History of Thailand
around the northeast hamlet of Ban Chiang suggest that one of the world's
oldest Bronze Age Civilisations was flourishing in Thailand over 5,000
years ago. Over centuries, successive waves of immigrants, including
Mons, Khmers and chinese gradually entered present day Thailand, mostly
via fertile river valleys from southern China. By the 11th and 12th
centuries, the powerful Khmers ruled much of the area from their vast
city at Angkor. By the early 1200s, however, the Thais had established
small nortehern city-states in Lanna, Phayao and Sukhothai.
In 1238, two Thai chieftains
defeated the local Khmer commander, and established Sukothai as the
first truly independent Thai Kingdom. Sukhothai prospered and grew,
expanding throughout the entire Chao Phraya river basin. Theravada Buddhism
was established as the Thai religion. In Thai alphabet was created,
and the first expressions of nascent Thai art from, including painting,
sculpture, architecture and literature, emerged.
Thai third Sukhothai king, Ramkham-haeng, (1275-1317) combined his military
skills, diplomacy, trading, expertise, and cultural gifts to bring the
kingdom to its zenith. During his reign, Sukhothai bordered Lanna in
the north, Vientiane in the east, the upper part of Malay Peninsula
in the south, and parts of Burma in the west.
However, following his death, subsequent rulers were more interested
in religion than defence. Sukhothai thus became an easy military target,
and eventually succumbed to Ayutthaya, a dynamic young kingdom further
south in the Chao Phraya River valley. Ayutthaya was destined to become
one of the world's greatest and most beautiful cities, noted to have
been far greater than either London or Paris during that period.
After more than 400 years of power, the kingdom of Ayutthaya capitulated
to invading Burmese armies in 1767, and its capital was burned. The
Burmese were subsequently expelled by king Taksin, who later made Thon
Buri his capital. In 1782, the first king of the present Chakri Dynasty,
Rama I, established a new capital on the site of riverside hamlet called
Bangkok, opposite Thon Buri.
After British victories in Burma in 1826, the clever diplomacy and reformation
of internal policies, particularly those of the legal system, by king
Mongkut (Rama IV 1851-1868) and his son Chulalongkon (Rama V, 1868-1910)
are widely believed to have save Thailand (Know as Siam until 1938)
from western colonisation.
In 1932, a bloodless coup transformed the Government of Thailand from
an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, but the country was controlled
mainly by a series of military governments until 1992, when elections
established Thailand as a functioning democracy with constitutional
changes of government.