Modern Thai history differs from the rest of the region

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Modern Thai history differs from the rest of the region:

  • Homogeneous population: regional, ethnic, linguistic or religious coherence.

  • The Chinese, the most significant minority.

  • Avoidance of the disruption of Western colonial rule

  • Communism never attracted wide support in Thailand

  • Capitalist country (strong economic country).

Serious problems the Thais had faced:

  • 18th CE: reconstruction after the attack of Burmese armies.

  • 19th and early 20th CE: Western pressures on traditional Thai government, economy and social organization.

  • In World War II: Adjustment to Japanese military pressures.

  • After WWII: Close ties with the US in the Cold War.

Major problems from 1992:

  • Inadequate infrastructure

  • overburdened metropolis in Bangkok

  • Serious pollution and ecological degradation

  • Deplorable conditions for many workers

  • Widening gaps between urban and rural condition and between rich and poor.

The nationalist prescript: Nation, Religion (Buddhism) and King.

Early history

Tai origin:

  • 13th CE: Tai communities were built in the northeast Burma, central and northern Thailand, and Laos.

  • The Tais, ancestors of today’s Thais, the Lao peoples, the Shans of Burma, a range of upland communities in mainland SE Asia such as the Black, Red and White Tais of Laos and northern Vietnam, and the Lü of Yunnan.

  • Before 13th CE: Tais dominated Nanchao in Yunnan.

  • 1253: Tais were dispersed southwards by a Mongol attack.

Muang, one or more villages under a chieftain, developed inter-relationships:

  • Trading networks

  • Intermarriage

  • Security needs

  • Talented military leaders

13th CE: The Kingdom of Sukhothai emerged, and it led by Ramkhamhaeng.

The Kingdom of Ayudhya (1351-1767)

1351: the establishment of Ayudhya, capital of the kingdom of Ayudhya by U Thong.

U Thong :

  • Chinese merchant

  • Marriage relation with a prominent Thai family

  • Divotion to the Thai form of Buddhism.

Ayudhya prosperity:

  • The strategic position:

    • 70 km up the broad Chaophraya river from the sea > a great trading port

    • Vast, fertile Choaphraya plain > providing rice for growing and for export

  • The city’s power based on its rulers’ keen attention to government and social control

  • System of sakdina, the pyramidal social structure > social discipline and the asy mobilization of manpower

1568: the Burmese king Bayinnaung laid siege to Ayudhya.

Narasuan hier to the throne, managed to reconstitute the kingdom and, as king, decisively repulsed a renewed Burmese attack in 1593.

17th CE: Ayudhya was ain a major power.

1767: Ayudya was burned and vast tracts of territory were left as scorched earth by the Burmese forces.

The rise of the Bangkok Empire

Two Thai military leaders, Taksin and his general Chaophraya Chakri emerged:

Taksin background:

  • A Thai mother and a Chinese father

  • A provincial governor in 1767

  • Rallied an army, imposed his authority on a distracted people

  • Declared himself king and founded a new capital at Thonburi.

  • 1770s: he and his armies rebuilt an empire.

1778 : Armies under Chaophraya Chakri subdued Luang Prabang and captured Vientiane.

Chaophraya Chakri, Rama I (1782-1809) :

  • Born of a Thai father

  • Both military skills and great administrative and intellectual abilities

    • Repulse the Burmese in 1785 and 1786

    • Consolidate a Thai empire including all of mainland SE Asia excluding Burmese and Vietnamese territory, the northern Malay states.

    • Construct a new Capital, Bangkok in 1782

    • Rebuild administrative structures

    • Gather about his talented officials, jurists, scholars and artists

    • Revitalize Thai culture

Bangkok and the West

King Mongkut (Rama IV)

  • Reform of Thai Buddhism: Thammayutika sect was created.

  • Westernize the country: studying Western languages, Western science and mathematics, reform to a Western military organization and technology.

  • Sign a treaty with Britain in 1855

King Chulalongkorn (Rama V)

Territory lost:

  • King Mongkut

    • 1867: Cambodia (except for its western provinces) to the French

  • King Chulalongkorn

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