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(tī`lănd, –lənd), Thai Prathet Thai [land of the free], officially Kingdom of Thailand, constitutional monarchy (2015 est. pop. 68,658,000), 198,455 sq mi (514,000 sq km), Southeast Asia. Occupying a central position on the Southeast Asia peninsula, Thailand is bordered by Myanmar on the west and northwest, by Laos on the north and east (the Mekong River forms much of the line), by Cambodia on the southeast, and by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia on the south. A southward extension into the Malay Peninsula gives Thailand a long coastline on the Gulf of Thailand and on the Andaman Sea. BangkokBangkok
, Thai Krung Thep, city (1990 pop. 8,538,610), capital of Thailand and of Bangkok prov., SW Thailand, on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, near the Gulf of Thailand.
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 is the capital and by far the largest city.

Land and People

Thailand has a tropical, monsoonal climate. The heart of the country, the fertile and thickly populated central plain, is dotted with numerous rice paddies, entirely flat and rarely more than a few feet above sea level. It is watered by the Chao Phraya and lesser rivers and is elaborately veined by a system of canals (called klongs) for irrigation and drainage. Bangkok and AyutthayaAyutthaya
, or Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
, city (1990 pop. 61,185), capital of Ayutthaya prov., S central Thailand, on the Chao Phraya River. It is the trade center for a prosperous rice-growing region. Ayutthaya was the capital of a Thai kingdom founded c.
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, the old capital, are in that basin.

The north is mountainous, with peaks rising to c.8,500 ft (2,590 m); mountains stretch south along the boundary with Myanmar on the west. Forests in the north yield teak, although overcutting has decreased Thailand's forest reserves severely. Although the population in the north is relatively sparse, rice is intensively cultivated in the river valleys, and one of the country's major cities, Chiang MaiChiang Mai
or Chiengmai
, city (1990 pop. 164,902), capital of Chiang Mai prov., N Thailand, on the Ping River, near the Myanmar border. It is the economic, cultural, and religious center of the northern provinces.
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, is in that area.

Most of NE and E Thailand is occupied by the Korat (Khorat) plateau, which is cut off from the rest of the country by highlands and the Phetchabun Mts. It is a hilly, dry, and generally poor region, where livestock raising is dominant. Chief towns are Nakhon RatchasimaNakhon Ratchasima
or Korat
, city (1990 pop. 204,121), capital of Nakhon Ratchasima prov., S central Thailand, on the Mun River. Strategically located near the mountain pass leading from the central plain to NE Thailand, Nakhon Ratchasima is the administrative,
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 (Korat), Udon Thani, and Ubon Ratchathani.

Peninsular Thailand in the south (which includes PhuketPhuket
, island, 206 sq mi (534 sq km), a province of Thailand, in the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of the Malay Peninsula. The town of Phuket is the capital. Flat, with isolated hills, the island was one of Thailand's chief tin-mining regions, but now resort tourism is the
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 and other offshore islands) is largely mountainous and covered with jungles. It is the principal source of the rubber and tin that make Thailand a major world producer of both. Chief towns of the peninsula are Hat Yai and Songkhla, the second largest port of the country.

While 75% of the people are ethnically Thai, the country has a large Chinese minority, accounting for almost 15% of the population. Local trade is chiefly in the hands of the Chinese, and as a consequence there has been substantial tension between Thais and Chinese. Other sizable minorities include the Muslim Malays, concentrated in the southern peninsula; the hill tribes of the north; the Khmers, or Cambodians, who are found in the southeast and on the Cambodian border; and the Vietnamese, who live along the Mekong River. While the ethnic minorities generally speak their own languages, Thai (linguistically related to Chinese) is the official tongue; English predominates among the Western languages. Theravada Buddhism is the state religion; some 95% of the people are Buddhists, while about 5% are Muslims.


Agriculture employs almost 50% of the population but makes up only 10% of the gross domestic product. Rice is by far the leading commercial crop, followed by rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, and soybeans. Thailand's teak, once a major export, is still a valuable commodity. Marine and freshwater fisheries are important; fish provide most of the protein in the diet, and some of the deep-sea catches (mackerel, shark, shrimp, crab) are exported. Thailand is also a major exporter of farmed shrimp. Tin and tungsten are the most valuable minerals and major export items. Lead, zinc, and antimony are also mined for export. Iron ore, gold, precious and semiprecious stones (especially saphires and rubies), salt, lignite, petroleum, natural gas, asphaltic sand, and glass sand are exploited on a smaller scale.

Thailand has substantial hydroelectric potential, which is being developed; projects have been constructed on the Ping, Mekong, Phong, and Songkhram rivers. Industry is growing. Much industry is focused on the processing of agricultural products; rice milling is by far the most important, followed by sugar refining, textile spinning and weaving, and the processing of rubber, tobacco, and forest products. The manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment, including appliances and computers and integrated circuits, became important in the late 20th cent., causing a substantial rise in the per capita gross domestic product. Lumbering is concentrated in the north. Other industries include steel production, oil refining, tin smelting, vehicle and machine assembly, and vehicle parts. Small factories, many of which are in the Bangkok area, manufacture jewelry, furniture, plastics, glass, and pharmaceuticals. Tourism is the leading source of foreign exchange, and handicraft production has a ready market in the tourist trade. Thailand is also a major transshipment point for illicit heroin and has become a drug-money-laundering center. The main exports are textiles and footwear, fishery products, rice, rubber, computers and electronics, automobiles and auto parts, electrical appliances, and jewelry. The chief imports are capital and consumer goods, raw materials, and fuels. The main trading partners are Japan, the United States, China, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Bangkok is a key point on round-the-world air routes. It is the political, commercial, cultural, and transportation center of the country, with the only port that can accommodate oceangoing vessels. Thailand's railroads originate in Bangkok and extend to Chiang Mai, the Korat plateau, and to Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia; a corresponding network of paved highways has been constructed. Thailand's inland waterways—a complex, interconnected system of rivers, streams, and canals—have been important arteries since ancient times; barges and boats still carry well over half the cargo moved in the central plain.


Thailand is governed under the constitution of 2017. The king is the head of state. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the king, and may serve for eight years. The National Assembly consists of the Senate, whose 250 members serve five-year terms, and the House of Representatives, whose 500 members serve four-year terms. Senators are appointed by the military. Representatives are elected from constituencies (350) or on a proportional basis. Adminstratively the country is divided into 76 provinces.


