Lecture at the Siam Society, Bangkok on 8 November 2018
Examination of Ancient Khmer Defensive Warfare Practices by Paul T. Carter
DATE: Thursday, 8 November 2018
TIME: 7:00 p.m.
PLACE: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21
Did ancient Khmer kings, particularly during the Classic Angkor period, neglect key defensive warfare principles which neighboring civilizations, less powerful and grand than Angkor, practiced centuries earlier? The lecturer argues that while Khmer kings displayed very capable offensive warfare capabilities, they did indeed ignore basic defensive warfare tenets which largely rendered them militarily defenseless. This does not argue that the neglect of defensive warfare principles caused the collapse of the empire, nor that its key rulers, such as Jayavarman VII, completely ignored the defense of Angkor. His construction of Angkor Thom, with its significant walled and moat barriers, certainly illustrates some regard for defense. Neither does this suggest the employment of robust defensive principles would have saved Angkor from potentially debilitating societal changes that affected kings’ ability to respond to threats. The preponderance of available evidence does suggest, however, that at no time did Angkor’s kings conduct key defensive warfare practices that other civilizations used centuries earlier. Such neglect placed the Khmer army at a significant disadvantage against the larger, attacking Ayutthaya Army in 1431, and made it unnecessarily vulnerable to any future enemies. This lecture demonstrates how Khmer kings ignored fundamental defensive warfare techniques. Next, that the Khmers would have been aware of these techniques earlier civilizations had practiced. Finally, it examines possible reasons for such neglect which leads to a broader discussion of Angkor civilization.