⇐ Presentation

Geography ⇒


Thailand has only been the "Land of the Thais" for a millennium or so. Before the arrival of Thai peoples from southern China, it has existed in the region several successive kingdoms of Indians or competitors of the Mon, Khmer or Malay ethnic groups.

Thais established their own kingdoms, first Sukhothai and Lanna, then the kingdom of Ayutthaya. These states battled each other and were constantly threatened by the Khmer empire, Burma and Vietnam. Progressively more powerful, Thailand, amputated of several areas (Cambodia, Laos) also suffered encroachment of colonial Europe in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Thais pride themselves on being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized, but some suggest a de facto protectorate.

Following the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has lived sixty years of military rule, until the establishment of a democratic system, with an elected government. This system is however weak, and the military continues to play a leading role in politics.

Many kingdoms, principalities and empires divide the country in an overlapped history, invasions and foreign dominations perpetuating until the late seventeenth century. Chronological summary:

• first to sixth century, the kingdom, known by its Chinese name Funan, dominates the region

• third to fifth century, kingdom known as the Chinese name of Dun-sun (south)

• sixth to eleventh century, the Môn kingdom of Dvaravati (center)

• seventh century, relationship with the kingdom of Sriwijaya (south)

• seventh century to fourteenth century, kingdom of Lavo (south)

• eighth century to thirteenth century, Môn kingdom of Haripunjaya (north)

• eleventh and twelfth centuries, Khmer invasions

• thirteenth century, Thai kingdom of Sukhothai (centre) until 1438.

• thirteenth to seventeenth century, kingdom of Lan Na Thai (north)

• fourteenth century to eighteenth century, Ayutthaya kingdom (center)

• eighteenth century to the present days, Chakri dynasty in Bangkok (or Krungthep in Thai)

• 1939: The country is renamed Thailand

On 24 June 1932, a palace revolution, which lasted 3 hours, ended the absolute monarchy. The "1932 revolution", as she was named, was conducted by a group of a hundred people, the "party of the people", composed equally of officers commanded by Luang Plaek Phibunsongkhram and civilians led by Pridi .

Like other Asian countries, Thailand has in the early 1990s profited froml a massive influx of foreign capital that then withdrew, destabilizing the currency and the economy of Thailand and these countries.

Tourist southern provinces of the country were ravaged by the tsunami on 26 December 2004.

The struggles between 'young' and 'red' (major parties) are blocking the country, and especially the capital of 15 million inhabitants, Bangkok, for months in 2010 and between 2013 and 2015, with very strong street violence events


The oldest human remains are pebble tools found in the province of Lampang. They date back more than 700,000 years and are attributable to Homo erectus.

On the archaeological site of Ban Chiang in the northeast of the country near Udon Thani, were discovered in 1967 the remains of an unknown culture dating from the Bronze Age (4000-2500 BC.). The people of this site had developed bronze tools and began growing rice in rice fields indicating the start of an organized society. Graves and a large number of painted pottery and later bronze objects were unearthed. The site has been classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

Before the arrival of the Thais

Funan and Chen-La

In the third century, a maritime power known only by the name given to it by the Chinese, Fu-nan, whose economic centre was located in the present region of Oc-Eo in southern Vietnam, controls the south Vietnam, the lower valley of the Chao Phraya River and north of the Malay Peninsula. From the description given in the report of a Chinese mission from 245 to 250, who portrayed them as "all ugly and with black curly hair, going naked and barefoot," we think the people of Insane -Nan were ethnically Khmer.

At the end of the fifth century, appeared, in the south of the current Laos, a new power, agrarian one, and also known by its Chinese name only: the Chen-la. This kingdom soon extended over the north of present-day Cambodia and the northeast of the current Thailand, and eventually annexed the Funan. It is considered that the Chen-la is the ancestor of Cambodia.

