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Old 25th October 2020, 03:55 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Dha, Viet Nam, Laos, Hmong

This dha is believed to be a 'bring back' from Viet Nam in late 60s. While I am not very familiar with SE Asian weapons, I found this interesting. In research I found it was likely a Hmong weapon, and was able to talk with a retired officer who had been an advisor in Viet Nam in early 60s and confirmed that.

The Hmong were among tribes known as Montagnards who were allies to American forces there .

Later I reached a lady who was an anthropology professor at UCLA and had written a book on the Hmong. When I showed her photos of the dha she took it to tribal elders she had been in touch with.
They suggested this was likely of the Khmu people living in Laos, who lived alongside the Hmong in those areas, though Hmong are quite widespread.

I thought it was interesting they could be so sure of the identity of this, but given the compelling circumstances of these sources it seemed reliable.
These people are animists, and the marks may have some association to the rice goddess, and the curious broken loop meaning is unclear.

Just wanted to see if anybody who is more familiar with these might have comments and observations.
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Old 25th October 2020, 08:50 AM   #2
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Hello Jim,

This is a Thai dha, mass produced and mainly worked for those who travel. It seems that many US soldiers bring such a dha with to the States when they return from Vietnam. There is somewhere a thread about this sort of weapons, Ian may know more about them.

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Old 25th October 2020, 09:04 AM   #3
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Hi Jim,

I wrote a lengthy post many years ago on the old UBB forum (now defunct) about these mid- to late-20th century daab that continue to be made in northern Thailand. As Detlef noted, these were common bringbacks during the Vietnam War when soldiers picked them up while on R&R in Thailand.

The Northern Lao attribution is fairly close, but these swords are usually described as being made in Thailand. These daab often have filed marks on the spine adjacent to the hilt, with lines, crosses, and even copper slugs set into the spine--these marks have no known meaning. The squiggly S-also no cultural meaning--they are just put there randomly for decoration.

Occasionally, there is a struck mark at forte. These may have some significance with respect to makers' marks or place of manufacture, but no reliable data have emerged to date as to the meaning of these marks. Most of these daab have poor quality blades, and many appear not to have been tempered.

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Old 27th October 2020, 04:40 AM   #4
Jim McDougall
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Ian, thank you so much for responding on this. SE Asia is really far out of my league in collecting and study, though I have found the material you and others have written here over the years fascinating.

Years ago when I got this, I knew of course it was very modern but was curious to see what could learn from it. The research was interesting but clearly a bit of course as the people I contacted were simply responding to the photos of the sword and trying to link it to the circumstances of their situation as Hmong refugees.

I very much appreciate your explanations on these markings and details on these swords.

Despite this being an apparent 'tourist' item, clearly a common thing with weapons from these regions, its inherent value as a bring back from Viet Nam by an American GI gives it a certain character. Those were hard times, and while troubling to remember, important to understand better now.
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