Unlike other countries in Southeast Asia,
Thailand has never been colonized. The country has been
independent since the 13th century, with the exception
of a few short periods of subjugation during Myanmar
(formerly Burma) and the Japanese occupation during the
Second World War.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Thailand, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The oldest traces of human settlements found in
Thailand are estimated to be around 40,000 years old.
Simple forms of cultivation are believed to have
occurred around SEK 10,000 BC, and metal handling and
ceramic production were probably introduced around SEK
At the beginning of our era, the area was inhabited
by Monkhm-speaking people. Around 500 AD, the kingdom of
Dvaravati was founded in northern Thailand. About 500
years later, Thai people, who gradually migrated from
southern China, had established themselves along the
Chao Praya River. In 1238, the first Thai kingdom,
Sukothai, was founded in the northern part of the Chao
Phraya river system. During King Ramkamhaeng 1283-1317,
the kingdom was strengthened and two reforms were
implemented that still characterize the country:
theravada Buddhism became state religion and its own
writing language was introduced.
In the middle of the 1300s, a second Thairike, Siam,
was created, with the center of the city of Ayutthaya
further south. As Siam gradually defeated the Angkor
kingdom in Cambodia, the kingdom's borders were moved
further east and south. However, control over Siam's
outer areas was weak. Under King Trailok in the 14th
century, a management system, saktina, was introduced,
which was in use until the beginning of the 20th century
and can still be traced to this day. The king ranked his
officials in a strict hierarchy by assigning them
various large land areas to dispose of. In this way,
officials throughout the realm kept well with the king.
Chakri Dynasty establishes Bangkok
Ayutthaya's location at Chao Phraya was advantageous
for both control of the region and trade with the
outside world. Many scientists believe that the city was
the largest in the world in the mid-17th century.
In the 16th century, Europeans began to show interest
in trade with Southeast Asia. The Portuguese were the
first to set up a trading house in Ayutthaya and soon
trade agreements were also signed with other major
powers. Since trade did not belong to Thai tradition, it
was largely conducted by Chinese.
Siam soon found himself trapped between rival
European great powers, mainly Dutch, British and French.
The kings tried to meet different colonial requirements
to preserve independence. At the end of the 17th
century, a reaction against foreign intervention came
and a hundred years of increasing isolation ensued. As a
result, Ayutthaya's resources were reduced and the
regents weakened. The arch rival Myanmar saw his chance
and in 1767 entered the capital, which was leveled with
The Myanmar occupation was short-lived. The Thais
rose and a new state was founded. In 1782 General Chao
Phya Chakri took power and became the first monarch in
the royal dynasty that still sits on the throne of
Thailand to this day. Chao Phya Chakri had a new capital
built at the small Bangkok commercial site east of the
Chao Phraya estuary.
The first Chakri kings made sure to strengthen Siam
against Myanmar and protect the kingdom from the threats
posed by Europe's colonial powers. The country developed
into a buffer zone between Britons in the west and
French in the east. With diplomacy and land
resignations, the Thai were able to maintain their
The royal empire ceases
During King Mongkut (Rama IV, 1851–1868) and King
Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868–1910), interest in
technology and ideas came from the West at the court and
within the rest of the elite of society. Chulalong
barley is often called "the father of modern Thailand"
because he abolished the Saktina system, modernized the
administration and introduced state schools.
During the first decades of the 20th century, Siam's
wealth grew through the growing export of rice. Bangkok
developed into an important trading center. Tensions
increased between the royal house and the modern-day
elite within the state administration. An attempt to
overthrow the king in 1912 was a clear signal of the
In 1932, a bloodless coup ended the king's rule.
Constitutional monarchy was introduced where power lay
with a people-elected government. However, Siam came to
be governed by a European educated elite in the
administration and the military. Power eventually
concentrated on Marshal Phibun Songkhram, who admired
Hitler and introduced a fascist model of society. Phibun
changed the country's name to Thailand in 1939, which
means "the land of the freed".
During World War II, Thailand cooperated with Japan
and therefore ended up in 1941 under a milder Japanese
occupation than other countries in the region. As the
war turned for the Japanese, dissatisfaction with the
occupation power grew among the Thais. In 1944, Phibun
was ousted by a US-backed resistance movement and
democracy was restored.
