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Thailand history line



Early cultures

With no written records or chronologies it is difficult to say with certainty what kind of cultures existed in Thailand before the middle of the first millennium AD. However, by the 6th century an important network of agricultural communities was thriving as far south as modern-day Pattani and Yala, and as far north and northeast as Lamphun and Muang Fa Daet (near Khon Kaen). Theravada Buddhism was flourishing and may have entered the region during India’s Ashoka period, in the 3rd or 2nd century BC, when Indian missionaries are said to have been sent to a land called Suvannabhumi (Land of Gold). Suvannabhumi most likely corresponds to a remarkably fertile
area stretching from southern Myanmar, across central Thailand, to eastern Cambodia. Two different cities in Thailand’s central river basin have long

Thailand is one of the few countries in the world which has never been colonised.The first independent Thai Kingdom was established in 1238, but the origins of Thailand and the Thai people go back much further.

The Mekong River valley and Khorat Plateau in particular were inhabited as far back as 10,000 years ago, and rice was grown in the Ban Chiang and Ban Prasat areas of northeastern Thailand as early as 4000 BC (China, by contrast, was growing and consuming millet at the time). The Ban Chiang culture began bronze metallurgy before 3000 BC; the Middle East’s Bronze Age arrived around 2800 BC, China’s a thousand years later. Ban Chiang bronze works were stronger than their Mesopotamian or Chinese counterparts, mainly due to Ban Chiang’s

From the 3rd century BC Indian traders began visiting the Gulf of Thailand, introducing the peoples of the region to Hinduism, which rapidly became the principal faith in the area. By 230 BC, when Chinese traders began visiting these shores, large parts of Thailand had been incorporated into the kingdom of Funan, the first state in Southeast Asia. The name Funan means ‘king of the mountain’, a reference to Mt Meru, the home of the Hindu gods. Funan established its main port at Oc Eo at the mouth of the Mekong River in Vietnam, and traded as far afield as India and possibly even Europe. At its peak, the state included large parts of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and had active trade with the agrarian communities along the Malay Peninsula as far south as modern-day Pattani and Yala. A factory producing trade beads for the Funan empire was recently discovered at Khlong Thom near Krabi.
Rice may have been cultivated as early as 4,000 BC (China was still largely growing and consuming millet, although evidence does suggest that rice was first cultivated in the Yangtze valley c. 6500 BC) Bronze metallurgy began c. 1700-1500 BC.

After the peak of the Funan Kingdom, around AD 600, a new star was rising in Southeast Asia, the kingdom of the Khmer, from modern-day Cambodia. This Hindu kingdom became famous for its extravagant sculpture and temple building; Khmer styles of art and design – as featured on the magnificent Hindu temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia – had a profound effect on the art, language and religion of the Thais. Many Thai men became mercenaries for the Khmer armies and are clearly depicted in the bas-relief carvings in the Angkor compound. Thais met indigenous populations of Tibeto-Burmans and Mon-Khmers in the move south and westward (into what is now Myanmar, Thailand and Laos), they were somehow able to displace, assimilate or co-opt them without force. The most probable explanation for this relatively smooth assimilation is that there were already Thai peoples indigenous to the area.

Early Thai states, such as Lanna and Phayao, exist in present day northern Thailand. The state still regarded by Thai historic tradition as the first Thai kingdom was Sukhothai. During the first half of the 13th Century, the Thai rulers set up Sukhothai as an independent Thai kingdom. Si Inthrathit became the first king. The most famous and dynamic monarch ever to rule Sukhothai was King Ramkhamhaeng, King Si Inthrathit's son and successor. King Ramkhamhaeng's stone inscription of 1292 is considered a source of Sukhothai history and a masterpiece of Thai literature. Sukhothai was prosperous and well-governed, and this period has been regarded as a golden age in Thai history.

