History
People
Religion

Language
Monarchy

 

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History
Archaeological discoveries around the north- east hamlet of Ban Chiang suggest that the world's oldest Bronze Age civilization was flourishing in Thailand some 5,600 years ago. Successive waves of immigrants, including Mons, Khmers and Thais, gradually entered the land mass now known as Thailand, most slowly traveling along fertile river valleys from southern China. By the 11th and 12th centuries, Khmers ruled much of the area from Angkor. By the early 1200s, Thais had established small northern city states in Lanna, Phayao and Sukhothai. In 1238, two Thai chieftains rebelled against Khmer suzerainty and established the first truly independent Thai kingdom in Sukhothai (literally, 'Dawn of Happiness'). Sukhothai saw the Thais' gradual expansion throughout the entire Chao Phraya River basin, the establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the paramount Thai religion, the creation of the Thai alphabet and the first expression of nascent Thai art forms, including painting, sculpture, architecture and literature. Sukhothai declined during the 1300s and eventually became a vassal state of Ayutthaya, a dynamic young kingdom further south in the Chao Phraya River valley. Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya remained the Thai capital until 1767 when it was destroyed by Burmese invaders. During Ayutthaya's 417 years as the capital, under the rule of 33 kings, the Thais brought their distinctive culture to full fruition, totally rid their lands of Khmer presence and fostered contact with Arabian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and European powers. Ayutthaya's destruction was as severe a blow to the Thais as the loss of Paris or London would have been to the French or English. However, a Thai revival occurred within a few months and the Burmese were expelled by King Taksin who later made Thon Buri his capital. In 1782, the first king of the present Chakri dynasty, Rama I, established his new capital on the site of a riverside hamlet called Bangkok (Village of Wild Plums). Two Chakri monarchs, Mongkut (Rama IV) who reigned between 1851 and 1868, and his son Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910) saved Thailand from western colonization through adroit diplomacy and selective modernization. Today, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. Since 1932, Thai kings including the present monarch, H.M. King Bhumipol Adulyadej have exercised their legislative powers through a national assembly, their executive powers through a cabinet headed by a prime minister, and their judicial powers through the law courts.

People
Throughout her long history, Thailand has gently absorbed immigrants. Many were skilled as writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians and architects, and helped enrich indigenous culture. People inhabiting Thailand today share rich ethnic diversity mainly Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Chinese, Malay, Persian and Indian stock with the result that there is no typically Thai physiognomy or physique. There are petite Thais, statuesque Thais, round-faced Thais, dark-skinned Thais and light-skinned Thais. Some 80% of all Thais are connected in some way with agriculture which, in varying degrees, influences and is influenced by the religious ceremonies and festivals that help make Thailand such a distinctive country.

Religion
Theravada Buddhism is the professed religion of more than 90% of all Thais, and casts strong influences on daily life. Buddhism first appeared in Thailand during the 3rd Century B.C. at Nakhon Pathom, site of the world's tallest Buddhist monument, after the Indian Buddhist Emperor Asoka (267-227 B.C.) dispatched missionaries to Southeast Asia to propagate the newly established faith. Besides molding morality, providing social cohesion and offering spiritual succor, Buddhism provided incomparable artistic impetus. In common with medieval European cathedrals, Thailand's innumerable multi-roofed temples inspired major artistic creation. Another reason for Buddhism's strength is that there are few Thai Buddhist families in which at least one male member has not studied the Buddha's teachings in a monastery. It has long been a custom for Buddhist males over twenty, once in their lifetimes, to be ordained for a period ranging from s days to a months. This usually occurs daring the annual Rains Retreat, a a-month period during the Rains Season when all monks forego travel and stay inside their monasteries. Besides sustaining monastic communities, Thai temples have traditionally served other purposes as the village hostelry, village news, employment and information agency, a school, hospital, dispensary and community center to give them vital roles in Thai society. The Thais have always subscribed to the ideal of religious freedom. Thus sizeable minorities of Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs freely pursue their respective faiths.

Language
Spoken and written Thai remain largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood, particularly in Bangkok where it is almost the major commercial language. English and other European languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants, in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nation-wide.

Monarchy
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty. Born in December 1927, in Cambridge, Massachusetts USA, where his father, Prince Mahidol of Songkhla was studying medicine at Harvard University, H.M. King Bhumibol ascended the throne in 1946 and is already the longest reigning Thai monarch. As a constitutional monarch, he maintains neutrality in times of crisis. 
Thai people have a deep and traditional reverence for the Royal Family. To a very large degree, H.M. King Bhumibol's popularity mirrors his deep interest in his people's welfare. He concerns himself intimately with      every aspect of Thai life. He and his wife, H.M. Queen Sirikit devote much of their time to inspect and improve the welfare of the people.

His Majesty the King's initials the Thai letters Phor Por Ror placed at the center of the crest, under the Royal    Crown and above the Royal Throne of the Eight Compass Points, signify that His Majesty is the focus of the entire nation, binding the people's hearts and loyalty. The yellow color of the letters is the color of His Majesty's day of birth, and the blue color of the background that of the monarchy. The surrounding discus (Chakra) with the Thai     numeral 9 means that King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth monarch of the Chakri Dynasty. The crest is flanked by two seven-tiered umbrellas and topped by a nine-tiered umbrella, both types symbols of kingship. The four-point border represents the four regions of the country, in which the people live in peace and tranquility under the King's supreme protection, as expressed by the green color, which is a symbol of peace and abundance. Each of the four points of the border has a lotus flower, an offering to His Majesty on the occasion of his sixth-cycle birthday anniversary. The golden rays around the crest signify His Majesty's grace and benevolence, which pervade the Kingdom and beyond, and bring pride and joy to the people throughout the entire land. Beneath the crest, a blue silk banner bears the inscription of the Celebration on the Auspicious Occasion of His Majesty's 6th-Cycle Birthday Anniversary on 5 December 1999

 

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