Early History

Like other countries of Southeast Asia, Thailand in prehistoric times was peopled through successive migrations from central Asia into territory already inhabited by the Negrito peoples. Although a few Thai groups (ethnically related to the Shan of Myanmar and the Lao of Laos) migrated to the northern hill country of Thailand, the main body of Thais remained in Yunnan, China, where by A.D. 650 they had organized the independent kingdom of Nanchao. By 1000, however, the Chinese had overrun Nanchao and made it a tributary state. With the destruction of the kingdom of Nanchao by the Mongols under Kublai Khan in 1253, the slow infiltration of Thailand from the north turned into a mass migration. By that time the Khmer EmpireKhmer Empire
, ancient kingdom of SE Asia. In the 6th cent. the Cambodians, or Khmers, established an empire roughly corresponding to modern Cambodia and Laos. Divided during the 8th cent., it was reunited under the rule of Jayavarman II in the early 9th cent.
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 was well established in the Chao Phraya valley and on the Korat plateau.

The Thais captured the Khmer town of Sukhothai, in N central Thailand, and a new Thai nation, with its capital at Sukhothai, soon developed. During this period (c.1260–1350), King Rama Kamheng, whose 40-year reign began c.1275, borrowed from the Khmers of Cambodia the alphabet that the Thais still use. He extended Sukhothai power southward to the sea and down the Malay Peninsula, and contact was made with India. After the death of Rama Kamheng, Sukhothai declined and was absorbed by Rama Tibodi, prince of Utong, who established (c.1350) a new capital at Ayutthaya. The kings of Ayutthaya consolidated their power in S Siam and the Malay Peninsula, then launched a long series of indecisive wars against the Lao state of Chiang Mai and against Cambodia, which did not end until the 19th cent. The 16th cent. saw the beginnings of warfare with the Burmese; in 1568 the Burmese captured Ayutthaya and dominated the country until c.1583, when King Naresuan (1555–1605) drove them from Siam. He captured Tanintharyi and Dawei in S Myanmar and the major port of Myeik.

Contacts with Europe

Siam's relations with the West commenced after 1511, when Portuguese traders and missionaries began to arrive. Adroit diplomacy, developed during this time, enabled Siam to remain independent of European colonization, the only country in Southeast Asia able to do so. In the early 17th cent. the Dutch and British broke Portugal's monopoly. Siam became, so far as Europe was concerned, the most consequential kingdom in Southeast Asia, and the brilliance of its court under King Narai (reigned 1657–88) was proverbial. The French, aided by the Greek adventurer Constantine Phaulkon, who had risen to power at the Siamese court, launched a bid for dominance in Siam that provoked an antiforeign coup (1688). Phaulkon was executed, and Siam was closed to most foreigners for over a century.

The Building of a Modern State

In 1767 the Burmese, after several attempts, finally destroyed Ayutthaya. Gen. Phya Tak, or Taksin, however, quickly rallied the Thai forces, and within a decade he drove (c.1777) the Burmese from the country and established his capital at Thon Buri. His successor, General Chakkri (reigned 1782–1809), later known as Rama I, moved the capital from Thon Buri across the river to Bangkok and founded the Chakkri dynasty, thereafter the ruling house of Siam. In the 19th cent. the authority of Bangkok was at last established over N Siam, and relations with the West were resumed; Siam signed commercial treaties with Great Britain (1826) and the United States (1833). The independence of the kingdom was threatened, however, when Great Britain extended its sway to Malaya and Burma, and France carved out an empire in Indochina.

By opening their posts to European trade, by bringing in Western advisers, by strengthening the central administration as against the hereditary provincial chieftains, and by playing off British against French interests, the Siamese managed to stay free. Even so, the establishment of Siam's boundaries meant the surrender of its claims to Laos (1893) and parts of Cambodia (1907) and of its suzerainty over Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, and Terengganu (1909), on the Malay Peninsula. The Pattani sultanate (now Thailand's three southern provinces), however, was annexed in 1902. The Westernization of Siam took place under an absolute monarchy and was chiefly the work of Mongkut (reigned 1851–68), or Rama IV, and his son Chulalongkorn (reigned 1868–1910), or Rama V. Siam became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, when a bloodless coup forced Prajadhipok (reigned 1925–35), Rama VII, to grant a constitution.

Pibul and Pridi

The two young leaders of the coup, Pibul Songgram and Pridi Phanomyang, both educated in Europe and influenced by Western ideas, came to dominate Thai politics in the ensuing years. In 1934 the first general elections were held; a year later Prajadhipok abdicated, and a council of regency chose Ananda (reigned 1935–46) as Rama VIII. Pibul Songgram, a militarist, became prime minister in 1938. He changed the country's name to Thailand and instituted a program of expansion. Taking advantage of the initial French defeat (1940) in World War II, he renewed Thai claims in Cambodia and Laos. Japanese "mediation" resulted (1941) in territorial concessions to Thailand. In Dec., 1941, Pibul, despite the objections of Pridi Phanomyang, permitted the Japanese to enter Thailand, and in 1942 the government, under Japanese pressure, declared war on Great Britain and the United States.

With the help of the United States, Pridi formed a militant anti-Japanese underground. In 1943, Japan "granted" to Thailand territory in N Malaya and in the Shan states of Myanmar, but after the war Thailand was forced to return these territories and those acquired in 1941 to French and British control. Pridi Phanomyang became prime minister in the postwar government, while Pibul was briefly jailed as a war criminal. Pridi restored the name Siam as a repudiation of Pibul's policies. Inflation, corruption in government, and the mysterious death (1946) of King Ananda all contributed to the overthrow (1947) of Pridi's government by Pibul. Pridi fled the country and in 1954 appeared in Beijing as the professed leader of the Communist "Free Thai" movement, allegedly representing numerous Thais still in Yunnan, China.

Under Pibul's military dictatorship, the name Thailand was again adopted. Bhumibol AdulyadejBhumibol Adulyadej
, 1927–2016, king of Thailand (1946–2016), b. Cambridge, Mass. A member of the Chakri dynasty, he was at school in Switzerland when his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, died (1946) under mysterious circumstances.
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, Rama IX, was crowned king in 1950 after a four-year regency. Thailand signed (1950) a technical and economic aid agreement with the United States and sent troops in support of the United Nations action in Korea. Thailand has received huge military grants from the United States and was the seat (1954–77) of the Southeast Asia Treaty OrganizationSoutheast Asia Treaty Organization
(SEATO), alliance organized (1954) under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty by representatives of Australia, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and the United States.
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. The country, apprehensive over its proximity to China, remained consistently pro-Western in international outlook.

