Thailand History and Culture
Dating back to the Neolithic civilization situated at the modern-day UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ban Chiang, the history of Thailand is long, proud, and fairly well documented. Over the early centuries of the Common Era, tribes of Mon, Khmer, and Tai peoples established realms within the borders of modern Thailand; the Mon speaking Buddhist civilization of Dvaravati in the first millennium giving way to the Khmer empire of Angkor by the turn of the second millennium.
However, the history of Thailand as we know it began when the kingdoms of Lan Na (Chiang Rai/Chiang Mai) and Sukhothai, the first truly independent Thai Kingdoms, established highly developed societies in the North and Central regions of Thailand in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Kingdom of Ayutthaya, which was heavily influenced by the Khmer’s of Angkor, eventually conquered neighboring Sukhothai and dominated the region for the next several hundred years of Thai history. Unfortunately, first Chaing Mai and then Ayutthaya were overrun by Burmese invaders, who occupied the Lan Na capital for several centuries and sacked Ayutthaya, forcing the central Thai kingdom to relocate farther south, establishing a new capital in Thon Buri near Bangkok. After the short lived Thon Buri Period (1767-1772), the capital was moved across the Chao Phraya River, and the first of the current line of Kings, Rama I of the Chakri Dynasty, established the modern capital of Bangkok to commence the Ratanakosin Period of Thai history. The adroit diplomatic leadership of Kings Mongkut (Rama IV, 1851-1868) and Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910) were responsible for maintaining a remarkable 700 year Thai history during which the kingdom was never officially colonized by foreign powers; a turbulent 20th century witnessed the transition to a system of constitutional monarchy, currently overseen by Head of State, King Bumibol Adulyadej (1946- present), is King Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty and a tenuous but functional democracy has existed under the regency of this much beloved king.
Fossilized remains of plants and animals have been discovered in many areas of Thailand, particularly in the Korat Plateau in northeastern Thailand. Most of the animal fossils found are of dinosaurs, which date primarily to the Jurassic era though some are from the late-Triassic, the oldest such evidence of dinosaurs in Southeast Asia.
Over the centuries leading up to the era of recorded history, Thailand was first peopled by Mon and Khmer groups and later by the Tai, an ethnic group that migrated from southern China to Vietnam and gradually into Laos and northern Thailand.
Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the region in the13th century, gradually asserting independence from neighboring kingdoms. Founded by Khun Pha Muang and Khun Bang Klang Thao in 1238, the Kingdom of Sukhothai was named "the dawn of happiness" by its rulers.
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), adopting Khmer cultural influences from the very beginning, but also having influences from Mon, Tai, and Chinese inhabitants.
King Taksin assumed the vacant throne amidst a state of disorder and established a new capital nearer to the sea, a move that would facilitate foreign trade, ensure the procurement of arms, and make defense and withdrawal easier in case of a renewed Burmese attack.
Born of noble blood, Tong Duang, a powerful general of Taksin’s army, became Rama I, the first king of the Chakri Dynasty and ruled 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 and other royal structures with the bricks of ruined Ayutthaya