Aviva Directory » Local & Global » Asia » Thailand

The Kingdom of Thailand is situated on the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It has borders with Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar, and includes hundreds of islands in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand.

Until 1939, Thailand was known as Siam. It was changed to Muang Thai. Although it was changed back to Siam for a short time after World War II, it was changed to Thailand in 1949.

The Central Plains region of Thailand includes Bangkok, a city of about ten million. The Central Plains is a largely flat alluvial plain, where much of the country's rice is grown.

Characterized by mountains and hills, North Thailand is the most scenic region of the country. It is also home to various hill tribes who are ethnically distinct from the Thais. The dialect spoken in the North differs from that spoken in the Central Plains, and is more similar to that of the Shan states of Burma.

Northeast Thailand is the poorest region in Thailand. It includes the Korat Plateau and the Mekong River, which forms Thailand's border with Laos. The Isarn Thai dialect spoken in Northeast Thailand is similar to that spoken in Laos.

Southern Thailand is the Peninsular Region of the country, stretching to the Malaysian border. Peninsular Thailand is characterized by heavy vegetation, with tin and rubber plantations in the south. There are also several islands off the coast, most of which were uninhabited until recent years, and are still use mostly as holiday destinations.

More than 99% of the residents of Thailand are citizens. The Thai people originated in the Altai Mountain region of northern Mongolia about five thousand years ago. They came to Laos and Thailand through China sometime around the 7th century AD, where they gradually absorbed the indigenous Mon and Khmer inhabitants.

After the Khmer Empire declined, several states controlled portions of what was to become Thailand. In the mid-14th century, the Ayutthaya Kingdom began along the lower Chao Phraya River. The Ayutthaya controlled the former Mon kingdoms, but the Lanna Kingdom remained free of their control. In the 16th century, the Burmese defeated the Ayuthaya region, which was then known as Siam, taking many of its residents as slaves. In the late 1500s, Ayuthaya regained control, although the Burmese remained a threat. Large parts of Cambodia soon came under Siamese control.

In the early 1600s, Ayuthaya took the initiative to develop links with the West, signing a treaty with Portugal. Siam became a commercial center for trade with China, India, and Persia. Foreigners established businesses in the kingdom. Foreigners were given jobs in the government, and the French established a garrison in what would later become Bangkok.

In the late 1600s, a new king expelled the French, and there was a backlash against foreigners. This began a period of about one hundred and fifty years of isolation from the West, although there were regular conflicts with the Burmese. The last Ayuthaya king, Phya Taksin, managed to repel the Burmese but was later forced to abdicate in favor of Chao Phraya Chakri, one of his generals. This began the Chakri Dynasty, which continues today.

By the latter part of the 1800s, European powers proved to be a threat to Siam. The French forced Siam to cede land that it held in Cambodia and Laos, and Britain took four of its southern Malay states.

The Siamese were willing to negotiate, and were open to Western ideas and technology. Siam supported the Allies in World War I, and was a founding member of the League of Nations.

However, in 1932 a group of military and civilian officials took the government over in a bloodless coup. Within a few years, the military wing became dominant, and the government became fascist. At this time, Siam's name was changed to Thailand.

When France was defeated by Germany in World War II, Thailand regained control over the territories it had been forced to cede to France. Thailand signed an alliance with Japan, declaring war on the United States and Britain in 1942. Internally, there was a simultaneous Free Thai Movement that worked against the Japanese.

Since the end of World War II, Thailand has been ruled by a succession of military dictatorships, often supported by the United States, and transitioning through a series of coups.

The predominant religion in Thailand is Theravada Buddhism, while Islam is the chief minority religion. The official language of Thailand is Thai, which is closely related to Lao. Students are required to complete an English course in school, but fluency in English is low.

Thailand is the topic of websites listed in this category. Appropriate topics include those which focus on the country itself, as well as those representing businesses, industries, schools, and organizations in Thailand.



Recommended Resources

Search for Thailand on Google or Bing