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(Khon Thai, Thai Noi), a nation, main population of Thailand. They are also called Siamese, since the country was called Siam until 1939. Population in Thailand, about 16 million (1970, estimate); in addition, about 50,000 live in Malaysia and Burma.
The Thai language is related to the Thai group. Their religion is Hinayana Buddhism; worship of various spirits is also prevalent.
The ancestors of the Central Thai began migrating from the southern parts of East Asia to the territory of Thailand as early as the beginning of the Common Era. Their movement gathered momentum particularly in the 11th and 12th centuries. Assimilating the more ancient Mon-Khmer population and borrowing much from its culture, the Central Thai formed a nationality by the 14th century and established the centralized Thai state. Their main occupations are fishing and farming (field crop cultivation, rice growing, market gardening, and orchard cultivation). The national proletariat is small. Handicrafts are well developed: both men’s (weaving and wood carving) and women’s (silk weaving and ceramics).