History of Thailand

People have lived in Thailand for at least 40,000 years, and as with many of the other nations located in Southeast Asia Thailand was heavily influenced by the culture and religions from India.

The first proper civilisation to establish itself in Thailand was the Kingdom of Funan which arose in the first century AD; the Khmer Empire then absorbed Funan and ruled over the whole of Southeast Asia. That empire fell in the 13th century being replaced by the rising power of the Siamese kingdom of the Ayutthaya.

In 1767 the Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese King, Taskin the Great who moved the capital of Thailand. The current Rattanakosin era began in 1782 following the establishment of Bangkok as the country’s capital. During the 17th to the 19th centuries up to a third of the population were slaves.

Thailand is unique in Southeast Asia in that it is the only country in the region that was never colonized by a European power. The country was well ruled and often took advantage of the rivalry between the British and French Empires. Despite never being colonised the country was heavily influenced by western ideas and as such many reforms were enacted in the 19th century as a result. It lost a large chunk of territory on the east side of the Mekong to France and gradually lost the Malay Peninsula to Britain but it was never ruled by another power.

Thailand played no part in World War One and it wasn’t until 1932 during the bloodless revolution that the nation’s king was forced to grant the people their first constitution, ending centuries of absolute monarchy.

During World War Two Thailand briefly fought the Japanese before switching sides and declaring war on the USA and UK. The Thai ambassador in Washington however, refused to deliver the declaration to the United States government. Accordingly, the United States refrained from declaring war on Thailand. Despite the Thai government being allied to Japan many other Thais chose to resist under the banner of the Free Thai Movement. After the war Thailand became an ally of the United States.

Despite the war being over Thailand went through several decades of unrest as governments regularly were deposed by military coup d’états. A stable democracy was finally achieved in the 1980’s but even then in 2006 a military coup overthrew the government. In, 87 people died in a wave of protests against the government.

Despite the political uncertainty, Thailand has developed at a rapid pace being classed an emerging economy and is considered a newly industrialized country.