However, it seems that the Deva Raja concept was more influential in kings' exercising of royal powers than was the Dhamma Raja concept. Perhaps, we may say that the Ayudhya kings used "force" more often than "good will." The kings thus did not easily grant a pardon to anybody, the hesitation stemming from the kings' desire to preserve the decisiveness of their powers. From historical records, we know that the king would grant a pardon in each case only if someone asked the king to show leniency regarding a prisoner. To request this kind of favor put the requester's well-being-even life-at risk. In the king's eyes, the requester also had to have some special attributes in either his rank (membership in the nobility) or his work (a creator of meritorious goods or services) because he was like an endorser of the criminal. If approving of the requester, the king would be more likely to show leniency. For example, in the story about Khun Chang Khun Pan, Charmern Wai-Khun Chang's son-is a favorite solider of the king, as I mentioned, so when he asked the king to grant a pardon to his father, the king thus agreed:
Chamern Wai: May it please your majesty. I know Khun Chang's guilt deserves death. He has been imprisoned until now. However, I am feeling pitiful in the eyes of my mother; up to now, I have not met my father since I was seven years old. Thus, may your majesty grant my father a pardon because I want my mother to be happy. King Panvasa: Alright, I will forgive Khun Chang because I have pity for you. You are a good son, and I want your mother to be proud of you. Officer! Release Khun Chang now!
Another example concerning a person who begs the king for a pardon and who wins the king's approval occurred in 1592, during the reign of King Nares the Great. The supreme abbot, named Phra Banarat, asked King Nares to grant a pardon to commanders-in-chief who had been unable to assist King Nares's army in time. A historian recounted the story:
Among the many victories of King Nares, the most important one was the fight on elephants' backs with the Burmese Crown Prince. Here, the king was furious that he had been unable to beat the entire army of Burma because all of his commanders-in-chiefs reserves had been unable to catch up with the king's frontline army. When the king was back in Ayudhya, he commanded the jury to suggest to him how he should sentence these commanders. The jury concluded that, as stated by law, all commanders must be executed. The king thus ordered, first, the imprisonment of all six commanders-in-chief first and, second, their beheading as soon as the next Buddhist day of worship passed.
Fortunately, on the 14th day of the waning moon before the Buddhist day of worship, Abbot Phra Banarat of Pa Kaew Temple, accompanied by 25 monks of high rank, came to the palace, asking the king about the battle, as tradition dictated. King Nares told them ail about the battle and his victory.
Phra Banarat asked the king why, despite the victory, he would punish many of his warriors.
The king answered, "It is because all the commanders were afraid of the enemy more than of me. I had to engage the encircled enemy alone. Until I killed the Burmese Crown Prince, I saw only these cowardly commanders."
Phra Banarat said, "I personally think that these commanders were guilty, as you do, but they have diligently worked for Ayudhya since the previous reign. They have also become good servants of your majesty now. I can analogize these men to obedient disciples of Lord Buddha. May we, all monks, ask your majesty for the mercy to grant these commanders pardons. I believe these men will be your majesty's strength in the future."
The king said, "If your holiness so asks, I will grant them pardons as you wish; however, I will issue this grant only under the condition that these commanders first successfully lead their forces against Tavoy and Tanow in Burma."
Phra Banarat answered, "Thank your majesty. Killing and war are no business of Buddhist monks anyways. I shall not comment more about this matter. Bless your majesty, we are leaving now”33
This historical record demonstrates an interesting attribute of the pardoning power of the Ayudhya king: the power depended on the situation of the country. If the country was waging war, pardoning power was always rigid and nonnegotiable. If negotiable, the king often gave a condition. If the criminal could not succeed in fulfilling the condition, he had to face the sentence.