This vast region (equivalent of Indochina least the Dai Viet) was known by foreigners as Sovannaphum or Sovarnabhumi

The Môns

Between the sixth and ninth centuries, a civilization called Dvaravati flourished in the centre of Thailand (see Indenisation of Indochina). This civilization belonged to a people, the Môn, living in lower Burma in the north of the Malaysian Peninsula. The dispersion of the sites assigned to Dvaravati leads one to think that its prosperity is related to trade that crosses the continental Southeast Asian

In the seventh century, the Môn founded, on the current site of Lopburi, the kingdom of Lavo (disappeared in 1388), and in the eighth or ninth century that of Haripunjaya (disappeared in the thirteenth century) on the site of current Lamphun.

The Malaysian Peninsula

Early on, the Malay Peninsula was part of a maritime trading network linking China to India, sometimes called maritime Silk Road. The port city-states of the peninsula adopted Indian cultural and political models. Chinese texts from the third century mention a city they call Dun-sun, located in the north of the peninsula, which controls both coasts.

Further south, near the present city of Chaiya, vestiges that were dated to the early fifth century and belonged to a city that Chinese texts call Pan-pan, were found.

In Chaiya itself, an inscription was found dated of 697 of the Saka era (775 AD.), which proclaims a King of Sriwijaya, city-state whose location was on the current city of Palembang in the south of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, had erected a stupa.

The kingdoms of Sukhothai and Lanna Thai (± 1238-1558)

According to tradition, the clan chiefs Thai Sukhothai freed themselves from the suzerainty of the Khmers in 1238 and elected a king. The son of the king, Ramkhamhaeng, that is to say, "Rama the Bold" is known by an inscription dated 1292, that Thais regard as the founding act of their nation. After his death, the power of Sukhothai declined and it became subject of the kingdom of Ayutthaya in 1365, which dominated southern and central Thailand until 1700.

Many other Thai States coexisted with Sukhothai, including the kingdom of Lanna or Lannathai in the north. This state emerged in the same period as Sukhothai, but survived longer. Its independent history ended in 1558, when he fell to the Burmese; he was then alternately dominated by Ayutthaya and Burma before being conquered by the Siamese King Taksin in 1775

The kingdom of Ayutthaya (1350 - 1767)

The first ruler of Ayutthaya, King Ramathibodi I, made two important contributions to Thai history: the establishment and promotion of Theravada Buddhism as the official religion, to differentiate his kingdom from the neighbouring Hindu kingdom of Angkor, and the compilation of the Dharmashastra, a legal code based on Hindu sources and traditional Thai customs. The Dharmashastra remained a tool of Thai law until the late nineteenth century.

Ayutthaya had contacts with the West, beginning with the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. But even in the 1800s, it is its relations with neighbouring nations like India and China that are paramount. Ayutthaya control a significant territory, from the northern kingdoms of the Malay Peninsula to northern Thailand States. However, the Burmese, who controlled the Lanna Kingdom and also had unified their kingdom under a powerful dynasty, launched several invasion attempts in the 1750s and 1760. Finally, in 1767, the Burmese attacked the city of Ayutthaya and conquered it. The royal family fled the city when the king died of hunger ten days later, marking the end of the royal line of Ayutthaya

The period of Bangkok, Thonburi (1768-1932)

After more than 400 years of power, in 1767, the Ayutthaya kingdom was conquered by the Burmese armies, its capital burned and its territory dismembered. General Taksin managed to reunite the Siam from his new capital of Thonburi and had himself proclaimed king in 1769.

However, King Taksin was declared mad, stripped of his title, imprisoned and executed in 1782. General Chakri succeeded him in 1782 under the name of Rama I, the first king of the new Chakri dynasty. The same year, he founded a new capital, Bangkok, on the bank of the Chao Phraya, opposite Thonburi.

In the 1790s, the Burmese were defeated and driven out of Siam. The Kingdom of Lannathai, also known as the Lanna kingdom, is also being freed from Burmese occupation, a king of a new dynasty is set in the 1790s This king was actually only a puppet of king Chakri.

