The modern Siam
A destination for exotic western tourism, Thailand is a rapidly developing country. Miraculously escaping colonization, it owes the relative balance of its society to the unbroken state tradition, despite ethnic and religious tensions and illegal opium production. It is on the way to an intense modernization that has already made some of its regions very dynamic and competitive
Chasing the ‘tigers’
The Thai territory is reached, to the north-west, by the last offshoots – maximum elevation 2,577 m – of the mountains of Indochina; in the center and east there is a large plain crossed by the Menam River, which bathes the capital Bangkok (7,507,000 residents), and by tributaries of the Mekong which flows on the eastern border of the country. To the south, between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Siam, Thailand extends into the Malacca Peninsula, rich in tourist resorts such as the island of Phuket, hit by the 2004 tsunami. The climate is tropical monsoon, very hot and humid. For Thailand culture and traditions, please check animalerts.com.
Humidity and abundant water favor the forest – much reduced by the cutting – and products such as rice and rubber, which are widely exported. residents and cities are concentrated in the plains and valleys. Modern industrial activities (mechanics, textiles, electronics), together with tourism and fishing, have allowed Thailand to get closer to newly developing countries – such as South Korea and Singapore, the ‘tigers of Southeast Asia’ – despite imbalances still sensitive interiors.
The land of pagodas
The territory of today’s Thailand, indicated for a long time with the name Siam, was reached in the 13th century by Thai populations from southern China, who founded a series of feudal kingdoms there. Two of them prevailed over time: the kingdom of Sukhothai from the mid-13th century, and the kingdom of Ayutthaya from the mid-14th century. The latter managed to extend its control over the neighboring regions and, in the following centuries, strengthened the powers of the monarchy over great feudality, giving life to a centralized state structure.
Thailand’s first contacts with the West date back to the 16th century. It was the Portuguese who first established commercial relations with the country. In the second half of the 17th century it was the turn of the French. British penetration in the 19th century was much more intense. But the country – in which in 1781 the Chakri dynasty that placed the capital in Bangkok had come to power – managed to preserve its independence and to start a significant process of modernization inspired by Western models.
Ruled by an absolute monarchy, Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. A few years later, however, a nationalist and authoritarian regime imposed itself which renamed the country with the name of Thailand (1939) and dragged it into World War II alongside Japan.
After the war, Thailand became an important pawn of US interests in Southeast Asia and played a significant role in supporting them during the Korean War (1950-53) and especially during the Vietnam War (1964-75. ).
Internally, in the second half of the 20th century it was marked by a convulsive succession of coups d’état, authoritarian governments, fragile openings to democracy, in the context of a difficult economic situation. Despite a relative recovery in the 1990s, the country continues to be politically unstable and still very backward in rural regions.