Human habitation in Thai territory dates back over 10,000 years. Rice was grown at the modern-day UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ban Chiang as early as 4,000 BC. Later, tribes of Mon, Khmer, and Tai peoples established realms within the borders of modern Thailand. The Mon-speaking Buddhist civilisation of Dvaravati in the first millennium gave way to the Khmer period by the turn of the second millennium.
The Sukothai Kingdom (13th century)
A prosperous trading kingdom, emerged and flourished for over 200 years. During this period, the Thai script was established. To the north, the Lan Na kingdom, with its capital at Chiang Mai, emerged as a centre for Buddhist scholarship and literature.
Ayuthaya Period (15th century )
Its ruling monarchs adapted Khmer cultural influences by assuming the title of Devaraja (god-king). International trade thrived for 400 years. This cosmopolitan centre was populated by Mon, Tai, and Chinese; strong links were also forged with Asia and Europe. In 1767 Ayuthaya was sacked by the Burmese and abandoned.
Thonburi Period (18th century)
King Taksin established a new capital at Thonburi. Then King Rama I founded the current Chakri Dynasty, moving the capital to Bangkok (Ratanakosin). He built palaces and temples, re-established court rituals from the Ayudhaya period, issued laws and authoritative Buddhist texts.
1851 – 1910
Under King Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910), the modern Thai nation was established, slavery abolished, the administration centralised and ministries established. The adroit leadership of Kings Mongkut (Rama IV, 1851-1868) and King Chulalongkorn are still praised today for maintaining a prosperous country, and avoiding colonisation through clever diplomacy.
The 20th Century
The 20th Century In 1932 a bloodless coup established a new system of constitutional monarchy, which is currently overseen by King Bumibol Adulyadej (1946- present), King Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty, the world’s longest reigning king. Step by step, through the rise and fall of communism in neighbouring countries, student uprisings, and a series of military coups and royal interventions, Thailand has evolved into a tenuous but functioning democracy.
Recent leaders include Taksin Chinawatra; following ongoing allegations of corruption he was deposed by a military coup in 2008. After a series of political crises, the country is currently governed by the Democrat Party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva.
His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama 9th, is devoutly revered by Thai people. In practice, however, the King’s powers are constitutionally limited.
By the constitution of 1932 the King is:
- head of state, exercising legislative power in the name of the people and with the consent of the government
- head of the armed forces
Beyond these explicit official functions, the King is seen as:
- A symbol of Thai culture and an iconic figure
- The patron and guardian of Buddhism
- A unifying symbol of the nation
Through the Royal Projects, King Rama 9th has inspired sustainable development projects and promoted a responsible self-sufficiency policy. Royal projects include supporting organic agriculture, and developing occupational centres in rural areas for disadvantaged Thai communities.