Thai Civilization/Historical Development of the Thai Civilization

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Historical Development of the Thai Civilization

Prehistoric Thailand[edit | edit source]

Based on London (2008):

Archaeological evidence seems to suggest that the geographical area now known as "Thailand" has been inhabited since prehistoric times (between 6 million and 50,000 years ago).

(p. 24)

The Thai people (not just the Siamese Thais in Thailand) have inhabited the region of continental Southeast Asia for over 4,000 years.

Cam Troung (2007), the leading Vietnamese expert on Thai ethnic community, has quoted a chapter titled 'Vietnamese Folk Poetry' collected and translated by John Balaban (2003) to support his argument that the Thai people were here (Vietnam) in that distant past (p. ix.

The Thai people were in the region of continental South East Asia (esp. in Lao, Thailand, North of Myanmar, Southern part of China, and Vietnam) since the birth of the 40000-year Dong Song culture Cam troung (2006).

A study conducted by a team of Thai researchers (Lertrit et al, 2007) suggests that (DNA tests on ancient skeletons in the Northeast) the Thai people's ancestors may have migrated to this part of the region soon before previously thought.

This research rejected the long-held belief that Thai people migrated from China about 700 years ago. The results were published in American Journal of Physical Anthropology Volume 137, Issue 4. Here's the abstract:

" The 360 base-pair fragment in HVS-1 of the mitochondrial genome were determined from ancient human remains excavated at Noen U-loke and Ban Lum-Khao, two Bronze and Iron Age archaeological sites in Northeastern Thailand, radio-carbon dated to circa 3,500-1,500 years BP and 3,200-2,400 years BP, respectively. These two neighboring populations were parts of early agricultural communities prevailing in northeastern Thailand from the fourth millennium BP onwards. The nucleotide sequences of these ancient samples were compared with the sequences of modern samples from various ethnic populations of East and Southeast Asia, encompassing four major linguistic affiliations (Altaic, Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kadai, and Austroasiatic), to investigate the genetic relationships and history among them. The two ancient samples were most closely related to each other, and next most closely related to the Chao-Bon, an Austroasiatic-speaking group living near the archaeological sites, suggesting that the genetic continuum may have persisted since prehistoric times in situ among the native, perhaps Austroasiatic-speaking population. Tai-Kadai groups formed close affinities among themselves, with a tendency to be more closely related to other Southeast Asian populations than to populations from further north. The Tai-Kadai groups were relatively distant from all groups that have presumably been in Southeast Asia for longer-that is, the two ancient groups and the Austroasiatic-speaking groups, with the exception of the Khmer group. This finding is compatible with the known history of the Thais: their late arrival in Southeast Asia from southern China after the 10th-11th century AD, followed by a period of subjugation under the Khmers."

Who were living in the region called 'Usa Kanay'?[edit | edit source]

Prominent Thai historian Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri began with a question asking who the Thai people are, and where they came from.

"Students would answer that the Thai people are those who speak Thai, believe in Buddhism, love the Nation, Religion and Monarchy, and probably they would also add that Thai people are good and moral, and willing to sacrifice for the country. And they came down from the Altai Mountains, and formed the kingdoms of Nan Chao, Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, and then Rattanakosin," he said.

  • Did the Thais come from the Altai Mountains?

The Mons The Khmer The Siamese Tai

Theories on the Origins of the Tai People[edit | edit source]

Before discussing the relevant theories on the origins of the Thai people, let's look briefly at the summaries of other countries.

Laos[edit | edit source]

The History of Laos is conventionally traced to the establishment of the kingdom of Lan Xang by Fa Ngum in 1353. His successors, especially King Photisarath in the 16th century, helped stablish Theravada Buddhism as the predominant religion of the country. In the 17th century Lan Xang entered a period of decline and the late 18th century Siam (now Thailand) established control over much of what is now Laos.

The region was divided into three dependent states centered on Luang Prabang in the north, Vientiane in the center, and Champassak in the south. The Vientiane Lao rebelled in 1828 but were defeated, and the area incorporated into Siam. Following its occupation of Vietnam, France absorbed Laos into French Indochina via treaties with Siam in 1893 and 1904.


Myanmar[edit | edit source]

The first identifiable civilization is that of the Mon. The Mon probably began migrating into the area in about 300 BC, and their first kingdom Suwarnabhumi, was founded around the port of Thaton in about 300 BC.