The government receives criticism for the rescue work
Yingluck receives criticism for dealing with the flood disaster, partly
because the government initially underestimated the extent of the disaster and
partly because the authorities' coordination of the rescue work was poor.
Parts of Bangkok under water
One third of Bangkok's district is completely or partially submerged due to
the flooding. However, the central parts of the city have managed. The floods
require more than 800 people's lives and affect more than 13.5 million
inhabitants. At most, the water bodies cover two thirds of Thailand's surface.
At the end of the month, the water begins to slowly sink away. For information
on the financial consequences of the floods, see Finance.
New difficult floods
Prolonged monsoon rains cause the worst floods in the country in several
decades. At the end of the month, the water mass reaches Bangkok and threatens
to blow up the capital's shelters.
Expensive rice subsidies are criticized
The Yingluck government launches a comprehensive program of subsidies for the
country's rice farmers. The program guarantees the rice growers a fixed price
for the harvest. The rice subsidies are proving to be expensive soon and
government debt is rising. The price of Thai rice is rising in the world market,
where the country is losing market share to countries such as India, Vietnam and
Long prison sentences for red shirts
Four red shirts are sentenced to 34 years in prison each for involvement in a
murder in the municipal building in the city of Ubon Ratchathani in northeast
Thailand. Of the total 21 people who were charged with the murder, 9 were
released, while the rest received shorter prison sentences. The fire was created
during the Red Shirts protests in the spring of 2010.
The verdict against Thaksin's wife is lifted
An appellate court in Bangkok cancels prison sentence against Thaksin's wife,
Pojaman Shinawatra, who in 2008 was sentenced to three years in prison for
Thailand gets its first female head of government
Yingluck Shinawatra becomes Thailand's first female prime minister when she
forms a four-party government. In addition to For Thailand, the coalition
government also includes Thai national development, Chon Buri's force and the
National Development Party.
The military accepts the exit
Prime Minister Abhisit admits defeat. Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin,
is appointed to form a government. The outgoing Minister of Defense announces
that the country's armed forces accept the election result.
Thaksin camp again great whaling winner
The election campaign and the election day run smoothly. For Thailand, 265 of
the 500 mandates (the House of Representatives have been increased from 480 to
500 seats since the last election) in the House of Representatives. The
Democratic Party gets 159 seats. Thai pride becomes the third largest party with
34 seats, while 19 seats go to Thai national development. Chon Buri's power and
the National Development Party are given 7 seats each. The other 9 seats are
divided into five small lots. The turnout is 75 percent.
Many dead in battle at the temple
Eighteen people are killed in gunfire across the border at Preah Vihear
The Thaksin camp is gathered again before the election
Ahead of the recent election to the House of Representatives in the summer of
2011, the red shirts remain popular. Thaksin politicians gather this time in the
Thailand Party. The yellow shirts lose popular support when they call for a
boycott. They also lose followers through an increasingly ultranationalist
campaign in connection with the Cambodia conflict over the Preah Vihear Temple.
The yellow shirts have also been on a collision course with the Democratic
Party, which they are accusing of letting go of Cambodia.
Severe floods in the south
Southern Thailand is suffering from heavy monsoon rains, which quickly lead
to extensive flooding in tourist-dense places such as Koh Samui, Krabi and Koh
Tao. Over two weeks, more than 50 people are killed when buried in landslides or
drawn into heavy streams of water. About two million people, including thousands
of foreign tourists, are affected in various ways by the floods. Over 40,000
people are forced to abandon their homes. Hundreds of stranded tourists are
evacuated by the Navy. Buildings and fields are destroyed, and communications
such as air and trains suffer serious disruptions.
Red shirts are released before the election
Several detained leaders for the Red Shirts protest actions in 2010 are being
released free of bail. The releases are seen by several analysts as an attempt
by the government to reduce tensions ahead of the parliamentary elections
scheduled for summer 2011.
Asean observers at the temple
Asean is deploying Indonesian observers to the disputed temple area after a
new firefight erupted near the border.
The temple conflict intensifies
The irritation between Cambodia and Thailand increases again when Cambodia
accuses two Thai citizens of having crossed the border in the disputed temple
area (see Foreign Policy and Defense).