|The earliest civilization in Thailand was believed
to be the Mons who brought the Buddhist culture from India.
In the 12th century, the Khmer culture moved from the east,
the Sriyijaya culture moved north and the citizens of Nan Chao
(now southern China) migrated south. With this mix, the first
Siamese capital was created in Sukhothai, and later centers
in Chiang Mai and Ayuthaya.
These cities lasted for four centuries until the Burmese invaded
Siam and captured Chiang Mai and destroyed Ayuthaya. The Thais were
able to expel the Burmese and soon moved the capital to Thonburi.
In 1782, the Chakri dynasty was founded by King Rama and the capital
was moved to Bangkok, and the Royal Grand Palace was built.
The 20th century marked great change to the country. In 1932, a
coup converted the country into a constitutional monarchy and in
1939 Siam became what was known as Thailand. In WWII, the Thais
allied with the Japanese. After the war, Thailand experienced many
more coups and countercoups with experiments in democracy. Elections
in 1979 followed a period of stability and prosperity as power shifted
from the military to the business elite.
In February 1991, a military coup ousted the Chatichai government,
but a demonstration in May 1992 led to the reinstatement of a civilian
government. This government soon collapsed just a mere three years
later and was again replaced with Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa,
who ended up being no better. He was forced to relinquish his title
just over a year later after corruption and scandals. Former Deputy
Prime Minister Chavalit Yonghaiyudh headed a coalition until 1997,
when Chuan Leekpai took over as head of the government.
In 1997, the Thai baht collapsed, which caused the economy to sink
quickly. In August of that year, the International Monetary Fund
stepped in to bail out Thailand, but it slowed the growth dramatically
and hit the poor very hard. However, things started turn around
in 1998. At the millennium, the country’s economy had finally
stopped going into the free fall, but there were many poverty-stricken
citizens and plenty of corruption that could not be stopped.
The new Thai Rak Thai Party emerged as a force in Thai politics.
In parliamentary elections held in January 2001, Thai Rak Thai beat
the democrats led by Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai’s democrats.
In December 2004 the west-facing Andaman coast was hit by a tsunami,
killing more than 5000 people from all over the world. Hard hit
was the tropical islands and has significantly affected tourism,
which is a great part of Thailand’s economy. Worst affected
were small businesses and fishermen, whose buildings and boats were
lost to the waters. Devastated areas included Ao Lo Dalam on Phi
Phi Island and the Khao Lak/Takua Pa areas in Phang-Nga province.
However, many islands were able to open up businesses within just
days of the tsunami.