Central Thai - History and Cultural Relations

The original home of the Thai people was in the Chinese province of Yunnan. They are believed to have migrated south in successive waves, beginning perhaps as early as about A.D. 1050. The first Thai capital in the area now known as Thailand was established in 1280 at Sukothai. The capital was moved from there to Ayuthia, to Tonburi, and finally, in 1783, to Bangkok, where it has remained. The Kingdom of Thailand has never been colonized by any Western nation, but some territory was lost to the British and French empires when Europeans entered the rice and teak markets during the nineteenth century. The opening of the commercial rice market changed the Thai economy from one of subsistence to one of cash, producing profound economic, demographic, and social changes during the twentieth century. Thailand's absolute monarchy became a constitutional monarchy after a revolution in 1932. In spite of the king's loss of political power, the monarchy has retained its prestige and symbolic value, especially among rural Thai. Political trends since the revolution include a pro-Western foreign policy coupled with very deliberate efforts toward modernization, authoritarian government (in spite of the constitutional veneer), and encouragement of nationalism embodied in the phrase "king, country, religion."

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