Modern Thailand

In 1957 a military coup led by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat overthrew Pibul Songgram and made Gen. Thanom KittikachornThanom Kittikachorn
, 1911–2004, Thai political and military leader. He entered the army in 1929, rising to command of a division by 1950. After supporting a coup in 1957 by Sarit Thanarat, he served (1957–63) as defense minister and was (1957–58) also briefly
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 prime minister. In 1958, however, with the stated purpose of combating Communism, Sarit deposed Thanom, suspended the constitution, and declared martial law. King Bhumibol Adulyadej proclaimed an interim constitution in 1959 and named Sarit prime minister. When Sarit died in 1963, Thanom Kittikachorn was returned to power. A new constitution was finally promulgated in 1968. Under Sarit and Thanom the country's economy in the 1960s continued to boom, spurred by a favorable export market and considerable U.S. aid. Thailand strongly supported the U.S. policy in South Vietnam, providing bases for U.S. troops and airfields for strikes against the North Vietnamese; thousands of Thai troops were sent in support of South Vietnam. The nation's foreign policy was closely geared to the U.S. presence in Southeast Asia and its economy became increasingly dependent upon U.S. military spending and subsidies. Thailand became one of the founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian NationsAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN), organization established by the Bangkok Declaration (1967), linking the nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
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 (ASEAN) in 1967.

Economic reversals came in 1970 when the international demand for rice dropped substantially (due in part to improved farming techniques in other countries) and the prices of tin and rubber fell; for the first time since 1933, Thailand suffered a trade deficit. In addition, the security of the country appeared threatened by the spread of the Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
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 into Cambodia and Laos and by growing insurgencies, chiefly Communist led, in three separate areas within Thailand itself: in the south, where Malaysian Communists used Thailand as a staging base for operations in Malaysia and Thai Malay separatists mounted an insurgency that continued into the 1980s; in the north, where Communists trained in North Vietnam were believed to be organizing the hill peoples; and, most significantly, in the economically backward northeastern provinces, where a discontented minority had been active since the mid-1950s.

The increasing economic and security problems prompted a coup in Nov., 1971, by Thanom Kittikachorn and three military aides, in which they abolished the constitution and the parliament and imposed military rule. Guerrilla raids against both Thai government forces and U.S. air bases continued. Economic conditions improved throughout 1972 as large numbers of U.S. military personnel were transferred from South Vietnam to bases in Thailand; by June of that year there were more U.S. forces in Thailand than in South Vietnam.

In Oct., 1973, the military regime of Thanom was toppled after a week of student demonstrations and violence in Bangkok. King Bhumibol Adulyadej appointed Sanya Thammasak as Thanom's successor, giving Thailand its first civilian prime minister in twenty years. He promised to complete a constitution and to hold general elections. In May, 1974, citing the heavy burden of the office and the sharp criticism directed against the government, Sanya resigned, but he was soon persuaded to form a new government. In June he was sworn in as the head of a revamped, all-civilian cabinet. A new constitution was promulgated in Oct., 1974. Over the next few years the civilian government made little headway in establishing its authority. In 1976, the military took control of the government once again, but repressive policies led to a second coup in 1977 that made Kriangsak Chomanan prime minister. After he resigned in 1980 amid increased economy problems, another military leader, Prem TinsulanondaPrem Tinsulanonda,
1920–2019, Thai military and political leader. After serving in the Thai army, where he rose to become commander in chief (1978), he entered politics.
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, succeeded him, presiding over economic development and surviving two attempted coups; he stepped down in 1988, refusing an additional term. He was succeeded by Chatichai Choonhavan, of the Chart Thai (Thai Nation) party, who was overthrown in 1991.

From the late 1970s, Thailand's political concerns were dominated by pressures resulting from warfare in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and serious unrest in Myanmar (Burma); Thailand also experienced a massive influx of refugees from these countries. From 1975 onward, Thailand was a way station for Hmong refugees immigrating to the United States under its resettlement program. The Khmer Rouge used Thailand as a staging area after they were driven out of Cambodia by the Vietnamese, and internal fighting within the Cambodian government in 1997 sent a new flow of refugees into Thailand.

In 1992 there were signs of popular opposition to continued military rule and, after antigovernment demonstrators were killed, King Bhumibol Adulyadej appointed a civilian as interim prime minister. In the Sept., 1992, elections, parties opposed to the military won a majority, and Chuan Leekpai became prime minister of a coalition government. In Jan., 1995, parliament approved a package of constitutional reforms that lowered the voting age to 18, guaranteed equal rights for women, and reduced membership in the military-dominated senate. New elections were held in July, 1995, after Chuan's government fell because of a land-reform scandal; the Chart Thai party won a slight plurality, and Banharn Silpa-archaBanharn Silpa-archa,
1932–2016, Thai businessman and political leader. Born into a family of ethnic Chinese traders, he grew wealthy during the 1960s economic boom and became a political power broker in Suphanburi province.
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 became prime minister, heading a seven-party coalition. His government collapsed in Dec., 1996, and he was succeeded by Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. However, Chavalit resigned under pressure in Nov., 1997, and Chuan Leekpai once again became prime minister. A new constitution was approved in Sept., 1997.

Despite its unsteady political climate, Thailand appeared to have one of the strongest economies in SE Asia. However, following years of speculation in the real estate market and growing corruption in government, its currency plummeted in July, 1997, setting off a crisis in Asian financial markets and plunging the country into a deep recession. The International Monetary Fund pledged to provide Thailand with a $17 billion rescue package, and by 2000 the economy was experiencing a recovery, but the economic pain led in a loss of support for the government. Elections in Jan., 2001, resulted in a victory for the Thai Rak Thai party (Thais Love Thais; TRT) and its allies, the Chart Thai and Khwam Wang Mai (New Aspiration) parties. Thaksin ShinawatraThaksin Shinawatra
, 1949–, Thai business executive and political leader, b. Chiang Mai. Born into a wealthy merchant family, he went into the Thai police service in 1973 and continued his criminal-justice education in the United States.
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 of the TRT became prime minister, but an anticorruption commission accused him of concealing his assets, raising the possibility that he would be banned from politics for five years. Thailand's high court, however, cleared him in a close decision in August. The new government has privatized a number of state-owned companies, but it also has been marked by investigations into and disclosures of significant corruption.

