Wednesday, 12 December 2007



The region known today as Thailand has been inhabited by humans since the paleolithic period (about 500,000 - 10,000 years ago). Due to its geographical location, Thai culture is a sister culture of Cambodia. Before the fall of the Khmer Kingdom in the 13th century, the Thai had adopted elements of Khmer culture and religion. Prior to the 12th century various Mon, Khmer and Malay kingdoms thrived in differing regions, as seen through the numerous archaeological sites and artifacts throughout the country. However, the first Thai or Siamese state is traditionally considered to be the Buddhist kingdom of Sukhothai, which was founded in 1238, following the decline and fall of the Khmer empire in the 13th - 15th century AD.
A century later, Sukhothai's power was overshadowed by the larger Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya, established in the mid-14th century. After the fall of Angkor due to Bubonic Plague, the Siamese helped the survivors reestablish the Khmer culture as Cambodia, a new country on the coast of Cochin China. Much of the Khmer court and its Hindu customs were already a part of Ayutthayan culture, and the Khmer people were retaught the customs and rituals of their ancestors. NOTE: the belief that the very small city-state of Ayuttaya could overthrow the Khmer Empire is ludicrous.

After Ayutthaya fell in 1767 to the Burmese, Thonburi was the capital of Thailand for a brief period under King Taksin the Great. The current (Rattanakosin) era of Thai history began in 1782 following the establishment of Bangkok as capital of the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I the Great.

European powers began traveling to Thailand in the 16th century. Despite European pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation never to have been colonized by a European country. Two main reasons for this were that Thailand had a long succession of very able rulers in the 1800s and that it was able to exploit the rivalry and tension between the French and the British. As a result, the country remained as a buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia that were colonised by the two colonial powers. Despite this, Western influence led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions, most notably being the loss of large territory on the east side of the Mekong to the French and the step by step absorption by Britan of the Shan (Thai Yai) States (now in Burma) and the Malay Peninsula. Penang and Tumasik were taken simply by using 'Gunboat Diplomacy'. The British invasion eventually culminated in the loss of three predominantly ethnic-Malay southern provinces, which later became Malaysia's three northern states, under the (Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909), which was again negotiated by sending a gunboat to Bangkok.

In 1932, a bloodless revolution resulted in a new constitutional monarchy. During World War II, Thailand was invaded by Japan, but to survive, quickly allied with their invaders, while at the same time maintaining an active anti-Japanese resistance movement known as the Seri Thai. After the war, Thailand emerged as an ally of the United States. As with many of the developing nations during the Cold war, Thailand then went through decades of political transgression characterised by coups d'états as one military regime replaced another, but eventually progressed towards a stable democracy in the 1980s.

In 1997, Thailand was hit with the Asian financial crisis and the Thai baht for a short time peaked at 56 baht to the U.S. dollar compared to about 25 baht to the dollar before 1997. Since then, the baht has regained most of its strength and as of May 23, 2007, is valued at 33 baht to the US dollar.

The official calendar in Thailand is based on Eastern version of the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian (western) calendar. For example, the year AD 2007 is called 2550 BE in Thailand.

Administrative divisions

Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (จังหวัด, changwat) , which are gathered into 5 groups of provinces by location. There are also 2 special governed districts: the capital Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) and Pattaya, of which Bangkok is at provincial level and thus often counted as a 76th province.

Each province is divided into smaller districts. As of 2000 there are 877 districts (อำเภอ, amphoe) and the 50 districts of Bangkok (เขต, khet). Some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are also referred to as Greater Bangkok (ปริมณฑล, pari monthon). These provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Sakhon. The name of each province's capital city (เมือง, mueang) is the same as that of the province: for example, the capital of Chiang Mai province (changwat Chiang Mai) is Mueang Chiang Mai or Chiang Mai . The 75 provinces are as follows:


Andy said...

An uncredited copy of the Wikipedia article on Thailand ( - what a creative blog post...