In 1351 King Ramathibodi I (U thong) officially founded the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, but the Sukhothai Kingdom did not completely decline. Until the 15th Century, it was incorporated into the Ayutthaya Kingdom as a province. King Ramathibodi I and his immediate successors expanded Ayutthaya's territory northward toward Sukhothai and eastward toward Angkor, the Khmer capital. The Ayutthaya area offered good geographical and economic advantages because it was at the confluence of three rivers and had easy access to the sea. The Thais began contact with the West in the 16th Century, establishing commercial ties with European and Asian nations including Portugal, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, China and Japan. this period was considered a great era of international trade. The country was known to traders as Siam ("hsien - lo" in Chinese). In 1939 it became known as Thailand, or in Thai language, Prathet Thai, which means Land of the Free.

During the 1760s, the Burmese launched a full scale attack on Ayutthaya. And in April 1767 Ayutthaya succumbed to the Burmese. Later General Phya Taksin, a savior of the Thai state, defeated the Burmese and proclaimed himself king. Internal political conflict in 1783 resulted in General Phraya Chakri being chosen king and founding the present dynasty of Thai kings.

In the 19th Century the reigns of King Rama II, Rama III and Rama IV were the first stage in the Thai Kingdom's dealings with the West during the Age of Imperialism. King Rama IV, or King Mongkut, was a scholar and the first king to concentrate seriously on reform based on Western models. His wide knowledge of the West assisted him in dealing with Britain, France and other powers when he reigned as king from 1851 to 1868. The reform and foreign policies of King Mongkut were carried on by his son and successor, King Chulalongkorn, or King Rama V. King Chulalongkorn, first king to travel abroad, faced the Western world with a positive attitude. With the influences of Buddhist morality and Western examples, he gradually abolished the institution of slavery, initiated extensive reforms of the public administration and contributed greatly to public education.

In 1893 France acquired Laos and all territory east of the Mekong River after a boundary dispute between Siam and France. In 1904 France acquired all territory west of the same river. In 1907 Siam ceded additional territory along the Mekong River to France in return for French withdrawal from the eastern Thai provinces and the abandonment of French extraterritorial claims over their protected persons. In 1909 Siam yielded four states in the Malay Peninsula to Great Britain in return for a lessening of certain treaty disabilities. It was fortunate for the Thai Kingdom that Britain and France had agreed to keep Siam as a buffer zone between their territorial possessions in Southeast Asia. The foreign policy during King Chulalongkorn's reign ensured Siam's survival as a sovereign state and was essential for its progress to modernity. The king died in 1910 and his son and successor, King Vajiravudh, or King Rama VI, acceded to the throne. He was the first king to have been educated abroad. In 1917 he led Siam into World War I on the side of the Allies and Siam earned recognition and praise from the international community. Siam became a founding member of the League of Nations.

A bloodless revolution took place in 1932 during the reign of King Prajadihipok, or King Rama VII, replacing an absolute with a constitutional monarchy. Men and women over 20 had the right to vote. Afterward came a time of balancing new political ideas and expectations with the pragmatism of power politics. The government alternated between democratically elected officials and differing scales of military rule.

In 1935 King Prajadhipok abdicated and his nephew, Prince Ananda Mahidol, succeeded to the throne. With a stronger status in the international arena, Thailand began to negotiate the revision of unequal treaties. The United States became the first country to give up special trading privileges and extraterritorial rights except in certain legal cases. By 1937 all consular court and other foreign privileges had disappeared with the help of Dr. Francis B. Sayre, an American advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 1940 Thailand demanded from France the return of some territories. Finally, the dispute between Thailand and France was settled with the assistance of Japan as mediator, and the Tokyo Convention was signed in May 1941. By the end of 1941 the war of Greater East Asia had broken out and emerged into World War II. Thailand's Alliance with Japan was concluded and war against the United States and Great Britain was declared on January 25, 1942. Free Thai movements were then organized in the United States and Great Britain. After World War II, Thailand's position was quite vulnerable and was under pressure from a few European powers who considered Thailand a defeated nation and demanded compensation. Fortunately, the United States stood by Thailand. The activities of the Free Thai movements in close cooperation with the governments of the United States and Great Britain during the war successfully supported the Thai argument of the invalidity of its declaration of war. In 1946 Thailand was accepted as the 55th member of the United Nations.

