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The Land of Smiles

From Siam to Thailand - kingdom historyAccording to the Thai calendar, Thais entered the new millennium long ago. The year 2000 in the Thai calendar is year 2543 (some 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar). The nickname "Land of Smiles" has been associated with this ancient Oriental kingdom for centuries. The Siamese people, known nowadays as Thais, have been shaped by a compelling history full of mystery and controversy. Through the ages, they've learned to confront and overcome adversity, troubles, and hardships with a resilient smile on their faces.

The origins of the Thai kingdom are traced to 1096 A.D. when a fledgling kingdom at Payao was settled in what's known now as northern Thailand. "A Million Rice Fields" ౼ the Lanna Kingdom with Chiang Mai as its capital, founded by the tribal leader Mengrai, and the Sukhothai Kingdom under the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng ౼ hailed as the inventor of the Thai writing ౼ were the ancestors of the Thai nation, and till now stand strong as a citadel of traditional Thai ways, refer to the Thai Marriage for some leads.

Chronological Retrospect of Key Events in Thailand's Modern History and Politics.
Thai history

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In 14th century, under King Ramathibodi, the kingdom's capital was founded in Ayutthaya. Spanning four centuries, it was a pivotal period when the Ayutthaya kingdom established solid traditions in fine arts and literature, neglecting its defenses. In 1569, the Ayutthaya kingdom first fell to the Burmese and then finally was burned to the ground in 1767. Under the leadership of General Phya Taksin, Thais once again defeated Burmese invaders and reinstated the capital city at Thonburi on the west bank of Chao Phraya River near its outlet into the Gulf of Siam. In 1782, Taksin's successor, King Rama I, set up his new capital on the opposite river bank at a small trading village called Krung Thep, thus founding the nowadays far-famed city known the world over as Bangkok ౼ the City of Angels.

H.M. King Bhumibol of ThailandUnlike most of its neighbors, the kingdom of Siam has never felt the harness of direct European colonialism. As early as the 17th century, due to wise diplomacy, the kings of Siam were set on maintaining independence while the Portuguese, French, British, Dutch, and others carved up the entire region over the next hundred years. The kings wisely played competing Europeans against each other, ensuring that no one power would gain a dominant presence. This strategy paid off rather handsomely, as the quaint kingdom of Siam remained autonomous while harvesting most of whatever benefits the colonial system had to offer.

HM The King Bhumibol Adulyadej - Rama IX
60 Years on The Throne Anniversary Celebrations!

After a bloodless coup in 1932, Siam's mighty absolute monarchy became constitutional, and in 1939, the kingdom officially adopted the name Thailand, which stands for "The Land of The Free".

Thai history, Grand Palace in Bangkok ThailandThe current Thai monarchy is inherited from the Chakri dynasty, founded by King Rama I. The longest reigning monarch, H.M. King Bhumibol ascended to the throne in 1946.

After the liberation from Japanese occupation during World War II, the Kingdom of Thailand weathered a dark period of unstable governments with rapidly changing prime ministers. Several border clashes with neighboring communist and military regimes, numerous attempts of putsches, bloody anti-government demonstrations, and violent coups went on along the way to become a stable democracy and an economically prosperous nation.

Bangpain Palace, ThailandIn the '80s, Thailand emerged as one of Asia's leading 'Tiger Economies', even though the kingdom's economy for ages has been solely based on agriculture. A collapse of these economies preamble by the rampant devaluation of their currencies originated in Thailand in the summer of 1997, primarily due to a renowned "Orient Syndrome" ౼ greed and corruption that comes from deep within and sweeps all levels of the political system, government, army, and society as well.

Despite the fact that the kingdom's first permanent commonly called "People's Constitution" was promulgated on 11 October 1997, politically, economically, and socially alike, Thailand is still in transition. Core democratic values and human rights remain a novel and somewhat deluded concept for the majority of Thais, primarily in rural areas, who are more used to a patriarchal social structure of patronage (known as Sakdina), where money, cronyism, influence, and connections will always reign supreme. For details, refer to Sakdina ౼ Ancient Siamese Social Hierarchy Structure.

By hook or by crook, be it the infamous Asian bureaucracy in a day-to-day routine or the military power in moments of crisis, both are so far overcoming the weak roots of Thai democracy. And regardless of just a constitutional monarchy, as far as the Thai public is concerned, the authority of the much beloved King Bhumibol remained absolute, contributing a great deal to national unity and stability.

Long Live The King!
Thai History

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