Relations with Europeans in the nineteenth century

After the British victory over the Burmese kingdom of Ava in 1826, the heirs of Rama I worried about the threat of European colonialism. The first Thai recognition of a colonial power in the region is formalized by the signing of a treaty of friendship and commerce with the United Kingdom in 1826, the Burney Treaty.

In 1833, the United States inaugurated diplomatic exchanges with Siam. However, it was during the reigns of Mongkut (Rama IV) and his son King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) that Thailand will firmly get closer to the Western powers. Thais attribute to the diplomatic skills of these monarchs and the modernizing reforms of their governments that Siam is the only country in Southeast Asia to have escaped colonization.

Gradually, in the nineteenth century, Siam recede in front of two European powers: the United Kingdom and France. These two powers nibble the country, both territorially on its margins, and in its sovereignty.

In 1873 and 1883, France intervened twice to end piracy of the Black Flags in the Tonkin, theoretically under Siamese protectorate. In response, the Siam occupied Luang Prabang in 1883, but could not prevent the installation of a French vice consulate in that city in 1886 (Auguste Pavie), nor the annexation in 1888 of 72 cantons by France.

In 1893, several incidents opposed Siam and France: either the later provokes them or it exaggerates its importance, thus increasing the pressure until the illegal sending of two gunboats to the mouth of the Chao Phraya, that their captains announced their intention bring op to Bangkok. Siam makes a mistake by opening fire: the casus belli was seized by Pavie, French resident in Bangkok which triggered the Franco-Siamese War of 1893. He required abandoning the eastern bank of the Mekong; a blockade was set at the mouth of the Chao Phraya. Siam yielded and France added to its demands a large demilitarized zone of 25 km along the western bank of the Mekong, plus the provinces of Battambang and Siem Reap. The city of Chanthaburi was occupied by a French garrison (treaty signed October 3, 1893).

February 13, 1904, France annexed Luang Prabang and Champassak.

On the English side, provinces are united to Burma. The railway to Singapore is granted exclusively to a British company. Mure, the UK gets assurances that no channel will be drilled in the Isthmus of Kra.

The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 established the modern border between Siam and British Malaysia. Siam had to yield to England the Malay states of Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu Perliset, hitherto his vassals, which became British protectorates. Thai suzerainty was maintained over the kingdom of Patani (since split to give the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat) and the district Setul detached from Kedah (and has since become the province of Satun).

A series of treaties with France had fixed the actual eastern border of this country with Laos and Cambodia, Siam had earlier made claims and to some extent controlled both territories.

In total, Siam lost 456,000 km² during the reign of Chulalongkorn.

First World War

Although Siam is not affected by the First World War, King Rama VI decides to engage it in the hope of getting the end of the unequal treaties. The country declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary on July 22, 1917. Its army seized several German ships and a small expeditionary force was sent to Europe. This action allowed the Siam to be among the winners of the war at the Treaty of Versailles and among the founders of the League of Nations.

The military dictatorship and the Second World War

The coup of 24 June 1932 in Siam was a bloodless transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. Among the conspirators was Lieutenant Colonel Plaek Pibulsonggram, more known as Phibun. In 1935, King Prajadhipok abdicated. His nephew Ananda Mahidol, a child following his education in Switzerland, was appointed to succeed him.

In 1938 Phibun, who now had the rank of major-general, became prime minister. He was an admirer of Mussolini. He arrested 40 political opponents in 1939, monarchists as well as democrats. After a show trial, 18 of them were executed. Phibun changed the name of the country, which from Siam became Prathet Thai, "land of the Thais" or Thailand. This name implied a unity of all Thai-speaking peoples, which included the Lao of Laos and the Shan in Burma, but excluded the Chinese. The slogan of the regime was moreover the "Thailand for Thais." Another argument was etymological, Thai word also meaning "free". The name of Prathet Thai was first used unofficially between 1939 and 1945 and then declared official May 11, 1949.

