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Thailand | A brief history

The Thais, it is presumed, originated in northwestern Szechuan in China some 4,500 years ago.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2006 10:30 IST

The Kingdom of Thailand, formerly Siam, rests in Southeast Asia, bordering Laos and Cambodia to the east, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia to the south and the Andaman Sea and Myanmar to the west.

There are conflicting opinions as regards the origins of the Thais. The Thais, it is presumed, originated in northwestern Szechuan in China some 4,500 years ago and later migrated to Thailand along the southern part of China.

They split into two main groups. One settled down in the North and became the kingdom of "Lan Na" and the other one in further south, which afterward became the kingdom of "Sukhothai".

Thailand's origin is traditionally tied to the short-lived kingdom of Sukhothai founded in 1238, after which the larger kingdom of Ayutthaya was established in the mid-14th century.

Their culture was greatly influenced by Cambodia, China and India.

In the early 16th century, the Europeans visited the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, and a Portuguese embassy was established in 1511.

In the early 17th century, Thailand saw the arrival of Dutch, French as well as the British.

But quite surprisingly, Thailand was never taken over by a European power.

The politics of Thailand took some significant turn on 24 June 1932 when a group of young intellectuals, educated abroad and imbued with the concept of Western democracy, staged a bloodless coup, demanding a change form absolute to a constitutional monarchy.

Determined to avoid any bloodshed, His Majesty King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) agreed to the abolition of absolute monarchy and the transfer of power to the constitution-based system of government as demanded.

On 10 December 1932, King Prajadhipok signed Thailand first Constitution and thus ended 700 years of Thailand absolute monarchy.

Despite the number of successive Constitutions that followed in the span of just over half-a-century, the basic concepts of Constitutional government and monarchy laid down in the 1932 Constitution have remained unaltered. 

The reign of current King Bhumibol Adulyadej, which started in 1946 and has been the longest in royal history, ushered in an era of unprecedented economic prosperity until the Asian financial crisis of 1997.