Thailand History

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Prior to the arrival of the Tai people and culture into what is now Thailand, the region hosted a number of indigenous Mon-Khmer and Malay civilizations. Yet little is known about Thailand before the 13th century as the literary and concrete sources are scarce and most of the knowledge about this period is gleaned from archeological evidence. [1]

Yong Khmer girl
Two young Mon boys

The Thai are related linguistically to Tai groups originating in southern China. Migrations from southern China to Southeast Asia may have occurred in the 6th and 7th centuries. Malay, Mon, and Khmer civilizations flourished in the region prior to the arrival of the ethnic Tai. [2]

The Thais moved from their ancestral home in southern China into mainland southeast Asia around the 10th century AD. Prior to this, Indianized kingdoms such as the Mon, Khmer and Malay kingdoms ruled the region. The Thais established their own states starting with Sukhothai, Chiang Saen and Chiang Mai and Lanna Kingdom and then Ayutthaya kingdom. These states fought each other and were under constant threat from the Khmers, Burma and Vietnam. Much later, the European colonial powers threatened in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but Thailand survived as the only Southeast Asian state to avoid colonial rule. After the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand endured sixty years of almost permanent military rule before the establishment of a democratic elected-government system. [1]

Ancient Thai capitol, Sukothai

Brief History:

The Thai traditionally date the founding of their nation to the 13th century, though kingdoms of Thai peoples existed in the north and in the south before then. According to tradition, in 1238, Thai chieftains overthrew their Khmer overlords at Sukhothai and established a Thai kingdom. After its decline, a new Thai kingdom emerged in 1350 on the Chao Praya River at Ayutthaya. At the same time, there was the equally important Tai kingdom of Lanna, centered in Chiang Mai, which for centuries rivaled Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, and still defines northern Thai identity; a southern kingdom centered in Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south also pre-dated Sukhothai. [2]

The first ruler of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, King Rama Thibodi, made two important contributions to Thai history: the establishment and promotion of Theravada Buddhism as the official religion--to differentiate his kingdom from the neighboring Hindu kingdom of Angkor--and the compilation of the Dharmashastra, a legal code based on Hindu sources and traditional Thai custom. The Dharmashastra remained a tool of Thai law until late in the 19th century. Beginning with the Portuguese in the 16th century, Ayutthaya had some contact with the West, but until the 1800s, its relations with neighboring kingdoms and principalities, as well as with China, were of primary importance. [2]

Khmer Ruins at Prasat Meuang Singh Historical Park

In the twentieth century, the culture of the Central Tai came to dominate the national culture. The military dictator, Phibun, passed a number of Cultural Mandates that promoted a centralized national culture and identity. Other mandates promoted the use of the national dress and the national language. [3]

Siam was the name of Thailand before 24 June 1939 and again from 8 September 1945 to 20 July 1949. [1]


1000-1099: Thais begin moving from southern China into what is now Thailand.

1350: A unified Thai kingdom is established under the rule of King Ramathibodi. A series of kings follow, ruling what was then known as Siam.

1896: A British-French treaty guarantees independence for the new country.

1932: A bloodless revolution ends the absolute monarchy. The royal family is replaced by a representational government.

1939: Siam officially changes its name to Thailand.

1941: Japan invades Thailand in World War II, forcing Thailand to fight with Japan in the war.

1944: Thailand takes back a declaration of war against the United States and Britain. After the war, it becomes an ally of the U.S.

1946: Thailand becomes the 55th member of the United Nations.

1960s-1970s: Thailand is involved in conflicts in the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Vietnam. The U.S. maintains military bases in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

1997: A major stock market crash devastates Thailand's economy. The baht, Thailand's unit of money, drops in value.

2004: A devastating tsunami strikes. Giant waves hit the western coast and islands of Thailand and 10 other nations, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

2005: A team of eight elephants in Thailand team up to create what may be the largest painting ever made by the mammals.


1. Who was the first ruler of the Kingdom Ayutthaya?
A. King Rama Thibodi
B. King Chulaglongkorn
C. King Anawratha
D. King Ekkathat

2. In 1941 what country invades Thailand during World War II?
A. United States of America
B. China
C. Germany
D. Japan



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1. History of Thailand. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from
2. Thailand. (n.d.). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from
3. Culture of Thailand - traditional, history, people, clothing, traditions, women, beliefs, food, customs. (n.d.). Countries and Their Cultures. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from
4. Around The World | Thailand. (n.d.). Time For Kids | Classroom. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from,28138,1156563,00.html