In 1940, taking advantage of the weakening of France after the June defeat to the Germans, Thailand attacked French Indochina. The Franco-Thai War lasted a few months, and ended with the annexation of some provinces by Thailand, notably through the arbitration of the Empire of Japan, anxious to spare an ally in Asia.

December 8, 1941, a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 25th Japanese army invaded the south of Malaysia, then a British protectorate. The Thai government having been slow to give permission to cross its territory, Japan went by force. Clashes occurred between Thai and Japanese, but a cease-fire was declared the same day. Noting the lightning advance of the Japanese in the Battle of Malaysia, the Thai government forgot his misgivings and allied with the Empire of Japan. The Imperial Headquarters signed on December 21 a 'friendship treaty "with the Thai government and led him to leave him the use of its military bases for the invasion of other countries in Southeast Asia. On 22 January 1942, the 55th Japanese division launched since Rahaeng Thailand (Pathum Thani province) an attack on Burma through the Kawkareik pass in Karen country. The 17th Indian Division of the British army, which guarded the area, formed hastily and poorly trained had to retreat westward.

In agreement with the military alliance between Thailand and Japan signed on 21 December 1941, on 25 January 1942, Thailand declared war on the US and UK. Elements of the Thai army crossed the border and entered the Shan state (whose inhabitants have a language of the same family as Thai) in Burma on May 10, 1942. Three infantry divisions and a cavalry division, preceded by reconnaissance groups and supported by aviation, came in contact with the Chinese 93rd division, who had to retreat. Kengtung was taken on May 27th. New offensives pushed the Chinese troops to Yunnan in southern China.

In August 1943, the Allies created the South East Asia Command (SEAC) to coordinate their different troops in Southeast Asia. The first area of ​​operation for land forces SEAC consisted of India, Burma, Ceylon, Malaysia, Sumatra (in Indonesia today) and Thailand.

Opposition to Plaek Pibulsonggram policy emerged in Thailand. Seni Pramoj, Ambassador of Thailand to the United States, refused to hand over the declaration of war, and founded in Washington, The Free Thai Forces. Queen Ramphaiphanni, widow of the former king, led a government in exile in the UK. The regent Pridi Banomyong secretly conducted anti-Japanese movements. The economy of Thailand was suffering from its participation in this world conflict. As an ally of Japan, the country was bombed.

With the successive setbacks of Japan, Phibun was outvoted in the Assembly and forced to resign. At the end of the war, Allies trialled him for war crimes and collaboration with the enemy. But public opinion, in his favour, lead to stop the prosecution.

After the Second World War

Young King Ananda Mahidol returned to Thailand in late 1945, after years of absence. But on June 9, 1946, he was found dead, killed by a bullet in unclear circumstances. His brother Bhumibol Adulyadej succeeded him.

In November 1947, army units controlled by Phibun forced the government to resign. Phibun became Prime Minister again in April 1948. This time, his regime adopted a democratic facade. He received assistance from the United States when Thailand participated in the multinational force of the United Nations during the Korean War.

Phibun renewed its anti-China policy of the 1930s. His government stopped Chinese immigration and took various measures to restrict the economic dominance of the Chinese in Thailand. Chinese schools and associations were prohibited again.

In 1951, while attending a ceremony aboard the USS Manhattan US Navy, Phibun was taken hostage by a group of officers of the Thai Navy. Fighting broke out in the streets of Bangkok between the navy and the army, the latter being supported by the air force. Phibun escaped. The sailors laid down their weaponss.

Thailand became an official ally of the United States with the signing of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO in its English acronym) in 1954. During the Indochina War, it nevertheless remained neutral.

In 1957, Marshal Sarit Dhanaraj (= Thanarat) took power and forced Phibun into exile in Japan. He remained there until his death in 1964.