In 2004 there were attacks by Muslim separatists in Thailand's three southern provinces. Muslims, who are in the majority in the provinces, complained of discrimination in education and employment. The situation there evolved into an ongoing conflict, exacerbated by the sometimes excessive response of the Thai police and military. Militant attacks against nonsecurity targets as the conflict became prolonged, however, also alienated many Muslims.

In Dec., 2004, areas of S Thailand along the Indian Ocean were devastated by a tsunami; an estimated 8,000 people, some of them foreign tourists, died. The government's response to the disaster and the nation's generally improved economic conditions resulted in strong support for the TRT and the prime minister in the Feb., 2005, parliamentary elections, and the governing coalition increased its majority in the lower house. The continuing attacks by Muslim separatists in the south led the prime minister to assume emergency powers in July, 2005.

Meanwhile, Thai publisher Sondhi Limthongkul, a former ally of the prime minister, began publicly criticizing Thaksin for corruption and poor government performance, first on his television program and, after being forced off the air in Aug., 2005, at public rallies. Thaksin responded with libel suits, and there were attacks on Sondhi's offices. In Dec., 2005, the king, in a rare criticism of the government, rebuked Thaksin for suing Sondhi, and the prime minister subsequently withdrew his lawsuits.

A controversial stock sale (Jan., 2006) by Thaksin's children, who sold a nearly 50% stake in the family communications business to a Singapore-government-owned company and legally avoided taxes on the deal, gave new life to anti-government protests. In February the prime minister called a snap election, but the opposition boycotted the April vote. The TRT won a majority of the seats, but 10% of the constituencies failed to elect a representative (all seats must be filled for a government to be formed) and there was a sizable number of abstentions. Thaksin announced he would step aside and "rest," but he did not resign as prime minister as demanded by the opposition. A second ballot in late April still failed to fill all the seats, leading the king to call on the courts to resolve the problem. In May the Constitutional Court ruled the election invalid.

Thaksin resumed his post later in the month, and a new election was tentatively scheduled for October. Meanwhile the late April election of the senate, intended to be independent but dominated by Thaksin supporters, was marred by vote-buying. In June Thaksin said he would support the proposals by a national commission for the three southern provinces; it recommended establishing a regional administrative body to oversee the provinces, using of Malay as a local "working" government language, and avoiding military responses in favor of resolving the problems that had produced the unrest. In mid-June there was a coordinated string of some 40 bombings in the south.

In mid-September the Thai election commission postponed the October parliamentary elections, but shortly thereafter, with Thaksin abroad, the military overthrew him. Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the head of the army and close to the king, led the coup. He was named head of the Council of National Security, which under the interim constitution became Thailand's most powerful body. A retired general, Surayud Chulanont, was appointed prime minister in October, and a hand-picked unicameral legislature was also appointed. The same month the new government agreed to talks with Muslim rebels in S Thailand, and then revived a former government agency for the region; the dissolution of the agency had contributed to the unrest in the south. The policy changes did not, however, reduce rebel attacks, which continued into subsequent years and increased in frequency and brutality.

Meanwhile, in Mar., 2007, Thaksin's wife and others were charged with evading taxes in a 1997 share transfer, and the following month his children were order by a Thai anticorruption committee to pay $616 million in taxes and fines as a result of their 2006 sales of stock in the family telecommunications firm. The government moved in June to seize $1.5 billion in assets belonging to Thaksin and his wife, and also ordered him to return to face corruption charges; he remained in exile. The previous month a court had ordered the TRT party disbanded for breaking the electoral laws in 2006; Thaksin was barred from politics for five years. Warrants were subsequently issued for the arrest of Thaksin and his wife on corruption charges.

In Aug., 2007, Thai voters approved a new constitution in a referendum, which was subsequently endosed by the king. Air Chief Marshal Chalit Pukbhasuk succeeded Sonthi as national security council leader in Oct., 2007. In the parliamentary elections in December, the People Power party (PPP), led by an ally of Thaksin and drawing on Thaksin's rural support, won a plurality of the seats; the vote was seen as a repudiation of the coup. Thaksin's wife returned to Thailand from exile in Jan., 2008. In February the PPP formed a six-party coalition government, with PPP leader Samak SundaravejSamak Sundaravej
, 1935–2009, Thai political leader, prime minister of Thailand (2008), b. Bangkok. He earned a law degree from Thammasat Univ., Bangkok, then worked as a journalist, and continued to work in the media after entering politics, at times running a newspaper
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 as prime minister and many former Thaksin aides in key posts; later that month Thaksin returned to Thailand. In July, one party left the governing coalition because of the PPP's focus on constitutional reform. The opposition, known as Yellow Shirts (yellow being the color traditional associated with the monarchy), began mounting increasing confrontational protests against the government in mid-2008; beginning in August they occupied the grounds of the prime minister's office.

Thai government support for naming the Preah VihearPreah Vihear
, Thai Phra Viharn , Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, N central Cambodia near the Thai border. Situated on the edge of a plateau overlooking the N Cambodian plain, the temple was begun in the 9th cent. and completed in the 11th cent.
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 (Phra Viharn) temple a UNESCO World Heritage site stoked antigovernment demonstrations and led to tensions with Cambodia in July, 2008. Awarded to Cambodia in 1962, the temple is claimed by both nations. The nationalistic outpouring in Thailand, in which opposition groups asserted the government action had undermined Thailand's claim on the temple, led both nations to reinforce their troops along the border near the temple, creating concern about an outbreak of border fighting. In Aug., 2008, both nations agreed to reduce greatly their forces near the temple, but tensions continued. There were subsequent sporadic clashes over the site, most significantly in Feb., 2011, and in Apr., 2011, there were clashes there and at other disputed sites. In Dec., 2011, both governments agreed to withdraw their troops from the disputed areas around Preah Vihear, and a demilitarized zone was established there in July, 2012. Most of the disputed territory was awarded in 2013 to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice. Meanwile, in Aug., 2008, Thaksin and his wife fled Thailand for Great Britain after she was convicted of tax fraud; he had been charged with abuse of power and other crimes and was convicted in absentia of corruption in Oct., 2008.