Interestingly, a requestor for a pardon was not necessarily human. Sometimes, an animal came to play a great role in asking for a pardon. For instance, King Narai the Great had an auspicious white elephant, Lord Elephant Paramagajendrashaddant. This tame and clever elephant was the favorite of King Narai. Criminals always sent petitions to this white elephant. The elephant would always bring those petitions to the king and the king frequently granted pardons with the elephant's assistance. The Ayudhya Annals record this curious pattern:
A guilty official who faced a severe sentence and who had no one asking for a pardon on his behalf would always write a petition and give it to Lord Elephant. Lord Elephant would receive it by his trunk, bringing it to the king when coming up to the Lord's corral. The king received the petition. After reading pardons, he always granted any pardon that Lord Elephant had brought to him because [the king] was so merciful to his favorite [elephant].34
In the reign of King Narai, there was also another interesting pattern of pardons. A person could ask for a pardon ahead of time; that is, even though that person had done nothing wrong yet. This insurance-like pardon was a way to escape severe punishment in the future from the king. The story about Sri Prajya--a favorite poet of King Narai--reflects this type of pardon: Lord Phra Horadhipati, Sri Prajya's father, knew that Sri Prajya was quite audacious and was, therefore, afraid that, in the future, Sri Prajya might face a royal sentence. Phra Horadhipati thus asked the king, "In the future if Sri Prajya commits any crime deserving death, may your majesty not execute him. Please exile him instead." Later, Sri Prajya faced the death penalty indeed because he had an affair with a concubine of the king. The king exiled him to Nakorn Sri Dhammaraj in the south rather than behead him, as the Palace Law dictated, because the king recalled the past request of Phra Horadhipati. Anyhow, being in Nakorn Sri Dhammaraj did not save Sri Prajya from death because he again had an affair with a concubine of a city ruler. The city ruler executed Sri Prajya out of anger. King Narai was furious to learn of the execution because, in the realm, the king was the lord of life, not a city ruler. A city ruler might execute a person only if the king had granted this power to the city ruler. King Narai thus executed the city ruler of Nakorn Sri Dhammaraj for the offence of violating the king's absolute power.35
In the reign of King Sunbejya VIII, or the Tiger King, the king exercised his power as the lord of life by punishing criminals with cruel methods. The king's appellation, 'tiger', tells us how cruel he was, so it is no surprise that successful requests for his granting of pardons seemed impossible. However,as the historical records show, the king granted pardons in cases that differed little from the cases that previous reigns had faced.
For example, when King Sunbejya VIII and his two favorite sons—Prince Beja and Prince Born--went to loop an elephant in Nakorn Savan, the royal elephant got stuck in mud. Prince Beja and Prince Born ran to help their father, but the king mistakenly concluded that his sons were crowding in around him because they wanted to assassinate him. The king thus punished them by flogging these two princes all day and night. Nobody in the procession dared to ask the king for a pardon. Krom Phra Debamatya--the Princess Mother of the king—learned of this matter, so she went from Ayudhya to Nakorn Savan to ask the king for a pardon. A historical record describes the exchange that followed:
The Princess Mother said, "Dear King, Prince Beja and Prince Born were your life mates for a long time before you acceded to the throne. That they would rebel against your throne and kill their father is impossible. Please release them, son. Since you were born, I have never asked you for anything. May the King do me a favor this one time?"36 The Tiger King uttered in response, "If my mother asks, I cannot refuse. But I want you to take these two men back to Ayudhya; I do not want to see their faces here anymore."37
Although King Sunbejya VIII sustained his power rigidly, he was kind to his servants. The king sometimes granted a pardon even if there was no petition from anyone. In this regard, let us consider the story of his favorite soldier: Panthay Narasingha, the steersman, could not safely steer the royal barge in a winding creek and finally the royal barge's prow hit the shore and broke apart.
Narasingha the steersman then jumped up to the shore, prostrating himself to the ground, and asked the king to execute him as the Palace Law dictated. However, the king suddenly granted a pardon to Narasingha: "I know your guilt deserved death, but I forgive you. Come aboard the barge and let us proceed. The prow can be fixed."38
The king avoided beheading his favorite soldier by, curiously enough, molding a clay statue of Narasingha and cutting off the statue's head instead; nevertheless, Narasingha insisted that he be executed. Finally, the king had to execute Narasingha with grief. Also, the king commanded that a shrine be built in memory of the soldier who loved the law more than his own life.39
In the reign of King Sunbejya VIII, an animal also played a significant role in presenting a petition to the king. King Sunbejya VIII often received petitions from his favorite bird. The story from The Line of Succession Book states, "The king had a favorite bird. It was a common myna. Prisoners in the death roll always waited for this bird, handing a petition for pardon to the bird. The bird would then present the petition to his rnaster."40
Interestingly, the royal pardoning power in Ayudhya was not limited to cases concerning only a single prisoner; at times, the power applied to many prisoners in general. At the coronation of each king, the king always released prisoners from prisons. The Ayudhya Annals state, "When the Ayudhya king was enthroned, he would skirt the city by means of a grand procession. He would devote gold equal to his body's weight to the production of Buddha images. He would exempt revenues for three years. Also, he would graciously release prisoners."41