Thailand means "land of
the free", and throughout its 800-year history,
Thailand can boast the distinction of being the
only country in Southeast Asia never to have been
colonized. Its history is divided into five major
Nanchao Period (650-1250
Thai people founded their kingdom in the southern
part of China, which is Yunnan, Kwangsi and Canton
today. A great number of people migrated south
as far as the Chao Phraya Basin and settled down
over the Central Plain under the sovereignty of
the Khmer Empire, whose culture they probably
accepted. The Thai people founded their independent
state of Sukhothai around 1238 A.D., which marks
the beginning of the Sukhothai Period.
Sukhothai Period (1238-1378
Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the
region in the13th century, gradually asserting
independence from existing Khmer and Mon kingdoms.
Called by its rulers "the dawn of happiness",
this is often considered the golden era of Thai
history, an ideal Thai state in a land of plenty
governed by paternal and benevolent kings, the
most famous of whom was King Ramkamhaeng the Great.
However in 1350, the mightier state of Ayutthaya
exerted its influence over Sukhothai.
Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767)
Ayutthaya kings adopted Khmer cultural influences
from the very beginning. No longer the paternal
and accessible rulers that the kings of Sukhothai
had been, Ayutthaya's sovereigns were absolute
monarchs and assumed the title devaraja (god-king).
The early part of this period saw Ayutthaya extend
its sovereignty over neighboring Thai principalities
and come into conflict with its neighbours, During
the 17th century, Siam started diplomatic and
commercial relations with western countries.
In 1767, a Burmese invasion succeeded in capturing
Ayutthaya. Despite their overwhelming victory,
the Burmese did not retain control of Siam for
long. A young general named Phya Taksin and his
followers broke through the Burmese encirclement
and escaped to Chantaburi. Seven months after
the fall of Ayutthaya, he and his forces sailed
back to the capital and expelled the Burmese occupation
Thon Buri Period (1767-1772)
General Taksin, as he is popularly known, decided
to transfer the capital from Ayutthaya to a site
nearer to the sea which would facilitate foreign
trade, ensure the procurement of arms, and make
defence and withdrawal easier in case of a renewed
Burmese attack. He established his new capital
at Thon Buri on the west bank of the Chao Phraya
The rule of Taksin was not an easy one. The lack
of central authority since the fall of Ayutthaya
led to the rapid disintegration of the kingdom,
and Taksin's reign was spent reuniting the provinces.
Rattanakosin Period (1782
- the Present)
After Taksin's death, General Chakri became the
first king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, ruling
from 1782 to 1809. His first action as king was
to transfer the royal capital across the river
from Thon Buri to Bangkok and build the Grand
Palace. Rama II (1809-1824) continued the restoration
begun by his predecessor. King Nang Klao, Rama
III (1824-1851) reopened relations with Western
nations and developed trade with China. King Mongkut,
Rama IV, (1851-1868) of "The King and I"
concluded treaties with European countries, avoided
colonialisation and established modern Thailand.
He made many social and economic reforms during
his reign .
King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (1869-1910) continued
his father's tradition of reform, abolishing slavery
and improving the public welfare and administrative
system. Compulsory education and other educational
reforms were introduced by King Vajiravudh, Rama
VI (1910-1925). During the reign of King Prajadhipok,
(1925-1935), Thailand changed from an absolute
monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The king
abdicated in 1933 and was succeeded by his nephew,
King Ananda Mahidol (1935-1946). The country's
name was changed from Siam to Thailand with the
advent of a democratic government in 1939.
Our present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej,
is King Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty.