Mon House at Pakret
THE MONS, Collected articles from the Journal of Siam Society : Introduction by Michael Smithies, Bangkok, 1986.
The Mons refer to themselves as Mon; their name in classical literature was Raman or Rmen, from which the term Mon may well be derived. The Burmans
refer to the Mon as Talaing, a term attributed with various meanings and origins, but the general consensus is that it has acquired, if it did not originally have, pejorative overtones. The Mons,
linguistically related to the khmers, speak a similar non-tonal language of considerable antiquity. They appear to have originally occupied a swathe of land from lower Burma going across the
central plains of the Meklong and Chao Phraya basins, with outposts in the north and northeast, notably Lampoon, Lopburi and Si Tep, near Chaiyapoom. It is generally agreed that the two
principal old centres of Mon culture were Pegu and in the Nakorn Pathom area (where a Mon inscription dating from cira 600 has been discovered), and early art forms in central Siam, generally
referred to as Dvaravati, were the products of Mon civilisation.
From the book Ethnic identity of the Mons in Thailand, published By the Siam Society, by Brian L. Foster, no one knows how many Mons live in Thailand today,
since they are all Thai citizens and are not distinguished legally from the Thais in any way. And since much assimilation has occurred, it would be difficult to decide who is Mon and who is not.
Most of the nain Mon settlements are near Bangkok. The largest extends along both banks of the Chao Phya River from Pakret district,
which is in Nonthaburi province approximately opposite the airport,
to the border of Autthaya province. The second largest group is probably that in Ratchaburi province
along the Mae Klong River in Ban Pong and Photharam districts. The best known group is no doubt that at Prapradaeng, or Paklat, just
south of Bangkok, which is well known for its colorful Songkran festival, which attracts many tourists every year. Other major groups are found in
Samut Sakhon, Lopburi, and Uthaithani. Smaller groups are found in many locations, including the provinces of Samut Songkhram, Phetchaburi,
hachoengsao, Autthaya, Khorat, Lampang, Lamphun, Thonburi, and elsewhere. Many Mons have, of course, moved to Bangkok, but there are no major settlements within the city.
In Sam Khok district, which is in Pathum Thani province and borders Autthaya province, Mons make the small rather irregular red bricks that are used in most massonry
construction in Bangkok and elsewhere in central Thailand. These are in fact called "Mon bricks". In the old days, the Mons seem to have monopolized the brick mannufacture, which was done by farmers
in the off season. Todays many Thais have taken it up, and many Mons have quit to take up boating occupations.
In Pakret, a group of Mons makes a number of kinds of crude ceramics, including mortars, basins, and in past, the large water jars used by peasants for storing rain water. The goods are
distributed throughout central and northern Thailand.
The ceramic industry isin an advanced stated of decay today, however; and the last factory which made the big red water jars closed recently at the
death of the owner. The main difficulty seems to be that the red jars, once the mainstay of the industry, have been displaced by the cheaper and prettier glazed jars made in Ratchaburi, In Pakret, over twenty
Mon factories still remain, though, which produce mortars and basins.
A large and increasing number of Mons in Pathum Thani are boatmen and have been for many years. Traditionally they sold the large Pakret water jars, along with cooking vessels and other ceramics,
over central and northern Thailand. With the decline of the Pakret industry, they have taken over distribution of a large portion of the Ratchaburi jars. This occupation is still important, but many boatmen
have now shifted to the more lucrative business of hauling sand, stone, cement, and other commodities in huge barges. A large portion of construction materials used in Bangkok arrives in Mon barges.