This article is about an ethnic group of people living in South East Asia (SEA). These people are the farmers who invented the fighting fish. They earnestly developed the Bettas caught from the rice field into the captive aquarium show fish today that spread all over the world.  The tropical climate zone of SEA, is one of the most perfect ecosystem and complex bio-diversity of the world. One of the oldest human civilization was found here call “Dng Son culture”(North Vietnam). The casting of bronze began in Southeast Asia first and with the Chinese second, not vice versa.


From the interview with an old player, Dr. Yont Musik (Department of Fisheries, Kasetsart University Bangkok), has inferred that the existence captive short fin fighter (game bred fighter) should first began around 1887. He also commented that the bred and use of fighting fish for fighting as a game should began prior to this year. Some sources said that it should began in 13 AD or Sukhothai Kingdom. This article does not want to pin down the beginning year of the bred and use of fighting fish as a game, but to describe an ethnic group called “Tai” who moved from south of china and migrated down to North-east India, North Burma, North Vietnam, Laos and the people who found their place in the most fertilized area call Chao playa basin which is the story of Plakat Thai begin.

Who found fighting fish?



Before an existing of so-called state of nations, roughly, there are two majors groups of people occupied in this area now called “Thailand”. One is the primitive pre-historic people who developed their ironic agricultural civilization lead back to 5000 BC. Another large group of people slowly moved down from China and North Vietnam called “Tai”, (which is later adapted to the name “Thailand”). Both groups are the owner of rice grower civilization call farmers. These two groups of people entertain interrelationship and became family kinship. Rice growing is an explicit showing Tai race distinct from other ethnic groups in this area. It is an essential mode of living of Tai race described in short: “where rice paddy, where Tai” or in the other words, to be a farmer is an essential of mode of living for Tai race.

The pre-historic people live in Thailand


Indian missionaries 2000 years ago first arrived calls SEA (before an existence of boundary countries Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia) “Suvannapumi” which means “the golden land”.  It already occupied and comprised by multi - ethnic groups. Indian missionary visitors called the people they met “Naga” or snake people. These people were half naked and tattoo their full body.


The pre-historic Iron Age native people are a rice growing society. “Ban Chiang” is an archeological site located in north - east of Thailand.(Nong Han district, Udon Thani Province). UNESCO world heritage since 1992, found a lot of harvester instruments. Some iron tools have rice husk impressed and the painting of rice fields  showed on the edge of clay pot. The other pre-historic paintings in the cave from the various part of Thailand showed the rice field with cows and the rice field with many hands indicated the co-working in the rice field. So there are rice growers wet land people already there before the influences of Indian civilization. To be a rice growing society they have to be the well settlement society, working by group and consistently help each other and well organized society.


From many historical sources above show that the pre-historic people in SEA learn to adapted themselves from the gift of nature. To live in the fertilized riverside there were no reason at all to move to other place except they were intruded by an outsiders that seeking for the perfect land. The new comers that moved from the north to mixed up with the primitive native people call “Tai” An ethnic group that flee from the war. Historian believed that the mixture between primitive native people and Tai race slowly mixed up. The Ban Chiang civilization were slowly replaced by the Tai culture that more systematically powerful. However they have one thing in common they are peaceful farmers.

Tai, Siam and Thailand


The people of Thailand are comprised of many SEA race and other nationalities, Burma Chinese, Vietnamese, Khmer, Indian etc.  The country shaped by south border connected to Malaysia, southeast to Cambodia, East to Laos, and North to Laos and Burma and western full bound with Burma. The name “Thailand” in fact very recent used in 1939 by the nationalist activity in that period of time. The literally meaning of Thailand is “land of the Tai race”, for the cultural meaning Thailand means “the land of freedom”, So “Plakat Thai” fighting fish from the Tai race shall also be applied.


Now “Siam”, where used along side with a term “Tai” come from? Jit Pumisak the Thais famous linguist and archaeology (1930 – 1966) using Comparative Historical Linguistics approach asserted that in the beginning “Siam” a term refers to any wet land or basin land, people who lives in this ecology in SEA are call “Siam”. So in this sense of the term, the people who called “Siam” are comprised from many races or ethnic groups. (In the historic period of time there is no such boundary border called country, the people just call themselves where they live). The groups of people move and find the fertilized good earth to live and grow the rice, marriage spread their village made up themselves by relative kinship. So Siam means the area of fertilized wetland which perfectly good for growing rice and “Tai” is a term that the people live in this area name themselves. The major ethnic group live in Siam or wet land is Tai  that flee from the warfare moved from Southern of China passing North Vietnam Laos Burma and came across to final settlement closed to the sea (Siam gulf) that they can not go further anymore. Ayutthaya the old historic city of Thailand is situated at the basin of the meeting point of many rivers, one of the most fertilized land in SEA and they still call themselves “Siam”.


On using linguistic approach, anthropologist researchers found that Tai race also called “Chan”, “Assam”, “Siem”, “Siam” In Chinese language called “san” which referred to Tai ethnic groups that live in the riverside delta area growing rice and other agriculture job. This style of living, Tai village, we still can see everywhere in the North of Vietnam live closed to the river. Now we come to the conclusion that the term “Tai” and “Siam” come closed side by side and referring one term to another term. “Siam” is the wet land that many ethnic groups in SEA come to set up theirs home, growing rice and they call themselves “Tai” the people who love freedom and peace, that move down to settlement at the wet land closed to the sea that can go no further. So the deepest root of “Siamese fighting fish” or “Plakat Thai” is the co-treasure of SEA people, that its spiritual root of fighting fish goes deeper and prior than the first existing of Plakat Thai itself. That it resided in theirs blood no matter where they live in the world.


Tai race is one of the very large ancient unique ethnic groups. A pioneer researcher, an American missionary William Clifton Dodd on his book “The Thai Race: The Elder Brother of the Chinese”, 1909 insisted that Tai race is one of the biggest and oldest races in the world, a branch of Mongol older than Chinese and Hebrew.  “Tai” people who spread all over from South China, Burma, Thai, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia. There are many Tai race branches varied by geographic, language and cultural practice.

  • Tai Ahom Tai Khamti, Tai Phakae Tai Ai-Ton (Assam, India and North of Burma),
  • Tai Mao, Tai Dehong or Taikhong(Salween river) Tai Nue Khong, Tai Yai or Shan (mainly in Burma)
  • Tai Noi, Tai Yon or Kon Muang, Tai Khuen, Tai Dam or Black Tai, Tai Khao or White Tai, Tai Daeng or Red Tai (mainly live in South China, North Vietnam, Laos and Thailand)

Farmer: the water society.

 To be continues




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