How did Thailand become a country

Thailand history

Middle Ages to the 15th century

The Thai people immigrated from China to what is now Thailand in the 12th century. Up to this point there had been various Buddhist (Dwarawati) and Hindu (Khmer) empires here. The Thais founded the Kingdom of Siam in the former Khmer city of Sukhothai around 1238, with Indratitya as the first ruler. Under King Rama Kamhaeng (1275-1317) the empire expanded many times over. In addition to the area of ‚Äč‚Äčtoday's Thailand, the south-east of Myanmar and the north of Laos also belonged to the territory of the empire at that time. After the king's death, the empire split into several independent Thai states. Under Rama Thibodi I, a new empire emerged with Ayutthaya (near today's Bangkok) as its center (1350-1369).

Modern times

In the 16th century, the Portuguese, who had established themselves on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, first made contact with the King of Siam, followed by the Spanish, Dutch, English and French. However, the Europeans did not succeed in colonizing the Thai Empire. After the magnificent capital of Siam, Ayutthaya, was completely destroyed by the invading Burmese in 1767, a new center emerged after the conquerors were driven out: Thon Buri in the estuary of the Menam Chao Phraya. Rama I. Thibodi (previously General Paya Chakri) was the founder of the Chakri dynasty, which ruled Thailand to this day, in 1782.

In the middle of the 19th century, the kingdom increasingly opened up to European influences, e.g. Great Britain was guaranteed free trade. Trade agreements have also been concluded with the USA and France. At about the same time, the slave trade and serfdom were abolished, and the postal system and administrative apparatus built on the Western model. Siam was the only state in Southeast Asia to remain independent, but lost parts of its territory to French Indochina (today's Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) and to the British. During the First World War, Siam sided with the Western European powers and was one of the founding members of the League of Nations in 1920.

From the beginning of the 20th century until today

Western ideas and the consequences of the global economic crisis at the beginning of the 1930s, which caused unrest in the population, led to the abdication of the ruling monarch Rama VII. Prajadipok (1935). Three years earlier, following a non-violent coup by the military, the absolute monarchy had been converted into a constitutional monarchy. In 1939 the country was officially renamed from Siam in Thailand (Prathet Thai, "Land of the Free"). At the end of the 1930s, the country terminated the treaties with the Western powers with the declared aim of reversing the territorial cedings of the previous century. Anti-Western and nationalist currents within the Pibul Songgram government led to an alliance with Japan and Nazi Germany in 1942. This alliance ended in 1944 with the overthrow of the military dictatorship and the formation of a new civil government. In 1946 Thailand became a member of the UN. A year later, a military government under Pibul Songgram took power again as prime minister for 10 years. This time Pibul Songgram was pro-western oriented. Thailand tied itself more closely to the USA. Until 1973, Thanom Kittikachorn (1957/58, 1963-73) and Sarit Thanarat (1958-63) ruled two dictatorial heads of government: They imposed martial law over the country, banned political parties and repealed the constitution. The orientation towards the USA and its support in the fight against communist rebels in the north of the country meant that the United States was able to use Thailand as an air force base in the Vietnam War. In 1973, after student unrest in Bangkok, numerous political parties and a civil government were founded, but this was replaced by a military government just three years later. In the following years there were numerous other changes of government, only partially due to election results. King Rama IX only rarely intervened. Bhumipol Adulyadej (since 1946), such as in 1992 when he strongly ordered parliamentary elections.

From the early 1980s to the mid 1990s, the country experienced strong economic growth based mainly on exports. This changed from 1997 when the local currency, the baht, lost more than half of its value and a severe economic crisis broke out. The problems of the economy resulted in frequent changes of government. In November 1997, the leader of the Democratic Party, Chuan Leekpai, became head of government of Thailand. His government managed to stabilize the Thai currency.

In the parliamentary elections in January 2001, the billionaire and former minister Thaksin Shinawatra prevailed against Leekpai. Despite ongoing corruption proceedings and significant election irregularities, he was appointed the new Prime Minister. Thaksin was re-elected in the 2005 elections, but there were renewed allegations of election fraud as well as populism and corruption. After the defeat of his party Thei Rak Thai ("Thais liebe Thais", TRT) in the early elections in 2006, Thaksin did not withdraw from office, contrary to his promise and despite massive protests Lieutenant General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin's leadership overthrew and went into exile. The TRT was banned and Thaksin was convicted of abuse of office two years later in absentia.

In October 2006, at the request of the so-called "Council for National Security", the king confirmed Surayud Chulanont as the new head of a transitional government. In August 2007, the people approved the new constitution submitted to a vote by the transitional government with only a narrow majority. In the same month the supporters of the ousted ex-prime minister Thaksin founded the party Phak Palang Prachachon ("People's Power Party", PPP) as a successor party to the banned TRT. From the election for the House of Representatives in December 2007, the PPP emerged as the clear winner. Their boss Samak Sundaravej was elected Prime Minister at the end of January 2008. The "Council for National Security" had disbanded a few days earlier. In the (coalition) government of Samak, the royalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is close to the military, was the only party to go into the opposition. Many offices in the new government were filled with supporters of Thaksin.

In the following months there were repeated protests against Samak, who was referred to by the monarchists as "Thaksin's puppet". He was also accused of inaction in combating food and energy price hikes. The situation finally escalated at the end of August after thousands of PAD supporters occupied the prime minister's office and several ministries. There were serious street battles between supporters of the government and the opposition. Samak, who rejected all requests to resign, had to resign in September because of a sideline job as a television cook. The parliament elected Samak's brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat (PPP) as his successor. This led to the worst unrest in Thailand in more than 15 years in Bangkok. At the end of November, tens of thousands of government opponents surrounded parliament and also drove the cabinet from its temporary office; other protesters occupied Bangkok's main airport. Finally, the Constitutional Court ordered the dissolution of the PPP due to electoral fraud, and Prime Minister Somchai had to resign. In December 2008 the parliament elected Abhisit Vejjajiva from the opposition PAD as his successor.

At the beginning of April 2009 the ASEAN summit in Pattaya, Thailand had to be canceled after hundreds of demonstrators of the "Red Shirts" (representatives of the "United Front for Democracy and Against Dictatorship", UDD) who were critical of the government stormed the conference venue. On April 7, the government temporarily declared a state of emergency. In the spring of 2010, the "red shirt" protests began to flare up again, occupying several streets in Bangkok. The so-called "Red Zone", in which the UDD activists had holed up, was finally evacuated by force by the military. Around 90 people died in the riots and around 2,000 were injured. In May 2010, an arrest warrant was issued for Thaksin and 11 protesters leaders were sentenced to death.

After the House of Representatives was dissolved by royal decree, parliamentary elections were held in July 2011. This was won by the "Pheu Thai" (PTP) party led by Yingluck Shinawatra, a sister of Thaksin Shinawatra. The second half of 2011 saw the largest flood disaster in half a century, killing almost 800 people. After street demonstrations by the opposition from October 2013 and the resignation of the opposition MPs, Yingluck dissolved parliament in December 2013. New elections were held in February 2014. However, since it was not possible to vote in numerous constituencies, these did not result in a new parliament. Parts of Bangkok had already been blocked by the demonstrators in January and February 2014. In early May, the Constitutional Court removed the Prime Minister and several cabinet members from their offices. On May 20, the Army Commander-in-Chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, declared martial law. Two days later, he staged a coup and placed the country under direct military rule.

Attacks by Muslim separatists in the southern provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla have resulted in more than 5,500 deaths since 2004. Attempts at an understanding on the part of the various governments have remained unsuccessful until today.