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Thailand History Overview

Archeological discoveries around the northeast hamlet of Ban Chiang suggests that the world's oldest Bronze Age civilization had flourished in Thailand some 5,600 years ago.

Archeological discoveries around the northeast hamlet of Ban Chiang suggests that the world's oldest Bronze Age civilization had flourished in Thailand some 5,600 years ago.

Successive waves of immigrants, including Mons, Khmers, and Tais gradually entered the land mass known then as Siam, most of whom traveled slowly along fertile river valleys from Southern China. By the 11th and 12th Century, Khmers ruled much of the area from Angkor.

By the early 1200s, the Tais had established small northern city states in Lanna, Phayao, and Sukhothai. In 1238, two Tai chieftains rebelled against Khmer suzerainty and established the fully independent Thai kingdom in Sukhothai (literally, 'Dawn of Happiness').

Sukhothai saw the Thais gradual expansion throughout the entire Chao Phraya River basin, the establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the paramount Thai religion, the creation of the Thai alphabet, and the first expression of nascent Thai art forms, including painting, sculpture, architecture, and literature.

Sukhothai declined during the 1300s and eventually became a vassal state of Ayutthaya, a dynamic young kingdom further south in the Chao Phraya River valley. Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya remained the Thai capital until 1767 when it was destroyed by Burmese invaders.

During Ayutthaya's 417 years as the capital under the rule of 33 kings, the Thais brought their distinctive culture to full fruition, totally rid their lands of Khmer presence, and fostered contact with Arabian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and European powers.

Ayutthaya's destruction was as severe a blow to the Thais as the loss of Paris or London would have been to the French or English. However, a Thai revival occurred within a few months and the Burmese were expelled by King Taksin, who later made Thon Buri his capital. In 1782, the first king of the present Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, established his new capital on the site of a riverside hamlet called Bangkok (Village of Wild Plums).

Two Chakri monarchs, Mongkut (Rama IV) who reigned between 1851 - 1868, and his son Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868 -1910) saved Thailand from western colonization through adroit diplomacy and selective modernization.

Today, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. Since 1932, Thai kings, including the present monarch, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, have exercised their legislative powers through the national assembly, their executive powers through a cabinet headed by the Prime Minister, and their judicial powers through the courts of law.

 
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