The Kingdom of Thailand, covering an area of 514,000 square
kilometres, lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, roughly equidistant
between India and China. It shares borders with Myanmar (Burma)
to the west and north, Laos to the north and northeast, Cambodia
to the east and Malaysia to the south.
Thailand is divided into four distinct areas: the mountainous
North, the fertile Central Plains, the semi-arid plateau of
the Northeast, and the peninsula south, distinguished by its
many beautiful tropical beaches and offshore islands.
Climate: Thailand lies within the humid tropics and remains
hot throughout the year. Average temperatures are about 29oC,
ranging in Bangkok from 35oC in April to 17oC in December.
There are three seasons: the cool season (November to February),
the hot season (April to May), and the rainy season (June
to October), though downpours rarely last more than a couple
Population: Thailand has a population of about 60 million.
Ethnic Thais form the majority, though the area has historically
been a migratory crossroads, and thus strains of Mon, Khmer,
Burmese, Lao, Malay, Indian and most strongly, Chinese stock
produce a degree of ethnic diversity. Integration is such,
however, that culturally and socially there is enormous unity.
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
Nanchao Period (650-1250 A.D.)
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.
Period (1238-1378 A.D.)
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.
The 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.
Buri Period (1767-1772)
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
Period (1782 - the Present)
After 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) concluded treaties with
European countries, avoided colonialisation and established
modern Thailand. He made many social and economic reforms
during his reign .
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.
The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is King Rama
IX of the Chakri Dynasty.
Thailand is one of the most strongly Buddhist
countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada
Buddhism, a branch of Hinayana Buddhism, practiced by more
than 90 % of all Thais.
of the population are Muslims, Christians, Hindus and other
religions - all of which are allowed full freedom of expression.
Buddhism continues to cast strong influence on daily life.
Senior monks are highly revered. Therefore, in towns and villages,
the temple (Wat) is the heart of social and religious life.