Founded in the thirteenth century, the Kingdom of Thailand was known until 1939 as Siam referred to as Siamese, the people of Thailand are now called "Thai", which itself mean 'Free', Thailand being "The Land of The Free."
If we trace the origins of the Thai we find their ancestors were a people of southern China called T'ai who slowly migrated thoughout the area, some settling in what is now northern Thailand and establishing a fledgling Thai kingdom at Payao in 1096.
Spurred by the Mongol conquest of China, the northern Thai kingdoms grew in size and numbers, with Lanna Thai and Sukhothai becoming expecially important. Mengrai, a tribal leader who founded Lanna Thai, " A Million Rice Feilds", named his Chiang Mai city which still today serves as a bastion of traditional Thai ways.
Meanwhile sukhothai rose to preeminence under King Ramkhamhaeng who is thought to have invented the Thai writing system and established the basis of the Thai nation. By the 14th century the seat of power was transferred to Ayutthaya under King Ramathibodi. The Ayutthaya period was to last for some four hundred years, during which time the organization of government and a strong tradition of art and literature were firmly established. The Potuguese, who were especially influentail as traders, also introduced firearm technology.
Ayutthaya finally fell to the Burmese in 1569. The young Prince Naresuan taken by the invaders, returned to defeat his formers captors and to rebuild and expand the kingdom of Ayutthaya.
Sadly Ayutthaya, then rich in culture and with a strong economy, fell for the second time to the rapacious Burmese who, in 1767, burned the city to the ground, and took thousands of prisoners as slave labour. Their reign was however, short-lived. Under the inspired leadership of General Phya Taksin, The Thais once again drove out the Burmese and reestablished the capital at Thonburi on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river. Taksin's mental health ultimately deteriorated, and when he was finally put to death, his successor, King Rama I, founded his new capital on the opposite bank of the river in 1782 at a small trading centre called "Krung Thep". In Thai the words mean "City of Angel" and refer to what is generally today, called Bangkok. The derivation of the word "Bangkok" gets a little tricky here. It stems from the transliteration district where Krung Thep was situated, "Ban-gog" or "Bang-magog" - a place full of olive trees
Thailand's present monarch, His majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX who ascended to the throne in 1946.
Earlier, from 1809 to 1851, during the reigns of Rama II and Rama III, Bangkok developed rapidly with the whole country benefiting from the opening up of international trade.
King Mongkut, Rama IV, who reigned from 1851-1868,initiated the modernization of state institutions and dialogue with Western nations. His successor King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, expanded the process and maintained Thailand's independence. His reign, from 17869-1910, is considered by many to have been one of the most important in recent Thai history.
King Vajiravudh, Rama VI who succeeded King Chulalongkorn and reigned from 1910-1925, continued the reform process with the introduction of compulsory education. He also aligned Thailand with the allies in World War Two. His successor, King Prajadhipok, Rama VII,1925-1935, was to be the last of the absolute monarchs.
After a bloodless revolution in 1932 which changed the system to a constitutional monarchy, King Prajadhipok, abdicated and lived for six years in exile in England. On his death, his nephew, King Ananda ascended to the throne. When the young King Ananda died in tragic circumstances in 1946, he was succeeded by his brother, Thailand's much loved present day monarch, His majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
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