History of Thailand

From Academic Kids

Template:History of Thailand

Missing image
Siamese warrior figures at the 18th century Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) in Bangkok, erected by King Taksin the Great in 1769

The history of Thailand begins with the migration of the Thais into what is now Thailand during the first millennium. Prior to this, bronze and iron age civilisations had existed for several thousand years, plus later Mon, Malay and Khmer kingdoms. The Thais established their own kingdoms, most prominently a brief flowering at Sukhothai and more lastingly the Ayutthaya kingdom. These kingdoms were under constant threat from Burma and Vietnam, as well as from Thai and Lao rivals. The European colonial powers threatened in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but Thailand survived as the only south-east Asian state to avoid colonial rule. After the end of the absolute Thai monarchy in 1932, Thailand endured sixty years of almost permanent military rule before the establishment of a democratic system.


Early history

Main article: Early history of Thailand

The earliest major archaeological site in Thailand is Ban Chiang; dating of artefacts from this site is controversial, but there is a consensus that at least by 3600 BC, the inhabitants had developed bronze tools and had begun to cultivate wet rice, providing the impetus for social and political organization.

Later, Malay, Mon, and Khmer civilizations flourished in the region prior to the domination of the Thais, most notably the kingdom of Srivijaya in the south, the Dvaravati kingdom in central Thailand and the Khmer empire based at Angkor. The Thais are related linguistically to groups originating in southern China. Migrations from southern China to Southeast Asia took place primarily during the first millennium AD, most likely via northern Laos.

Sukhothai and Lannathai

Main articles: Sukhothai kingdom and Lannathai

Thais date the founding of their nation to the 13th century. According to tradition, Thai chieftains overthrew their Khmer overlords at Sukhothai in 1238 and established a Thai kingdom. The city briefly dominated the area of modern Thailand under King Ramkhamhaeng, but after his death it fell into decline and became subject to the Ayutthaya kingdom in 1365, which dominated southern and central Thailand until the 1700s.

Many other Thai statelets coexisted with Sukhothai, most notably the northern kingdom of Lannathai or Lanna. This state emerged in the same period as Sukhothai, but survived longer. Its independent history ended in 1558, when it fell to the Burmese; thereafter it was dominated by Burma and Ayutthaya in turn before falling to the army of the Siamese King Taksin in 1775.


Main article: Ayutthaya kingdom

The first ruler of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, King Ramathibodi I, 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 nations, as well as with India and China, were of primary importance. Ayyutthaya dominated a considerable area, ranging from the Islamic states on the Malay Peninsula to states in northern Thailand. Nonetheless, the Burmese, who had control of Lanna and had also unified their kingdom under a powerful dynasty, launched several invasion attempts in the 1750s and 1760s. Finally, in 1767, the Burmese attacked the city and conquered it. The royal family fled the city where the king died of starvation ten days later. The Ayutthaya royal line had been extinguished.

Bangkok period

Main article: History of Thailand (1768-1932)

After more than 400 years of power, in 1767, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was brought down by invading Burmese armies, its capital burned, and the territory split. General Taksin managed to reunite the Thai kingdom from his new capital of Thonburi and declared himself king in 1769. However, Taksin allegedly became mad, and he was deposed, taken prisoner, and executed in 1782.General Chakri succeeded him in 1782 as Rama I, the first king of the Chakri dynasty. In the same year he founded the new capital city at Bangkok, across the Chao Phraya river from Thonburi, Taksin's capital. In the 1790s Burma was defeated and driven out of Siam, as it was now called. Lanna also became free of Burmese occupation, but the king of a new dynasty was installed in the 1790s was effectively a puppet ruler of the Chakri monarch.

The heirs of Rama I became increasingly concerned with the threat of European colonialism after British victories in neighboring Burma in 1826. The first Thai recognition of Western power in the region was the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United Kingdom in 1826. In 1833, the United States began diplomatic exchanges with Siam, as Thailand was called until 1939 (and again between 1945 and 1949). However, it was during the later reigns of King Mongkut (Rama IV, 1851-1868), and his son King Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910), that Thailand established firm rapprochement with Western powers. The Thais believe that the diplomatic skills of these monarchs, combined with the modernizing reforms of the Thai Government, made Siam the only country in South and Southeast Asia to avoid European colonization. This is reflected in the country's modern name, Prathet Thai (Thailand), used unofficially between 1939 and 1945 and officially declared on May 11, 1949, in which prathet means "nation" and thai means "free".

The Anglo-Siam Treaty of 1909 made the modern border between Siam and British Malaya by securing the Thai authority on the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Satun, which were previously part of the semi-independent Malay sultanates of Pattani and Kedah. A series of treaties with France fixed the country's current eastern border with Laos and Cambodia (territories to which Siam had earlier made claim and to some extent controlled).

Military rule

Main article: History of Thailand (1932-1973)

The Siamese coup d'tat of 1932 transformed the Government of Thailand from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) initially accepted this change but later surrendered the throne to his ten-year old nephew, Ananda Mahidol. Upon his abdication, King Prajadhipok said that the duty of a ruler was to reign for the good of the whole people, not for a select few. King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) died in 1946 under somewhat mysterious circumstances, the official version being that he shot himself by accident while cleaning his gun. He was succeeded by Bhumibol Adulyadej, the longest reigning king of Thailand, and very popular with the Thais. Although nominally a constitutional monarchy, Thailand was ruled by a series of military governments (most prominently led by Luang Phibunsongkhram and Sarit Dhanarajata) interspersed with brief periods of democracy. In 1992 the last military ruler, Suchinda Kraprayoon, gave up power in the face of massive popular protests, supported by the king. Since then, Thailand has been a functioning democracy with constitutional changes of government.

On December 8, 1941, a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan demanded the right to move troops across Thailand to the Malayan frontier. The Japanese landed at Bangkok and at several locations along the east coast of southern Thailand where they engaged the Thai army for six to eight hours before the Thai army determined it would be impossible to defend the kingdom. Shortly thereafter Japan was granted free passage, and on December 21, 1941, Thailand and Japan signed an alliance with a secret protocol wherein Tokyo agreed to help Thailand get back territories lost to the British and French colonial powers and Thailand undertook to assist Japan in her war against the Allies.

After Japan's defeat in 1945, with the help of a group of Thais known as the Saree Thai who were supported by the United States, Thailand was treated as a defeated country by the British and French, although American support mitigated the Allied terms. Thailand was not occupied by the Allies, but it was forced to return the territory it had gained to the British and the French. In the post-war period Thailand enjoyed close relations with the United States, which it saw as a protector from the communist revolutions in neighboring countries.

Recently, Thailand also has been an active member in the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), especially after democratic rule was restored in 1992.


Main article: History of Thailand since 1973

See also


fr:Histoire de la Thalande ko:타이의 역사 it:Storia della Thailandia lt:Tailando istorija ja:タイの歴史


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