Thai people came from southwestern China before they moved to the mainland Southeast Asia. This migration took many centuries and some believe that the migration began in the early years of Christian era. The Thais refer to their country as “Muang Thai”, which simply means the “Land of the Free”. They also call themselves as “Khon Tha” meaning “free people”. But, foreigners refer Thai people as “Siam” or “Siamese”, a term that is believed to have originate from Portuguese. Between 1855 and 1949, Thailand was popularly referred as Siam-Prathet Sayam, which is a historical name that was actually given to the people living in Chao Phraya Valley.
The Early states of Thailand
According to historians, there are many areas in Thailand that date back to the bronze age (1500-500BCE) and the Iron age (500BCE-500CE). Some of these sites have been thoroughly researched, especially in Chi River Valleys and Mun located in the northern part of the country. In the first century, Chinese historian records show that there were several trading settlements in the South that appeared organized into different Malay states around Tambralinga and Langkasuka. Prior to the migration of Thai people to this region, records show that there were indigenous people living here who spoke Malayo-Sumbawan and Austroasianitic dialects. However, a little is known about Thai people before the 12th century since concrete sources are quite scarce.
Formation of Thai Kingdom
Indian kingdoms such as Khmer Empire, Mon and Malay ruled the region. The Thai people formed their kingdom in Lanna, which was the northern part of the present-day Thailand in the 12th century Known as Siam. However, they did not exert much influence within the region and they gradually moved to the South where land is fertile. They formed Sukhothai Empire where they expanded their boundaries and ruled the entire Indo-china Peninsula. According to Thai historians, Sukhothai was founded in 1238 as their first kingdom in the region. The kingdom was formed by two governors, Khun Pha Muang and Khun Bang Thao, who fought hard against Khmers to win independence for the Thai people. It was during the Sukhothai that Thailand flourished and many consider it as the golden age.
However, a unified kingdom of Thai was later established in the 14th century and was called Siam till 1939. In addition, Thailand was the only country in the Southeast Asia that was never ruled by European power. It was in 1932 where a bloodless revolution gave birth to a constitutional monarchy. Thailand also became a US ally in 1954 after they sent troops to the Korean peninsula to fight along with US army in the famous Vietnam war.
Origin of Thai Culture
The Ayutthaya and Sukhothai kingdoms are regarded as the reason for the Thai culture to flourish and develop to what we see today. It was during these two kingdoms that the kingdom of Thailand emerged as the cultural, spiritual and culinary hub we all love. Thailand was seriously influenced by the religion and culture of the Indian people. This influence came from Siamese culture, which was as a result of Indian settlers in this region. Some believe that Indian kingdoms also influenced the Thai people by spreading Buddhism religion to this country.
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