The Pyu arrived in Myanmar in the 7th century and established city kingdoms at Binnaka, Mongamo, Sri Ksetra, and Halingyi. During this period, Myanmar was part of an overland trade route from China to India. By AD 849, the Burmans had founded a powerful kingdom centered on the city of Bagan and filled the void left by the Pyu. The kingdom grew in relative isolation until the reign of Anawrahta (1044 - 77) who successfully unified all of Myanmar by defeating the Mon city of Thaton in 1057.

After the collapse of Bagan authority, Myanmar was divided once again. The Burmans had restablished themselves at the city of Ava (Thai: อังวะ) by 1364, where Bagan culture was revived and a great age of Burmese literature ensued. The kingdom lacked easily defendable borders, however, and was overrun by the Shan in 1527. Surviors of the destruction of Inwa eventually established a new kingdom centered on Taungoo in 1531 led by Tabinshwehti (reigned 1531-50), who once again unified most of Myanmar. A popular Burmese leader named Alaungpaya drove the Bago forces out of northern Myanmar by 1753, and by 1759 he had once again conquered Pegu and southern Myanmar while also regaining control of Manipur. He established his capital at Rangoon, now known as Yangon.

Myanmar was known to the West ever since western explorers had heard of it. Marko Polo was the earliest known westerner who discovered Myanmar and introduced to the West.

Britain conquered Burma over a period of 62 years (1824-1886) and incorporated it into its Indian Empire. Burma was administered as a province of India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony; independence from the Commonwealth was attained in 1948.

Myanmar has a long and complex history. Many peoples have lived in the region and the history began.


Cambodia[edit | edit source]

Cambodia is another of Thailand's neighbors. Its history has been tied closely with that of Thailand's.

The Funan Kingdom, believed to have started around the first century BC, is the first known kingdom of Cambodia. The kingdom was strongly influenced by Indian culture by shaping the culture, art and political system.

An alphabetical system, religions and architectural styles were also Indian contributions to the Funan Kingdom. There is archeological evidence of a commercial society in the Mekong Delta that prospered from the 1st to 6th centuries.

Returning from abroad, a Khmer prince declared himself the ruler of a new kingdom during the 9th century. Known as Jayavarman II, he started a cult that honored Shiva, a Hindu god, as a devaraja (god-king) which then linked the king to Shiva.

He also began the great achievements in architecture and sculpture while his successors built an immense irrigation system around Angkor. His successors (26 from the early 9th to the early 15th century), built a tremendous number of temples - of which there are over a thousand sites and stone inscriptions.

By the 12th century, Cambodia had spread into other areas, now known as Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia (the peninsula). There is actually still evidence of Khmer inhabitance in Thailand and Laos to this day.

The 13th and 14th centuries were not as successful for Cambodia, some believe it was due to the increased power of (and wars with) Thai kingdoms that had at one time paid homage to Angkor. Others believe it was due to the induction of Theravada Buddhism, which was totally contrary to the Cambodian societal structure at that time. After this time historical records are rather sketchy at best regarding Cambodia and it is considered the "Dark Ages" of Cambodian history.

Cambodia was ravaged by Vietnamese and Thai invasions and wars up until the 19th century, when new dynasties in these countries fought over control of Cambodia. The war, that began in the 1830's almost destroyed Cambodia. King Norodom signed a treaty that enabled the French to be a protectorate, thus effectively stopping the Viet-Thai war within. For the next 90 years, France in essence ruled over Cambodia.

Although officially they were just advisors, it was known that the French had final say on all topics of interest. Although the French built roadways and made other improvements regarding trade and transportation, they sadly neglected the Cambodian educational system, which is still not effective to this day.


Theories/Stories about the origin of the Thai People[edit | edit source]

  1. The Altai Mountain Theory: This is perhaps the oldest theory. Thai people migrated south from Mongolia. Most people were skeptical about its validity.
  2. The Tibet Theory: Some scholars [citation needed] have argued that Thais came from Tibet.
  3. The China Theory: Thais migrated south (forced by stronger peoples such as the Huns)
  4. The Vietnam Theory: Thais came from the north of Vietnam.
  5. The South Theory: Thais were Polynesains and Malaynesians, gradually moved north to the continent.
  6. The "We Have Been Here" theory: This is the story supported by archeological evidences. The word 'here' refers to the area called 'Suwannabhumi' and the south of China, the north of Vietnam, the Shan state of Burma, The Assam of India, Laos, Cambodia, and the Melayu Peninsular.

Sukhothai Period (AD 1249-1463)[edit | edit source]

According to the Encyclopedia for Thai Youths:

"The Sukhothai Kingdom became the center of the Siamese Thai in BE 1792 (AD 1249). It remained the center of the Siamese Thai until BE 2006 (1463) when it was integrated into the new Siamese kingdom, Ayudthaya".

The Sukhothai Kingdom was ruled by the Roung Dysnasty, entailing 9 kings.

  • Dawn of Happiness

Sukhothai (literally means “Dawn of Happiness” ) was the first truly independent Thai Kingdom.

Sukhothai is the first Siamese Thai kingdom. It is located near the river Nan.

Established in BE 1792; became part of the Ayudthaya Kingdom in BE 2006.

Sukhothai lasted for 214 years.

Sukhothai enjoyed a golden age under King Ramkhamhaeng.

  • Geography

Sukhothai is located on the lower edge of the northern region, 440 kilometres north of Bangkok or some 350 kilometres south of Chiang Mai. The province covers some 6,596 square kilometres and is divided into 9 Amphurs (districts): Muang Sukhothai, Sawankhalok, Sri Samrong, Si Satchanalai, Kong Krailat, Kirimas, Thung Saliam, Ban Dan Lan Hoi and Sri Nakhon.

Kings of the Sukhothai Kingdom

  1. Pho Khun Sri Indraditya (1249 (BE 1792)- c.a. 1257)
  2. Pho Khun Ban Muang (1257 - 1277)
  3. Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng (Ramkhamhaeng the Great) (ruled 1277 - 1298 or 1317)
  4. Praya Loethai (1298 - 1347)
  5. Praya Nguanamthom (1347)
  6. King Lithai or Maha Thammaracha I (1347 - 1368/1374)
  7. King Maha Thammaracha II (1368/1374 - 1399)
  8. King Maha hammaracha III or Praya Saileuthai (1399 - 1419)
  9. King Thammaracha IV (Borommabal) (1419 - 1438)

Ayudthaya Period (AD 1350-1767)[edit | edit source]

After the decline of Sukhothai (Nan River), Ayudthaya (Undefeatable) became the new power hub along the Chao Praya River in BE 1893 (AD 1350). It remained the center of the Siamese Thai for as long as 417 years. It declined in BE 2310 (AD 1767). Altogether five dynasties ruled the kingdom: (1) U-thong Dynasty, Supunnapoom Dynasty, Sukhothai Dynasty, Prasatthong Dynasty, and Ban Plooloung Dynasty.

  • Uthong Dynasty ราชวงศ์อู่ทอง (First reign, AD 1350 - AD 1370)

1. King Ramathibodi I (formerly Prince U Thong) (1350 - 1369)

It was uncertain to identify his former city (Lavo, Supanburi, Petchaburi, or simply the city across the river to the other side (the eastern side of the Chao Praya river).

during his reign, the administrative system was different from the Sukhothai period, as Ayudthaya adapted many aspects of the Khmere governing practices and traditions. The management of Ayudthaya was divided into four domains, Vien, Vang, Klang, and Na. (the capital, the palace, finance, and cultivation)

The king was regarded as ‘the reincarnation of a god’ or ‘devaraja’. However, the kings of Ayudthaya also followed to the teaching of Theravada Buddhism, similar to the practice of the Sukhothai period.

2. King Ramesuan (AD 1369 - 1370) (first rule, abdicated)

He was King U Thong's heir. However, about a year under the throne, he was forced by Khunluang pra Ngua from Supanburi to abdicate. He went to rule Lopburi. This was the end of the first rule of the U Thong Dynasty.

  • Suphannaphum Dynasty ราชวงศ์สุพรรณภูมิ (first reign, AD 1370-1388)

3. Somdej Pra Borommarachathiraj I (Khunluang Pha Ngua) (1370 - 1388)
Known as Khunluang Pha Ngua. He was the elder brother of the queen of the first monarch of Ayudthgaya (King U Thong). He was a strong military warrior. Many military campaigns during his reign brought Sukhothai under the rule of Ayudthaya in BE 1921. He then attacked Lan Na Kingdom.

4. King Thong Lan (1388)

Son of Khunluang Pha Ngua, ascending the throne when he was only 15. He ruled for only 7 days. Prince Ramesuan came down from Lopburi and decided to dethrone him.

Thonburi Period (AD 1767-1782 or 28 December 1767 - 6 April 1782)[edit | edit source]

After the second fall of Ayudthaya in BE 2310, the capital of Siam was destroyed.

