Thailand History – Discover the Events that Shaped This Nation

Thailand History

Based on Thailand history, Siam was the official name of Thailand until it was replaced by its current name in June 1939. It is interesting to note that it is the only Southeast Asian country that has never been colonized by any European power; and, that King Rama IX (its present king) is the longest-serving chief of state in the world.


Thailand History: A Brief Overview

Thailand history can be traced as far back as 40,000 years ago though this “fact” has been subject to conflicting theories and opinions. Even today, the said controversy has yet to be resolved. Little is known about the country’s origins prior to the 13th century.

Pieces of valuable archeological evidence show that over a period of centuries the Thai people who originally lived in China migrated and settled into mainland Southeast Asia – including the area that is now contemporary Thailand. The oldest evidence that indicates the existence of the Thai people in this area is in a 12th century inscription at the Khmer temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

The history of Thailand reveals that the first Thai or Siamese state was established in the 12th century.  This state is what is now referred to as the Buddhist kingdom of Sukhothai, considered to be the cradle of Thai civilization in the late 13th century – when Thai culture first developed. It was during this period when the people took the name Thai. After the death of Sukhothai’s ruler, Ramkhamhaeng (Rama the Great, 1277-1317), it rapidly declined and eventually succumbed to the kingdom of Ayutthaya in the mid-14th century.

The arrival of the Portuguese in 1511 marked the first European visit to the country in the history of Thailand. The diplomatic mission of the Portuguese eventually led to the conclusion of a treaty between Ayutthaya and Portugal granting the latter permission to trade in the kingdom.

Throughout the period of the 15th to the 17th century, Thailand established commercial relations with foreigners from Japan, France, and the English and Dutch trading companies among others. Conflict between the Dutch and French ultimately resulted in the resentment of the Thai nobles with the latter. By the end of the late 16th century, the Thai deliberately isolated themselves from foreign contacts with the West.

Thailand history shows that the kingdom of Ayutthaya later fell to Burma in 1767 after several years of war. King Taksin, leader of the Thais, retreated and established the capital of Thon Buri to the south. His successor, King Phra Buddha Yodfah Chulaloke (Rama I), later relocated the capital to where Bangkok is now situated. The latter founded the Chakkri dynasty – the present day ruling dynasty of Thailand.

Despite European pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that has never been colonized. Thailand history indicates that this fact is due to the diplomatic skills of the Thai monarchs and their skilful negotiations with various foreign countries. In 1896, an Anglo-French agreement guaranteed the independence of Thailand after the British almost gained a colonial foothold in the region in 1824.

Another important event in Thailand history is the Siamese revolution of 1932. It converted Thailand’s government from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy which established a representative government. Thailand, from 1932 to 1973, was under military dictatorships for most of the period. The massacre of pro-democracy protesters led by Thammasat students eventually led to the resignation of Thanom Kittikachorn and ended this period of dictatorship.

The 1997 Constitution or “People’s Constitution” was the first constitution to be drafted in Thailand history.  It established a bicameral legislation composed of a House of Representatives and a Senate. These houses were then directly elected by the people, a first in Thailand history.

The Thai Rak Thai Party led by Thaksin Shinawatra won the 2001 general election. This was considered by many as the most corruption-free election in Thailand history. The party won by an absolute majority and Thaksin became the first prime minister of Thailand.

The 2006 Thai coup d’état, a military junta, eventually overthrew the government of Thaksin Shinawatra on 19 September of the said year. The coup resulted in the dissolution of Parliament and Constitutional court.

A general election in 2007 restored a civilian government, led by Samak Sundaravej of the People’s Power Party. A crisis later arose due to the protests against the government of Samak Sundaravej led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy in mid-2008. In 2011, the Pheu Thai Party won the general elections marking the end of the political crisis of this period in Thailand history.