KHLONG KHU CHAM (คลองคูจาม)
Text, maps & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - June 2011
Khlong Khu Cham or the "Cham Watercourse" is an existent canal situated off the city
island in the southern area of Ayutthaya running through the Samphao Lom and Khlong
Takhian sub-districts. The canal splits off from the present Chao Phraya River (1) about
500 meters east of
Wat Phutthai Sawan and runs south to join Khlong Takhian, nearly at
the latter’s confluence with the Chao Phraya River.

The Pratu Chakra Noi Fortress, situated on the city island to the east of
Khlong Chakrai
Noi, stood opposite the mouth of Khu Cham and controlled the entry and exit of the
latter. (2) [1] At the mouth of Khlong Khu Cham on its east bank, stood
Wat Thong,
while on the opposite side of the canal stood a Muslim prayer house (Surau Khaek).

The southern area of Ayutthaya is shaped by Khlong Takhian and the Chao
Phraya River; and separated into two areas by Khlong Khu Cham. The eastern area was
populated by the Chinese (around Bang Kaja) and Portuguese trading communities along
the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The western area was inhabited by Cochin
Chinese refugees - mostly Christians, while the Malay occupied the southern area. Cham
Muslims from Cambodia and Vietnam settled in between these areas along Khlong Khu
Cham, called “Le Canal du Petit Cochon” by the French. "Cochon" (pig), is likely the
French contorted pronunciation of the word "Khu Cham". "Petit" stands for small,
meaning that also Khlong Takhian was denominated by the French as Khu Cham ("Canal
du Grand Cochon").

At the confluence of the Chao Phraya River and Khlong Khu Cham, behind the Surau
Khaek, was the Pak Khlong Khu Cham floating market, one of the four large water
markets of the city. [2] Muslim merchants from Java and Malaya anchored their "Rua
Pak Khwang" (wide mouth boats) with a beam of 5 to 6 meters (3) in front of the mouth
of the canal to sell loads of betel nut, rattan palm baskets, pandan canopies (4) and many
other things from the south. [3]

The canal received its name because it runs mainly through an area formerly inhabited by
the Cham. The Cham arrived on the Indochina coast by sea 2000-2500 years ago, and
were one of the great Austronesian seafaring groups; speaking Cham, a Malayo-
Polynesian language. Hinduism was at first the predominant religion of the
Cham, replaced later by Mahayana Buddhism. The Kingdom of Champa, a generally
said Indianized kingdom established in the 7th century, covered a territory, what is at
present southern and central Vietnam. Champa reached its apex in the 9th and 10th
centuries. Today scholars believe that Champa was likely never a unified polity, but a
number of strategically located river-mouth centers which developed, competed with one
another, and declined according to the fluctuations of international trade. [4] Viet troops
attacked and conquered the northern Cham polity with its capital Vijaya in March 1471.
The defeat caused the first major Cham emigration, particularly to Cambodia
and Melaka. From the Malay Annals we know that the Cham refugees were well
received by the rulers of Melaka, who appointed some Cham noblemen to official
positions in the court. The Cham in Cambodia, helped by local Malay communities, were
also allowed to hold governmental posts and to serve in the army. But in 1659, after a
military intervention of the Viet followed by internal struggle, Malays and Cham were
expelled from Cambodia and took refuge in Siam.

Although Islam was likely already introduced in Champa in the late 10th century [5], the
religion became more dominant after the fall of Vijaya, as the Chams were leaning more
and more towards the Malay Peninsula for their struggle against the Viet. French
missionaries in the 17th century wrote some accounts regarding the presence of the
Malay missionaries and their role in spreading Islam at the court of Champa. [6] In
September 1692, the southern Cham principality of Panduranga (present Phan Rang) -
after having strengthened its position against the Vietnamese through dealings with other
regional powers - challenged the Vietnamese Nguyen family, ruling southern Vietnam
since 1558. The campaign ended with the defeat of the Cham in the first month of 1693.
A series of battles between the remnants of Cham forces and the Vietnamese in 1693-94
left the area in severe famine and led to the outbreak of plague. In 1694, the kingdom of
Champa ceased to exist as an independent entity and was integrated into the Nguyen
domains. After the fall of the southern principality, the Cham, losing their homeland,
turned towards the Malays of the peninsula for assistance. This eventually triggered the
major shift in religious orientation of the Cham so that by the time of their final annexation
by the Vietnamese, the majority of the Cham people had converted to Islam. [7]

In the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya we find already at the beginning of the 15th century
an indication of the existence of a Cham village. In 1409,
King Ramaracha (r.
1395-1409) ordered the arrest of Chao Phraya Senabodi, one of his main ministers. The
latter was able to escape the king's wrath by crossing the
Lopburi River to Patha Khu
Cham. Later the minister supported King Intharacha, a cousin of Ramaracha and Ruler of
Suphanburi, in a fight for the throne. After
King Intharacha (r.1409-1424) assumed the
throne, he banished his cousin to live in Patha Khu Cham. "Patha" is a Khmer word
meaning "camp" or "village"; thus, Patha Khu Cham can be translated as the "Village
of the Cham Canal". The Cham settled east of Wat Putthai Sawan on the west bank of
Khlong Khu Cham. [8]