Ayudthaya was under the control of the Burmese authority for only 7 months.

King Thaksin the Great was the only king of this period.

We may not know what really happened. Some people say there is no 'if' in history. Whatever has happened happened.

WE know that in AD 1767 or BE 2310, Ayudthauya fell due to the invasion of the Burmese. There were, however, internal conflicts within the kingdom. After the brief fall, the Siamese Thais were determined to reclaim their sovereignty and freedom, reflecting the independent spirit of the people. Ayudthaya was sacked and most temples were burned down. The Siamese warriors, in a few months, managed to expel its invaders. Its territory occupied was reclaimed.

The kingdom broke up into many different groups. It was King Thaksin the Great who unified the kingdom. History has it that he founded the new capital in the area called 'Thonburi'.

The resistance to Burmese rule was led by a noble of Chinese descent, Taksin, a capable military leader. Initially based at Chanthaburi in the south-east, within a year he had defeated the Burmese occupation army and re-established a Siamese state with its capital at Thonburi on the west bank of the Chao Phraya.

In 1767 he was crowned as King Taksin. He rapidly re-united the central Thai heartlands under his rule.

King Taksin demanded more. He was not satisfied with the mere fact of expelling the Burmese. He also aimed higher --- to demand loyalty from the former colonies of the great Ayudthaya Kingdom. He determined to turn crises into opportunities.

In 1769 he marched west and occupied western Cambodia.

He then marched south and re-established Siamese rule over the Malay Peninsula as far south as Penang and Terengganu.

Having secured his base in Siam, Taksin attacked the Burmese in the north in AD 1774 and captured Chiang Mai in 1776, permanently uniting Siam and Lanna.

Taksin's leading general in this campaign was Thong Duang, known by the title Chaophraya Chakri.

In 1778 Chakri led a Siamese army which captured Vientiane and re-established Siamese domination over Laos.

Despite these successes, by 1779 Taksin was in political trouble at home. He seems to have developed a religious mania, alienating the powerful Buddhist monkhood by claiming to be a sotapanna or divine figure.

In 1782 Taksin sent his armies under Chakri to invade Cambodia, but while they were away a rebellion broke out in the area around the capital. The rebels, who had wide popular support, offered the throne to Chakri.

Chakri marched back from Cambodia and deposed Taksin, who was secretly executed shortly after. Chakri ruled under the name King Rama I, first king of the Chakri dynasty.

One of his first decisions was to move the capital across the river to the village of Bang Makok (meaning "place of olive plums"), which soon became the city of Bangkok. The new capital was located on the island of Rattanakosin, protected from attack by the river to the west and by a series of canals to the north, east and south. Siam thus acquired both its current dynasty and its current capital.

Even though many scholars consider this period to be transitional, the Thonburi Period is indeed the most important development of the Thai nationhood.

On reflection, Siam (Thailand's former name) could maintain its statehood due two several factors. The two factors were significant: Genious and Chance.

In War and Peace (Volume Four), Leo Tolstry has discussed the concepts of 'chance' and 'genius'.

Why did it come to pass in this way and no other? asked Tolstoy.
'Because it happened so.' was his ultimate answer.

Chance created the position; genius took advantage of it.

Rattana Kosin (Bangkok) Period (AD 1782 or BE 2325 - Today)[edit | edit source]

King Rama I was the founder of the Chakri Dynasty.

World War I and World War II

After World War II

The present king of Thailand is King Rama IX.

Thailand Today[edit | edit source]

Today Thailand is one of the most prosperous nations in South East Asia.

The websites below give detailed information about Thailand today:

This is the summary found on the website:

" Thailand is a middle-income country that has seen remarkable progress in human development in the last twenty years. Thailand now has a Human Development Rating of 0.768 . It will achieve most if not all of the global Millennium Development Goals well in advance of 2015. Thailand has reduced poverty from 27% in 1990 to 9.8% in 2002, and the proportion of underweight children has fallen by nearly half. Most children are in school; universal primary school enrolment is likely to be achieved within a few years. Malaria is no longer a problem in most of the country. Annual new HIV infections have been reduced by more than 80% since 1991, the peak of the epidemic. Strides are being made toward gender equality."

  • Information about Thailand from CIA The World Fact Book, 2005:

The Kingdom of Thailand or Thailand (Former Siam) is "a unified Thai kingdom was established in the mid-14th century. Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. In alliance with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US ally following the conflict. Thailand is currently facing armed violence in its three Muslim-majority southernmost provinces."