King Ananda Mahidol died in 1946 and his brother, Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej, became sovereign. The government was seized by a military junta led by Field Marshal Pibulsonggram, who became prime minister.

In 1951 a coup d'etat reestablished the 1932 authoritarian constitution and was followed by the promulgation of the revised constitution in 1952. Thailand, along with the United States and six other nations, organized the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954 to protect its member countries against communist aggression.

Field Marshal Pibulsonggram led the cabinet from 1947-1957 and was ousted in 1958. Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat became premier in 1959.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was founded in 1967 to promote economic, cultural and social cooperation among its members. Students led a civilian revolt against the dictatorship in 1973. Democratic elections were held until 1976, when a bloody suppression of demonstrators occurred. The military took over until 1979 when once again Thailand held democratic elections. General Prem Tinsulanonda became premier in 1979 and headed four governments until he declined another term in 1988. During these years, national stability and successful foreign policies brought about many socio-political and economic developments.

In 1988 Thailand celebrated the great occasion of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's becoming the longest reigning monarch in Thai history.


History time line

4000–3000 BC

Ban Chiang in Northeastern Thailand pioneers rice cultivation and bronze metallurgy.

6th–10th centuries

Theravada Buddhism establishes itself among Mon communities in central Thailand.

8th–10th centuries

Thai-Kadai peoples from northern Vietnam and southern China begin migrating into the Mekong River valle.

9th–13th centuries

Angkor extends control across central Thailand.


Several Thai principalities resist Khmer suzerainty and unite to form Sukhothai, considered to be the first Thai kingdom.

14th–15th centuries

Ayuthaya in central Thailand rivals and later annexes Sukhothai as the primary Thai kingdom and conquers former Khmer territory.


The Portuguese establish the first European mission in Ayuthaya, soon to be followed by the Dutch, English, Danish and French.


Ayuthaya’s wealth attracts the attention of the Burmese, whose siege reduces the city to a devastated shell.


Phaya Taksin rallies the Thai forces and drives out the Burmese, appointing himself king at the new capital of Thonburi.


Chao Phraya Chakri takes over as king, moving the capital across Mae Nam Chao Phraya to Bangkok.


King Mongkut (Rama V) ascends the Chakra throne, instituting a period of reform and opening diplomatic relations with Europe.


Siam annexes Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat from the former sultanate of Pattani.


Following a bloodless coup, Rama VII presides over a change from absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.


Polygamy, a Thai tradition, is outlawed.


Siam changes its name to ‘Thailand’.


Japanese forces occupy parts of Thailand until they’re defeated at the close of WWII


The present king, Rama IX, ascends the throne; Thailand’s first democratically elected government comes to power.


Thai students, workers and farmers unite to repel military dictatorship and install a democratic government.


A general amnesty reduces the ranks of the armed insurgency to a handful; the communist movement is vanquished; martial law ends.


A military coup lands General Suchinda in power and when protestors are shot, King Rama IX intervenes and democracy is restored.


After a decade of energetic economic growth, the Thai economy crashes and the national currency suffers precipitous deflation.


Thaksin Shinawatra, the richest man in Thailand, is elected prime minister on a populist platform.


Devastating tsunami hits Thailand’s Andaman Coast, killing 5000 and temporarily paralysing tourist and fishing industries.


Thailand’s democratically elected government is dismantled by a military coup, and Prime Minister Thaksin is forced into exile.


Kings of Thailand:

Rama I, the Great (1782-1809), Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke
Rama II (1809-1824), Buddha Loetla Nabhalai
Rama III (1824-1851), Nangklao
Rama IV (1851-1868), Mongkut
Rama V, the Great (1868-1910), Chulalongkorn
Rama VI (1910-1925), Vajiravudh
Rama VII (1925-1935), Prajadhipok
Rama VIII (1935-1946), Ananda Mahidol
Rama IX, the Great (since 1946), Bhumibol Adulyadej
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