict had taken a toll on both the city's population and infrastructure.[3] Kawila entered the city in 1796 with an elaborate ritual, involving entering the city through the Chang Phuek Gate after first sending through a Lau person leading a dog and carrying a rattan pack, then spending the night in front of Wat Chiang Man before entering the palace the next morning. This ritual was a replication of the one followed by King Mangrai, the city's founder, five centuries earlier in 1296.[2]

Kawila's rebuilding policy is sometimes translated as "Put vegetables into baskets, put people into towns." He sought out the former inhabitants of the city, who had fled to the nearby hills and mountains, and brought them back to the city.[4] When the surviving original inhabitants proved insufficient to repopulate the city, Kawila launched numerous campaigns into neighboring Shan states, capturing their people and resettling them in Chiang Mai.[5] The war captives brought to Chiang Mai included people from the Tai Yai, Tai Yong, Tai Khoen, and Lue ethnicities.[4] He also rebuilt many of the city's fortifications, in case of further war with Burma.[3]

As a trusted ally of the new Siamese monarchy, Kawila was largely left to govern his territories as he pleased. He promoted the revival of many traditional Lan Na cultural practices, including music, dance, literature and craftsmanship, as well as distinctive regional Buddhist ceremonies.[3]

Death and successionEdit

Kawila died in 1816 and was succeeded as king of Chiang Mai by his brother Thammalangka. One of Kawila's children, Kawilorot Suriyawong would later reign as king of Chiang Mai.