In Sept., 2008, days of antigovernment protest in Bangkok sparked clashes between anti- and progovernment demonstrators; clashes also occurred in October and November. Prime Minister Samak was dismissed from office in September by the Constitutional Court; it ruled that Samak's hosting of a television cooking show violated Thailand's conflict of interest law. He was succeeded by Somchai Wongsawat, a former judge and Thaksin's brother-in-law. In late November antigovernment protesters also began a blockade of Bangkok's airports, with damaging consequences for Thailand's tourist industry and agricultural exports. Early the following month the Constitutional Court ruled that the PPP and two smaller coalition parties had engaged in vote buying in the last election; Somchai was barred from politics and the three parties dissolved. Yellow Shirt activists subsequently ended their protests and blockades. The opposition Democrat party succeeded in forming a governing coalition later in December; party leader Abhisit VejjajivaAbhisit Vejjajiva
, 1964–, Thai politician, prime minister of Thailand (2008–11), b. Newcastle, England. Born into a wealthy Thai-Chinese family, Abhisit was educated in England and Thailand and held several British and Thai university teaching posts prior to
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 became prime minister.

Thaksin supporters, known as "Red Shirts" for the color they used to distinguish themselves from the Yellow Shirts, subsequently mounted demonstrations against the new government. In late March the protests in Bangkok became significant, and in mid-April protestors forced the cancellation of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit; demonstrations were also reported in northern and northeastern provinces. Abhisit declared a state of emergency (which lasted two weeks), and used the military to suppress the protests in the capital. In Nov., 2009, Cambodia's naming of Thaksin as a government adviser strained relations between the two nations again.

In Mar., 2010, Thaksin supporters again mounted signficant demonstations in the capital against Abhisit in an attempt to force him to resign and call new elections; the government again declared a state of emergency. In April the ongoing protests erupted into fighting between the Red Shirts and security forces, and hundreds were injured. Abhisit subsequently placed the army commander in chief in charge of national security. In May, after increasing tensions, the government forcibly reestablished control over Bangkok; in response, protesters set fire to a number of buildings, and there were also riots in a number of cities in NE Thailand (a Red Shirt stronghold). The government subsequently also issued an arrest warrant for Thaksin, on terrorism charges relating to the two-month protest. Not until December was emergency rule lifted in all provinces.

In the June, 2011, elections for the House of Representatives, the pro-Thaksin For Thais party (Phuea Thai party, PTP), led by Thaksin's sister Yingluck ShinawatraYingluck Shinawatra
1967–, Thai business executive and political leader, first female prime minister of Thailand (2011–14), grad. Chiang Mai Univ. (B.A., 1988), Kentucky State Univ. (M.P.A., 1991).
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, won a majority of the seats and subsequently formed a coalition government with a number of smaller parties; Yingluck became Thailand's first woman prime minister. In the 2011 monsoon season (August–October) unusually heavy rains resulted in weeks of significant flooding in three quarters of the country's provinces; it was the worst flooding in half a century. More than 750 persons died, and some areas continued to be affected into early 2012; the disruption to manufacturing caused an economic slowdown.

In Nov., 2013, the amendment of a political amnesty bill to include Thaksin led to a legislative walkout of opposition Democrats, and sparked demonstrations against the government that continued into 2014 despite the failure of the bill to pass the Senate. In December Yingluck dissolved parliament and announced new elections, which the PTP was expected to win; the Democrats announced a boycott of the elections, and demonstrators attempted to disrupt the preparations for them. In Jan., 2014, the government imposed a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces.

The Feb., 2014, elections were blocked by protests in a number of districts, and the constitutional court subsequently declared the voting invalid as a result. Yingluck and nine cabinet members were ordered to step down in May, 2014, after the constitutional court ruled the government had acted illegally in transferring the national security chief in 2011. Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, the commerce minister, became caretaker prime minister, but the army, led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ochaPrayuth Chan-ocha
, 1954–, Thai army officer and political leader. After training at the Royal Military Academy, he joined the Thai army in 1972, rising to become chief of staff (2008) and then commander in chief (2010).
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, subsequently seized power in a coup.

An interim constitution, adopted in July, led to the appointment by the junta, or National Council for Peace and Order, of a legislative assembly. Ultimate power, however, remained with the military, and in August Prayuth became prime minister. Elections under a new constitution were slated for late 2015, but the National Reform Council rejected a proposed constitution in Sept., 2015. In Jan., 2015, Yingluck was impeached (despite no longer being in office) and banned from office for five years, ostensibly over corruption in a financially unviable subsidy program for rice farmers; she was later fined (2016) and then convicted of negligence (2017) in the case but fled Thailand before the 2017 verdict.

A new draft constitution was widely criticized for giving too much power to the military and weakening the major political parties, but it was adopted in an Aug., 2016, referendum; the southern Muslim Malay regions opposed it. The king died in Oct., 2016. After delaying his accession until December for a period of mourning, the crown prince succeeded his father as King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun; he endorsed the new constitution, with some modifications to preserve royal perogatives, in Apr., 2017. The new king was officially crowned two years later, in May, 2019. The postponed elections were finally held in Mar., 2019. Palang Parcharath, aligned with Prayuth, won a plurality of the votes, while the Thaksin-aligned Pheu Thai won a plurality of the seats, but opposition parties failed to win a lower house majority. Prayuth remained (June) prime minister, due to the military's control of the upper house and the support of many smaller parties. The third largest party, the opposition Future Forward, was banned in Feb., 2020, after the constitutional court ruled that a loan to the party by its leader was an illegal donation. Beginning in July, there were recurring student-led protests calling for Prayuth to resign and for reform of the monarchy.


See Sir John Bowring, The Kingdom and People of Siam (2 vol., 1857; repr. 1972); K. P. Landon, The Chinese in Thailand (1941, repr. 1973); J. Nakahara and R. A. Witton, Development and Conflict in Thailand (1971); R. Syamananda, A History of Thailand (1971); D. K. Wyatt, Thailand, A Short History (1984); C. F. Keyes, Thailand: Buddhist Kingdom as Modern Nation State (1987); S. Bundongkarn, The Military in Thai Politics, 1981–1986 (1988).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Thailand is a state in Southeast Asia, situated primarily on the Indochina Peninsula and the peninsula’s southern extremity, the northern portion of the Malay Peninsula. It is bounded by the Gulf of Thailand of the South China Sea on the south and the Andaman Sea on the southwest. It borders on Burma to the west, Laos and Cambodia (Kampuchea) to the east, and Malaysia to the south. The country includes a number of small islands. Area, 514,000 sq km. Population, 42 million (1975). The capital is Bangkok. Administratively, Thailand is divided into provinces, or changwats.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. The head of state is the king. The highest legislative body, the National Legislative Assembly, consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The 225 senators are appointed by the prime minister for a six-year term. The House of Representatives consists of 301 deputies elected by the population for four-year terms.

