SYNOPSIS OF THAI HISTORY

 

ca. 900 AD     Thai people move into present-day Thailand from Tibet and southern China 

 

1238-1378    Sukhothai Kingdom

 

1238      Thai writing system invented, based on Sanskrit

 

1350-1569    First Ayutthaya Kingdom - Period of the Dewa Raja (God Kings) 
 
 

1569    1st Burmese Invasion - destroyed much of the country before being driven out


 

1569-1767    Second Ayutthaya Kingdom - First Golden Age of Thai Literature, led by King Narai, poet and diplomat. French turned away. 
 

1767    2nd Burmese invasion; Burmese again defeated after reducing the country to ruins

 

1767-1782    Thonburi Kingdom (near Bangkok).King Taksin composes

the Ramakien, Thai version of Ramayana, continuing the tradition of the scholar-king

 

1782-present     Chakri Dynasty.Kings noted for scholarship, poetry

and above all, diplomacy.  They are successful in  warding off the European powers.

 

1851-1868    King Rama IV began modernization of Thailand to meet the challenge of the West.  He is caricatured in the modern musical "The King and I" which is banned in Thailand as too disrespectful of the king's stature and dignity. 
 

1869-1910     King Rama V (Chulalongkorn) continued the modernization of Thailand.Chulalongkorn visited Java and Europe, the one to see the evils of colonialism; the other to learn how to avoid them.

 

1890    French invade Indo-China, leave Thailand alone after diplomatic efforts of Thai King.
 

1902    Marie Carryall's Vendetta is the first European novel translated into Thai. 
 

1910-1925     King Rama VI, educated in England; another poet-king
 

1925-1935     King Rama VII.Many wealthy Thais are educated in Europe, seek more voice in government.

 

1932    Revolution replaces absolute monarch with constitutional monarchy. Modern period seems chaotic, but underneath the king remains as a stabilizing element.
 


1939-1945     Japanese occupation peaceful, since Thailand became an ally of Japan; declared war on U.S. and Britain in 1942.

 

1946    King Anand mysteriously assassinated. 

 

1950--present     King Bhumibol (Rama IX) reigns as King of Thailand.  This period characterized by several coups d'etat and student rebellions, as military compete with civilian elite for political power.   As governments come and go the king is permanent.
 

1947 In bloodless coup, Prime Minister Pridi (who had been anti-Japanese and hence popular after the war ended)  lost power to Pibul (who had been pro-Japanese).

 

1957-1973     Military controls govt; coups and counter-coups; constitutions come and go; student demomstrations force Thanom to resign.
 

1973-76    Thailand tries democracy and civilian rule.  Freedom ushers period of creativity, but also civil disorder and bloodshed. Excellent film recommended:"The Masked Dance" featuring Kukrit Pramoj, PM during the first year of the democratic period.  Kukrit was overthrown by his brother the next year.  Kukrit, a dancer, played a lead role in the popular U.S. film "The Ugly American".

 

1976 Military regains control of government 

 

1983 National elections peaceful, after threats of violence over Army's attempts to retain control of the Government.PM Prem Tinsulanond forms new (45th) government coalition including the Centrist Social Action Party, the Democrats, and the extreme right-wing Prachakorn Thai Party.  Prem is an Army General.

 

1988    Another coup.The king is all right.No problem.

 

1992 Major catastrophe strikes as PM Gen. Suchinda Krayprayoon, who had been placed in office by military leadership rather than from among elected representatives, defiantly tries to hold onto power despite opposition from students and elected representatives alike for alleged corruption in office.  Peaceful student demonstrations trigger violent response by military; hundreds are killed, thousands arrested, many never to be seen again.Suchinda is eventually forced to step aside in disgrace.

 

1997    Asian Financial Crisis hits Thailand hard.  Fiscal "mismanagement" forces government to play ball with the IMF to obtain a 16 billion-dollar bail-out.   IMF-imposed conditions include closing forty-two "troubled" finance companies, and re-writing the Constitution to "finally put an end to political patronage ...."
  

2001-2006.  Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra became the first prime minister in Thailand's history to lead an elected government through a full term in office.  But after more than five years in power, he was ousted in a military coup in September 2006, accused of corruption and abuse of power.  Since then he has been in exile - mostly in the UK - and has become the owner of Manchester City football club.  He risks arrest on corruption charges if he returns to Thailand, and his family's business dealings are being investigated by the Thai courts.  But despite efforts from the military to stamp out his power-base, he has retained his popularity among the rural poor.  (From BBC News, Dec. 2007  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7128935.stm>)

2008.  King Bumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) lives on.  He has been King of Thailand for 61 years.  A recent quotation is memorable:  

"Our political system has been unstable all the time. So whenever there is a political crisis people expect the King to solve the problem ."
 -- Prof Suchit Bunbongkarn

Some Important Facts About Thailand

 

1.  Language, nation -- Like France, Vietnam, Korea and Japan, Thailand's majority language (Thai) is so widespread there is little linguistic opposition in evidence, with one increasingly worrisome exception:  Pattani and surrounding regions in the Thai "deep south" near Malaysia, where many citizens speak Malay and practice Islam.  On Jan. 4, 2004, some 20 schools were burned down; an army barracks in Narathiwat overrun, and its armory looted, leaving four soldiers dead. The next day, two policemen were blown up by a time bomb in Pattani. These attacks were boldly executed by armed insurgents who knew exactly what to do and what they expect to achieve.  Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was furious, ordering a massive manhunt to bring to justice the perpetrators of what looked very much like a renewed armed struggle by separatist groups. Martial law has been imposed in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat as part of the government’s all-out campaign to wipe out armed secessionist groups.

2.  Religion -- Thais are 95.3% Buddhist (vs. 3.8%  Islamic, mostly Malays living in southern Thailand)

 

3.One King - the Chakri Dynasty has ruled since 1732 (Rama  I); the present King Bhumibol is Rama IX.

 

4.One city - Bangkok.80% of the Thai populations are peasants living in the countryside.Despite many rebellions and coups d'etat in Bangkok, the peasant asks only "Is the King all right?Does he approve of the new government?"

 

5.Reported literacy rate is one of the highest in the world at 87%.

 

6.Thailand is said to be a prosperous "mini-dragon" by the official organs of the press and U.S. officials.


 

7.Thailand has close ties to the United States and other Western Powers; Thailand supported the U.S. military effort in Vietnam, and sent troops of its own (as did the Philippines and South Korea).Thailand is a strong member of ASEAN, and with the other ASEANnations opposed the Vietnamese incursion into Kampuchea.The Thai-Kampuchea border is a problem area which offers a pathway into Thailand for refugees from Indo-China.