“In 771, a year of the ox, King Ram was enraged at Cao Senabòdi and ordered
that he be arrested. Cao Senabòdi fled to safety and went across to stay on the
other side of the river at Pathakhucam. Cao Senabòdi then sent messengers to
invite Prince Intharacha to come from Suphanburi and to tell him that he would
bring troops in and seize Ayutthaya for him. When Prince Intharacha arrived, he
then ordered Cao Senabòdi to lead his men in and they attacked and captured
Ayutthaya. So Prince Intharacha was invited to ascend the royal throne and he
sent King Ram to live off
Pathakhucam.” [9]

Following the Royal Chronicles, a Cham village existed already in 1409, prior to the fall
of the northern Cham locality Vijaya in 1471. The Cham were prolific traders and
specialized in trading far beyond their localities. The Cham in Ayutthaya were as thus
probably not refugees, but a colony of traders. At that time they (likely) were also
Buddhists and not Muslims (for example the rulers of Melaka converted to Islam only in
1414). Patha Khu Cham seems also to have been an isolated place and this concur with
the distinct cultural identity of the Chams in pursuing active isolationism. [10] A reason
why the dethroned King Ramaracha was expelled to live in their midst. More Cham
refugees joined the settlement in Ayutthaya due to political problems caused by the
Vietnamese invasion of the Kingdom of Champa at the end of the 16th century, as
explained above. Additionally, Cham migrated to Cambodia were taken prisoner when
the Siamese army invaded the country. When more Cham refugees arrived, the
community expanded to settle along both banks of the Khu Cham and formed a farming
society, growing floating rice on the banks of the canal near their villages. [8]  

Along the northern part of Khlong Khu Cham there were quite a lot of Buddhist temples.
From North to south on its west bank stood
Wat Noina, Wat Tawet, Wat Tama, Wat
Bandai Nak and Wat Kaeo Fa, while on its east bank were Wat
Thong,
Wat Khok Sung, Wat Vihan Khian and Wat Tha Hoi.

The
Khu Cham Cemetery is found on the west bank of Khlong Khu Cham. Locals stated
that the cemetery was built on the former site of a Buddhist temple. A 1993 Fine Arts
Department map [12] indicates Wat Thong in this position, but a recent map repositions
this temple on the east bank of Wat Khu Cham, more or less opposite of the graveyard.
The main sala of the graveyard seems effectively to be built on an ancient brick
foundation and brick are shattered all over the place. This brick remains could have
belonged to the former
Surau Khaek, but more information need to be gathered on this
issue.

Footnotes:

(1) In the Ayutthayan era, the present Chao Phraya River was in fact the Lopburi River.
See the essay:
Ayutthaya's Ever-changing Waterways.
(2) Most of the fortresses stood at the confluences of rivers and canals around the city.
(3) "Sok" and "Wa" are Thai measurements. The text cites "10 Sok 3 Wa". A Sok or
elbow is approx 50 cm, while a Wa is 2 meters.
(4) "Krachaeng" are panels woven from pandanus leaves or nipa palm leaves, packed
between bamboo and used as a cover against sunshine and rain; as a roof for houses and
carts or as cover for temporary houses. [11]

References:
  
[1] พรรณนาภูมิสถาน พระนครศรีอยุธยา เอกสารจากหอหลวง
(ฉบับความสมบูรฌ์) - Geographical description of Ayutthaya: Documents from the
palace - Dr Vinai Pongsripian - Bangkok (2007).
[2] Ibid - page 84.
[3] Ibid - page 93.
[4] ARI Working Paper No. 27 - Cambodia and Its Neighbors in the 15th Century -
Michael Vickery (June 2004) page 6, 57.
[5] The Introduction of Islam into Champa - Pierre Yves Manguin - JMBRAS, Vol.
LVIII, Part 1, 1985, page 1.
[6] See the letters of De Courtaulin, Mahot found in Archives des Missions Etrangeres de
Paris (AMEP), Vol. 734, and letters by the Bishop of Heliopolis, AMEP, Vol. 735, pp.
198-200.
[7] Vietnam-Champa Relations and the Malay-Islam Regional Network in the 17th–19th
Centuries - Danny Wong Tze Ken (2004).
[8] Muslim communities during the Ayutthaya period - Julispong Chularatana - page 8,
96, 97.
[9] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman & David K. Wyatt (2006)
- page 14.
[10] Economy in Motion: Cham Muslim Traders in the Mekong Delta - Philip Taylor
(2006) - The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology Vol. 7, No. 3, December 2006.
[11] พจนานุกรมสถาปัตยกรรมและศิลปะเกี่ยวเนื่อง ศาสตราจารย์โชติ
กัลยาณมิตร (2005) - page 21.
[12] FAD 1993 map - courtesy Khun Supot Prommanot - Director of the 3th Regional
Office of Fine Arts.
(Khlong Khu Cham on aerial map)
(Khlong Khu Cham on a 1945 aerial map)
(View of Khlong Khu Cham, largely silted)
(View of Khlong Khu Cham with watergate)