History of Thailand - culture and background country
Thailand means "land of the free", and throughout its 800-year
history, Thailand can boast the distinction of being the only country
in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. Its history is divided
into five major periods :
The Thai people founded their kingdom in the southern part of China, which
is Yunnan, Kwangsi and Canton today. A great number of people migrated
south as far as the Chao Phraya Basin and settled down over the Central
Plain under the sovereignty of the Khmer Empire, whose culture they probably
accepted. The Thai people founded their independent state of Sukhothai
around 1238 A.D., which marks the beginning of the Sukhothai Period.
Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the region in the13th century,
gradually asserting independence from existing Khmer and Mon kingdoms.
Called by its rulers "the dawn of happiness", this is often
considered the golden era of Thai history, an ideal Thai state in a land
of plenty governed by paternal and benevolent kings, the most famous of
whom was King Ramkamhaeng the Great. However in 1350, the mightier state
of Ayutthaya exerted its influence over Sukhothai.
Ayutthaya kings adopted Khmer cultural influences from the very beginning.
No longer the paternal and accessible rulers that the kings of Sukhothai
had been, Ayutthaya's sovereigns were absolute monarchs and assumed the
title devaraja (god-king). The early part of this period saw Ayutthaya
extend its sovereignty over neighboring Thai principalities and come into
conflict with its neighbours, During the 17th century, Siam started diplomatic
and commercial relations with western countries.
In 1767, a Burmese invasion succeeded in capturing Ayutthaya. Despite
their overwhelming victory, the Burmese did not retain control of Siam
for long. A young general named Phya Taksin and his followers broke through
the Burmese encirclement and escaped to Chantaburi. Seven months after
the fall of Ayutthaya, he and his forces sailed back to the capital and
expelled the Burmese occupation garrison.
General Taksin, as he is popularly known, decided to transfer the capital
from Ayutthaya to a site nearer to the sea which would facilitate foreign
trade, ensure the procurement of arms, and make defence and withdrawal
easier in case of a renewed Burmese attack. He established his new capital
at Thon Buri on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River.
The rule of Taksin was not an easy one. The lack of central authority
since the fall of Ayutthaya led to the rapid disintegration of the kingdom,
and Taksin's reign was spent reuniting the provinces.
Taksin's death, General Chakri became the first king of the Chakri Dynasty,
Rama I, ruling from 1782 to 1809. His first action as king was to transfer
the royal capital across the river from Thon Buri to Bangkok and build
the Grand Palace. Rama II (1809-1824) continued the restoration begun
by his predecessor. King Nang Klao, Rama III (1824-1851) reopened relations
with Western nations and developed trade with China. King Mongkut, Rama
IV, (1851-1868) of "The King and I" concluded treaties with
European countries, avoided colonialisation and established modern Thailand.
He made many social and economic reforms during his reign .
King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (1869-1910) continued his father's tradition
of reform, abolishing slavery and improving the public welfare and administrative
system. Compulsory education and other educational reforms were introduced
by King Vajiravudh, Rama VI (1910-1925). During the reign of King Prajadhipok,
(1925-1935), Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional
monarchy. The king abdicated in 1933 and was succeeded by his nephew,
King Ananda Mahidol (1935-1946). The country's name was changed from Siam
to Thailand with the advent of a democratic government in 1939.
Our present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is King Rama IX of the Chakri