Coastline. The coastline of Thailand is about 2,500 km long. The shores are primarily low-lying and frequently swampy; there are numerous rias and estuaries on the western coast of the Malay Peninsula.

Terrain. More than half of Thailand is occupied by low-lying plains, including the Chao Phraya Lowland. Mountains, including the Khun Tan and Tanen Taunggyi ranges, with elevations to 2,576 m, at Inthanon Peak, cover almost the entire remainder of the country, primarily in the north and west. The mountains extend meridionally, reaching the Malay Peninsula. In the southeast, the Kravanh mountains stretch along Thailand’s border with Cambodia. Eastern Thailand is occupied by the Khorat Plateau, which gradually rises toward the south, west, and north from 150 to 500 m and more, forming the Dang Raek upland and the low Dong Phraya Fai and Phu Phan mountains.

Geological structure and mineral resources. The mountain systems in northern, western, and southern Thailand are associated with the Paleozoic geosynclinal folded region of southern Asia, which was active in the Mesozoic period. The mountains are composed of Paleozoic and Triassic shales, sandstones, limestones, and effusive rocks, which enclose large bodies of granites. In the east, the Khorat Plateau is composed of Mesozoic sandstones with a gentle bedding angle. A tectonic basin filled with friable Cenozoic deposits up to 5–7 km thick is located under the Chao Phraya Lowland and on the shelf of the Gulf of Thailand.

Thailand is second (after Indonesia) among the capitalist and developing countries in terms of total reserves of tin (1.22 million tons). Deposits of tin are associated with Mesozoic granites, to which deposits of tungsten ores (20,000 tons) are also confined. Paleozoic structures include deposits of antimony, fluorite, lead, zinc, barite, and iron and manganese ores; there are also deposits of rubies and sapphires in the west, brown coal on the Malay Peninsula and in the north, common salt on the Malay Peninsula and in the Bangkok region, potassium chloride on the Khorat Plateau, and oil in the west and south. Oil has also been discovered on the shelf of the Gulf of Thailand.

Climate. Thailand has a subequatorial monsoonal climate. The average temperature on the plains and in the foothill regions ranges from 22° to 29°C (the warmest month is May); on the Malay Peninsula, monthly average temperatures are 27°–29°C, and in the mountains of the north, the winter temperature falls to 10°–15°C. Three seasons are distinguishable in northern and central Thailand—a warm, dry winter, a hot, dry spring, and a warm, moist summer and fall. There are two seasons on the Malay Peninsula—a more moist summer and a less moist winter. Typhoons occur in the summer and fall. Annual precipitation is more than 1,000 mm on the Chao Phraya Lowland, less than 900 mm in some places on the Khorat Plateau, and up to 3,000 mm (in places, even more) in the mountainous regions bordering on Burma, Laos, and Cambodia.

Rivers and lakes. The Chao Phraya River, which has a high water level, is—along with its tributaries—of the greatest importance to the economic life of Thailand. The rivers are used for irrigation and navigation. The Mekong River runs along the eastern and part of the northeastern border of Thailand; its right tributary, the Mun, crosses the Khorat Plateau. A short section of the Salween runs along the western border. The rivers are fed primarily by rain, and they carry large quantities of suspended matter. The river regimen is of the monsoonal type, with freshets 5–10 m high in September and October. At that time, heavy floods occur on the Chao Phraya Lowland and in the eastern section of the Khorat Plateau. There are large reservoirs on the Ping River and in the basin of the Mun. There are few lakes; the largest lake is Thale Luang, on the Malay Peninsula.

Soils and flora. Forests cover about 60 percent of Thailand. Dense multistratum subequatorial rain forests up to 50–60 m high are found on the Malay Peninsula and the outer slopes of the mountains surrounding the Khorat Plateau. They grow on lateritic red earths and yellow soils and are distinguished by their great diversity of species (about 10,000), including various dipterocarps, figs and banyans, mimosas, screw pines, palms, and bananas. There are numerous ferns, lianas, and epiphytes, as well as bamboo thickets. Tropical forests on red earths, with teak, sal tree, and mahogany, occupy large areas in the north. Monsoonal forests of oak and pine, which drop their leaves during the dry season, are prevalent on the leeward slopes in the northern and central regions, and also on the Khorat Plateau, on cinnamonic soils. Farther south, bamboo forests become common, and on the Khorat Plateau there are high-grass savannas and shrubs on reddish brown soils that are saline in places. Gallery forests are found on alluvial and meadow soils in the river valleys. There are mangrove forests and nipa plantings in places along the seashore.

Fauna. Thailand is part of the Indo-Malayan zoogeographic region. Large animals include the elephant (mostly domesticated), anthropoid ape (gibbon), lemur, sun bear, tiger, leopard, tapir, and wild boar. The gaur and banteng inhabit the savannas, and deer and antelope live in the mountains of the north. The squirrel is the most common rodent. Birds include numerous pheasants, peacocks, parrots, and jungle fowl. Herons and saruses live in swampy areas. Bats, some of which are carnivorous, are encountered. There are about 100 species of snakes, including the python and king cobra, 75 species of lizards, and more than 500 species of butterflies. The rivers are rich in fish, mainly of the carp family, and are inhabited by crocodiles. The herring and mackerel of the coastal waters of the Gulf of Thailand are fished commercially.

Protected natural regions. Fauna and natural landscapes are protected (1969) in five national parks with a total area of about 8,000 sq km. Among the interesting natural sites included within the national parks are the Eravan waterfall, west of Bangkok, and Inthanon Peak, the highest mountain in Thailand, located in the northwest.


Sovremennyi Tailand. Moscow, 1958.
Pendleton, R. L. Geografiia Tailanda. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from English.)
V. A. BLAGOOBRAZOV (physical geography) and IU. G. GATINSKII (geological structure and mineral resources)

Thailand is a multiethnic country. About three-fourths of the population is made up of peoples of the Thai group. The Siamese, or Central Thai, who number about 19 million (1973, estimate), inhabit the central and southern portions of the country. The Lao, who number about 9.5 million, live in the mountains of the north and on the Khorat Plateau in the east. The Phuthai, Lu, Khun, and Shan, whose total population is about 350,000, live in the northwest.