Thailand made a secret agreement with the United States in 1961. It sent troops to Vietnam and Laos and authorized the United States to install air bases in the east of the country, where the bombers B- 52 took off to bomb northern Vietnam

1973 and after: a beginning of democracy

The history of Thailand since 1973 has been a series of difficult and sometimes bloody transitions between the military and civilian powers. The 1973 revolution was followed by a brief and unstable democracy and a return to a military regime, brought to power by a coup in 1976. The military regime has been very unstable due to multiple coups. During most of the1980s, General Prem Tinsulanonda ruled Thailand as head of the military regime, and, with a democratic mandate from 1983. Subsequently, the country remained a democracy, apart from a brief period under military rule from 1991 to 1992. the party Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) led by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ruled from 2001 until a new coup overthrew him in 2006.


In October 1973, mass demonstrations were held in Bangkok, demanding the end of military rule. General Thanom Kittikachorn responded with force, and up to 70 protesters were killed in the streets, a never seen in Thailand. This violent intervention of the military regime urged King Rama IX to do his first intervention in Thai politics by withdrawing its support to the military regime, and on October 14, 1973, General Thanom Kittikachorn resigned and left the country.

The events of October 1973 have revealed a revolution in Thai politics. For the first time, the urban middle class, led by students, had defeated the combined forces of the old ruling class and army and gained the apparent blessing of the King for a transition to full democracy, symbolized by a new constitution that provided a fully elected legislature.

Unfortunately, Thailand had still not produced a political class able to operate this new democracy smoothly. The elections of January 1975 did not produce a stable majority, and a new election in April 1976 gave the same results. The veteran politician Seni Pramoj and his brother Kukrit Pramoj alternated in power but have not been able to pursue a coherent reform of the political system. The sharp rise in oil prices in 1974 led to a recession and inflation, weakening the government's position. The most popular political gesture of democratic government was to order the withdrawal of American forces from Thailand.

The wisdom of this move was soon questioned, when the communists took power in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in April and May 1975. The arrival of communist regimes at the borders of Thailand, the abolition of 600 years of Laotian monarchy and the arrival of a flood of refugees from Laos and Cambodia have pushed the Thai public opinion back to the right and the Conservatives have done much better in the 1976 elections than in 1975. The left wing of the student movement did not accept their victory and continued to demonstrate for radical changes.

Military regime

At the end of 1976, the moderate bourgeoisie turned his back to the radicalism increasingly militant of the students based at Thammasat University. The army and right-wing parties fought against leftist radicals with paramilitary groups such as the "Village Scouts" and "Red Gaurs". The example was presented in October when Thanom returned to Thailand to enter the monastery. Violent student manifestations have collided with counter demonstrators. On 6 October 1976 the army unleashed paramilitaries on protesters, and used this orgy of violence in which hundreds of students were tortured and killed, to suspend the constitution and regain power.

From that date, many leftists went underground to join the Thai Communist Party (PCT) of Maoist obedience.

Elections and coups

In 2001, the Thai Rak Thai Party (Thai Love Thais) led by Thaksin Shinawatra won the elections and launched a number of reforms to destinations popular classes, especially rural and in the east. September 19, 2006, when Prime Minister Thaksin was in New York, he was overthrown by the armed forces. The army chief, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, 59, the first Muslim to hold the position in the Buddhist kingdom, took the head of the Council for Democratic Reform, formed by the commanders of the three armies and the police, which repealed the Constitution, declared martial law, vaguely defined, dissolved the government and took full powers. Since then, several prime ministers have succeeded, and volatility remained latent, culminating in 2010 in important manifestations.

En 2011, Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became prime minister. End of 2013, accused of being a political puppet of his brother, still in exile, she was the target of opposition protests (urban and royalist, while the Prime Minister is supported by rural peasants) requesting his resignation, when an amnesty project was considered to facilitate Thaksin's return to Thailand. Even if thousands of protesters managed to invade the seat of government, this action was not considered a political victory, while a truce was held to celebrate the 86 years of King Bhumitbol and the army refused to take position. She finally decided to dissolve the parliament and hold early parliamentary elections to be held February 2, 2014.

In May 2014, the country experienced its 12th coup since the establishment of the constitutional monarchy in 1932

Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thailand