Thailand Early History

By | November 23, 2021

Early empires

In the second half of the first millennium AD, the region of what is now Thailand was shaped by two different cultural centers: the Buddhist kingdom of Dvaravati (around the capital Lop Buri), which was established by the Mon in central Thailand, had existed in its vicinity for around 500 years Buddhism spread, while (since the 9th century) the political supremacy and cultural influence of the Khmer empire of Angkor (Cambodia , history) brought elements of Hinduism into the country. At that time the Tai tribes were already settling in northern Thailand(especially the Thai), who have been under the influence of the Mon kingdom of Haripunjaya (around Lamphun) since the 11th / 12th. Century mixed with the Mon. In the 13th century they shook off the supremacy of the kings of Angkor and founded the kingdom of Sukhothai (first king Sri Indraditya , around 1240–70) and north of it the kingdom of Lan Na (“land of a million rice fields”), whose first king Mangrai (1259–1317) conquered the Haripunjaya empire in 1281 and moved to the newly built capital Chiang Mai in 1296. The empire of Sukhothai, initially only a small local power, rose to the dominant power in the basin of the Chao Phraya under King Ramkhamhaeng (1279 [?] To 1298). His sphere of influence eventually extended from Luang Prabang in the north to Nakhon Si Thammarat (Ligor) on the Malay Peninsula in the south and from Vientiane in the east to Pegu in the west.

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In the middle of the 14th century, Prince U Thong , founder of the city of Ayutthaya , emerged victorious from the dispute for supremacy between the Thai principalities south of Sukhothai. He established a new state, the kingdom of Ayutthaya, in which he assumed rule as King Rama Thibodi I in 1350 (until 1369). He subjugated Sukhothai and conquered Cambodia. Under Rama Thibodi II.(1491–1529) first contacts were made with Europeans (embassies of the Portuguese in 1509 [?], 1512 and 1516; the latter provided a contract for the approval of Portuguese settlements). After long hostilities with the independent Thai principalities in the north and incessant bloody clashes with the Burmese, who had already conquered Chiang Mai in 1556, Ayutthaya, weakened by internal political turmoil, became a vassal state of Burma in 1569, but from 1584 the Thai prince Naresuan (King 1590-1605 ) restored the empire and expanded it at the expense of the Khmer and the empire of Pegu.

In 1664 the Dutch blocked the Chao Phraya in order to force the Thai to conclude a trade agreement and to grant extraterritorial rights. A treaty (1686) concluded with King Narai (1657-88) allowed France to temporarily set up trading establishments, allow French priests to carry out missions and station troops (since 1687) in the capital. The influential position of the Greek adventurer C. Phaulkon (* 1647, † 1688) , who rose to “superintendent of foreign trade” and the most important advisor to the king after his arrival in Siam (1675), fueled a strong anti-European opposition under Phra Petrajawho first became regent and then king in 1688 and who executed Phaulkon in the same year and expelled the French from the country; thereafter, the country remained closed to most western visitors for 130 years (1818 for the first time again trading permits for the Portuguese, 1826 for the British). After a last heyday under King Boromakot (1733–58), the empire of Ayutthaya was conquered and destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.

Establishment of the Chakri dynasty

King Taksin (1767–82) expelled the Burmese and forced the Khmer under his rule. His successor, the founder of the Chakri dynasty still ruling today, was General Chaophraya Chakri. He climbed as Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok (official title: Rama I., 1782–1809) took the throne and moved his residence to Bangkok. Only the abandonment of the previous isolation of the country, the opening of the state to the West and a clever foreign and trade policy with the major European powers and the USA (1855 friendship treaty with Great Britain, 1856 trade agreement with the USA and France) left Thailand as the only country in Southeast Asia resisted the pressure of European colonialism and made it possible to maintain state independence. King Chulalongkorn (Rama V., 1868-1910), with the support of foreign advisers for administration and the military, continued the reform work initiated by his father to modernize all areas of state and public life (abolition of slavery and compulsory labor, introduction of a Western-oriented school, tax and judicial system, Road and railroad construction). Although Thailand was saved from direct colonial rule, it had to accept sensitive encroachments on its sovereign rights. Under pressure from France and Great Britain, it ceded large areas of its territory (in 1885 and 1907 the area east of the Mekong to Laos, in 1907 Battambang and Siem Reap to Cambodia).

In 1925 King Prajadhipok (* 1893, † 1941) ascended the throne as Rama VII. Within the class of civil servants and officers who were oriented towards Western European ideas, dissatisfaction with the absolutist system of government grew; their representatives gathered in the “People’s Party” founded in 1930 by Luang Pridi Banomjong (* 1900, † 1983). With the beginning of the world economic crisis (since 1929), political and social unrest were combined. On June 24, 1932, a coup d’état took place under the leadership of Pridi Banomjong. On December 10, 1932, the king had to proclaim a new constitution that made Siam a constitutional monarchy. In 1933, Pridi put Banomjongproposed a radical reform program based on welfare state ideas: on the basis of a state monopoly on rice, all citizens should be guaranteed an adequate income. However, the full realization of this program met resistance from conservative forces, especially among the military. In 1935 King Prajadhipok had to resign in favor of Ananda Mahidol (* 1925, † 1946) , who ascended the throne as Rama VIII.

In 1938  Pibul switched to Songgram the liberal forces out. He became prime minister and established a military dictatorship strongly influenced by fascist ideas. In order to emphasize the Siamese state’s claim to rule over all Thais – including those living on the territories of neighboring states – the government renamed Siam to “Thailand” in 1939 (again Siam in 1946–49). The fascist-oriented Pan-Thai movement aspired to a greater Thailand from southern China to eastern India. During World War II, Thailand leaned against Japan. At its pressure, France had to cede parts of Cambodia and Laos to Thailand in the Treaty of Tokyo (May 9, 1941). After the conclusion of a Thai-Japanese pact (December 21, 1941), Thailand declared on January 21. 1942 the United States and Great Britain at war and won territories in the north of British Malaya and in the south of the Shan states in Burma. On the side of the Allies it formed underPridi Banomjong a resistance movement directed against the Japanese and Pibul Songgram. In 1944, Pibul Songgram had to resign.

After the Second World War, the forces led by Prime Minister Pridi Banomjong implemented a new constitution, which came into force on April 30, 1946. On June 9, 1946, King Ananda Mahidol was murdered; his younger brother Bhumibol Aduljadeh followed him – initially under the reign of Prince Rangsit (* 1885, † 1951)  - and climbed as Rama IX in 1950 . the throne. Supported by the army, Pibul Songgram set up a military dictatorship on November 8, 1947, suspending the 1946 constitution, and took over the office of prime minister himself. The authoritarian constitution of 1949 was repealed in 1951 in favor of the 1932 constitution. 1955 searchedPibul Songgram to liberalize his system of government and expand his power base with the re-admission of parties and a free discussion of public affairs.

In terms of foreign policy, the peace treaties with Great Britain (January 1, 1946) and France (November 17, 1946) ended the state of war with these countries; the Treaty of Tokyo was annulled, renouncing the territories won in World War II. Thailand now leaned closely to the USA; it took part in the Korean War (1950-53). In 1954 it participated in the founding of SEATO.

Thailand Early History