Thailand has more than 6 million Chinese, who live on the delta of the Chao Phraya and in the cities, mainly Bangkok, along with the Siamese. Malays (about 1.2 million) inhabit the southern part of the country. The Karen (150,000) and Mon (120,000) live in the mountain regions of the west and southwest. Sizable areas in the southeast are occupied by Khmers and Highland Khmers (a total of 1 million). Various mountain regions of the north are inhabited by peoples of the Miao and Yao and Tibeto-Burman groups; among the latter are the Hani, Lisu, and Lahu. The most backward peoples of Thailand are the nomadic hunters and gatherers—the Semang, Senoi, Mawken (Chao Le), and Mrabri, or Yumbri (a total of about 5,000)—who inhabit the impenetrable tropical forests. Vietnamese and Indians also live in Thailand. Thai is the official language. Theravada Buddhism is the official religion; the Malay profess Islam, and the Chinese are Buddhists and Taoists. Catholics and Protestants number about 150,000. Ancient traditional beliefs are prevalent in the northern mountain regions. There are two calendar systems, the lunar-solar and the Gregorian.

A high rate of population growth is characteristic of Thailand: in the period 1963–73 it averaged 3 percent a year (the population was 22.1 million in 1954 and 26 million in 1960). The age and sex composition is typical of Eastern countries. There is a numerical predominance of men and a substantial proportion of young people, particularly the 15–24 age group (about 16 percent). The economically active population is 17.7 million (1970), 76.5 percent of whom are employed in agriculture and forestry (compared to 82 percent in 1960), and 20 percent in industry, transportation, and the service sphere. The average population density is about 80 persons per sq km; in certain areas, such as the Mekong delta, it reaches 1,000 persons per sq km. About 15 percent of the population is urban (1970). The largest cities are Bangkok and its suburbs (population 4.4 million in 1975) and Chiang Mai (66,000).

Primitive communal relations and the first state formations (to the 15th century). The first human habitation of what is now Thailand dates from the Paleolithic era. The Mon tribes occupied the southern portion of the Chao Phraya River valley and the coast of the Gulf of Thailand in the period immediately preceding and following the turn of the Common Era. The first small Mon states arose there in the first and second centuries. The first mention of the large Dvaravati state, which later came to be called Lavo, is found in seventh-century sources. During the seventh and eighth centuries, the Mon states extended their power over northern Thailand, founding the city of Lamphun, which became the capital of the second Mon state, Haripunjaya. By the early 11th century, the Lavo state had been subjugated by a Khmer empire, Kambuja.

The advanced culture of the Mon and Khmers greatly influenced the formation of the Thai culture. The predecessors of the Thai tribes occupied the Yünnan Plateau in the first millennium B.C. Some Thai tribes moved south early in the first millennium A.D., mixing with the local population. Large Thai principalities arose in the Chao Phraya River valley in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Hinayana Buddhism became dominant in Thailand in the 13th century. After defeating the Khmers in 1238, the Thai principalities united, creating the Sukhothai state. The state flourished under King Rama Kamkhaeng, who reigned from 1275 to about 1317; it disintegrated shortly after his death. In 1350, U Thong, the sovereign of the principality, founded the city of Ayutthaya and, having moved his capital there, was crowned as Ramathibodi. He reigned from 1350 to 1369. The new state of Siam (or Ayutthaya, after its capital) gradually absorbed the remnants of Sukhothai.

Developed feudalism (15th to the late 18th century). A Siamese feudal monarchy arose in the 14th century and became established in the 15th century. The social base of the feudal monarchy was the service nobility, which was subdivided into civilian and military branches. Instead of salaries, state officials received rents from plots of land worked by peasants bound to the officials.

Wars between Siam and Burma began in the mid-16th century. Ayutthaya, the capital, fell to the Burmese on Aug. 30, 1569. However, an uprising against Burmese domination began in Siam in 1584 under the leadership of Naresuan, and it concluded with the liberation of the country.

Siam’s trade ties with other countries, particularly those of Europe, expanded considerably in the 17th century. The Dutch opened a trading station in Ayutthaya, and the English followed suit. Seeking to capture the Siamese market, the European powers carried out a policy of colonial expansion directed against Siam.

In 1664, after blockading the mouth of the Chao Phraya River, the Dutch fleet forced King Narai (ruled 1657–88) to conclude the first unequal treaty in Siam’s history. From 1686 to 1688, Great Britain waged an undeclared war against Siam. The first Franco-Siamese treaty, which granted significant privileges to the French East India Company and Catholic missionaries, was signed in December 1685. In 1687, Siam was forced to agree to the quartering of French garrisons in the most important strategic points of the country, Bangkok and Mergui (now in Burma), and to sign a new unequal treaty. Siamese patriots led by Phra Phetraja organized a conspiracy against King Narai, who had capitulated to the French. The conspirators arrested the king in the spring of 1688, and Phra Phetraja was proclaimed king (ruled 1688–1703). The movement to expel the French gained broad popular support. By the end of the 17th century, the French were forced to withdraw all their troops. Siam was closed to Europeans in the late 17th century, and the trading stations were wiped out.

Siam waged a struggle, with varying success, against Vietnam for dominance over Cambodia and Laos in the first third of the 18th century. Wars against Burma resumed in 1759. The Burmese destroyed the city of Ayutthaya in April 1767, and the king and courtiers were taken prisoner. The Siamese people’s resistance was led by Taksin. After a number of battles, the Burmese were driven out of Siam, and Taksin unified the country under his rule. The Laotian state of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, was definitively made part of Siam in 1775. The Laotian states of Vientiane and Luang Prabang recognized Siam’s sovereignty in 1778. The domestic policies of Taksin, who attempted to limit the wealth of the Buddhist religious leaders and protected the commercial caste, provoked the opposition of the Buddhist clergy and some secular feudal lords. Taksin was overthrown in 1782. General Chakri ascended the throne, taking the name of Rama I; he ruled until 1809.

Late feudalism (late 18th to the 19th century). The power of the Siamese feudal lords increased as a result of the expansion of Thailand’s territory through the annexation of the principalities of Khorat and Ligor, mass migrations from conquered areas to the central regions, and the growth of debt bondage. Commodity-money relations developed further in the first half of the 19th century: cash quitrent and cash taxes were introduced, and tax farming spread. The growth of exploitation gave rise to popular uprisings in the provinces of Chonburi (Bang Pla Soi), Chanthaburi, and Nakhon Chai Si in 1842 and 1847.

In 1855, Great Britain forced an unequal treaty on Siam. It provided for extraterritoriality for British subjects, for the abolition of the royal foreign trade monopoly, and for low import duties; in addition, it provided for the duty-free importation of opium into Siam and for the establishment of British mines in the south. Unequal treaties were also signed with the USA, France, and other countries. As Siam was drawn into the world capitalist economy and foreign trade expanded, the crisis of feudal relations was exacerbated. Handicrafts and manufactories went into decline, and commercial land cultivation, especially rice production, developed, primarily in the central regions. The sharpening of the social contradictions was expressed in the antifeudal actions of the peasantry, such as the “black flags” movement of 1870–87 and the uprising led by Phya Pap in 1889–90.

The system of feudal dependence was preserved de jure in Siam until the end of the 19th century, when the reforms of King Chulalongkorn, or Rama V (ruled 1868–1910), were carried out. In the course of these reforms, debt bondage (1874–1900), the state corvée, and the binding of peasants to the feudal lord (1899) were abolished. Reforms were also promulgated in the state administration, including the establishment of ministries, budgetary and monetary reform, and the centralization of the provincial administration. The reforms were halfway measures, however, and feudal vestiges remained.

Formation and development of capitalism (from the late 19th century),INTENSIFICATION OF IMPERIALIST ENSLAVEMENT OF SIAM; UPSURGE OF THE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT (LATE 19TH CENTURY TO 1932). The British and French colonialists began the struggle for the territorial division of Siam in the 1880’s. In 1893, 1902, and 1907, France carried out armed seizures of Siamese lands bordering on the French possessions in Indochina. In 1896, Siam was divided into British and French spheres of influence, separated by the Chao Phraya River.

The expansion of foreign capital continued in the early 20th century, with the establishment of forestry and tinmining concessions and the receipt of several substantial loans from Great Britain, France, and Germany in the period 1905–14 for railroad construction. The domination of foreign capital hindered the accumulation of domestic capital. The efforts of Russian diplomacy (diplomatic relations with Russia were established in 1897) objectively prevented the complete subjugation of Siam by the Western powers. Siam retained its political independence.

The process of national consolidation intensified in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first newspapers appeared, book publishing developed, and secular schools were established. The aristocratic elite used the ideas of monarchistic nationalism in an attempt to strengthen its social base. In July 1917, during World War I, Siam came out on the side of the Entente. The decrease in foreign economic expansion during the war led to the growth of local industrial and commercial capital. In the context of the upsurge in the national liberation movement in Asia, which began under the influence of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, the imperialists were obliged to make concessions to Siam. Under treaties with Great Britain and France, consular jurisdiction over foreign citizens and subjects was abolished in 1925, and import duties were increased in 1927. In the 1920’s, the conflicts increased between the local petite bourgeoisie and the feudal lords, who held power and relied on an alliance with foreign capital. Antimonarchist groups of Siamese abroad adopted bourgeois-democratic slogans. The working class, which had been forming since the late 19th century, was small in number (about 2 percent of the economically active population) and was divided into ethnic groups. Marxist propaganda circles arose among the workers in 1928.

THE 1932 COUP AND THE STRUGGLE TO CONSOLIDATE STATE INDEPENDENCE (1932–39). With the sharp deterioration in the people’s standard of living because of the world economic crisis of 1929–33, the antimonarchists stepped up their activity, uniting to form the People’s Party. In addition to petit bourgeois democrats, such as Pridi Phanomyong, the party included liberal bourgeois elements linked to officers, civil servants, and large landowners. Relying on the support of army units, the People’s Party carried out a coup d’etat on June 24, 1932. Legislative authority was turned over to a parliament formed by the People’s Party, with the king remaining the nominal head of state; the high aristocracy was removed from power. The revolutionary coup, which was elitist in nature, thus broke only the highest link in the state apparatus. The permanent constitution, adopted on Dec. 10, 1932, provided for the election of half of the deputies to parliament, with the remainder to be appointed by the king. In 1933 the right-wing parliamentary deputies rejected a plan for socioeconomic reforms proposed by Pridi Phanomyong; the king dissolved the People’s Party and the parliament. The Anticommunist Act, which was directed against all democrats, was adopted on Apr. 2, 1933.

The threat of the restoration of absolutism prompted a group of officers led by Phahon Phonphayuhasena to carry out another coup d’etat on June 20, 1933. An attempted monarchist rebellion was suppressed in October 1933; King Rama VII Pajadhipok renounced the throne in 1935. A political compromise was reached by the petite bourgeoisie and large landowners as a result of the events of 1932–33. Its instability was manifested in frequent governmental crises.

In the 1930’s, the policy of the ruling bloc was directed toward the strengthening of domestic capital. The abrogation of unequal treaties with foreign powers in 1936 and the reestablishment of customs independence were important, as were the nationalization of certain foreign companies in 1938–39 and the creation of mixed companies in industry and trade for the purpose of limiting foreign influence. When the military-bureaucratic elite came to power in December 1938 (the Pibul Songgram government, 1938–44), progressive forms of nationalism were replaced by chauvinistic forms in Thailand (Siam was renamed in 1939). The slogan of the pan-Thai movement was the unification of all the Thai peoples under the rule of the Thai king.

WORLD WAR II (1939–45). In 1940, Thailand presented territorial claims for the portion of Laos and Cambodia and began military operations on the border with Indochina that continued until January 1941. In June 1940, Thailand signed a treaty of friendship with imperialist Japan. In May 1941, under Japanese pressure, the Vichy government ceded Laos and two Cambodian provinces to Thailand. Japanese troops landed in Thailand in December 1941, and a Japanese-Thai agreement on military cooperation was signed on December 21. Thailand declared war on Great Britain and the USA on Jan. 25, 1942. On Aug. 20, 1943, Japan turned over four northern Malayan and two Shan principalities to Thailand. The country was under de facto Japanese occupation. A liberation struggle began in Thailand. The mass underground Free Thai Movement was organized. The Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) was established in November 1942. The growth of anti-Japanese sentiment resulted in the fall of the Pibul Song-gram cabinet. On Aug. 19, 1945, Thailand addressed a request for peace to the member countries of the anti-Japanese coalition.

POSTWAR PERIOD. Under the terms of the peace treaty of Jan. 1, 1946, Siam (as the country was known from September 1945 to August 1948) renounced its territorial acquisitions of 1941–43 and paid compensation to British companies. The end of the war was marked by an upsurge in the democratic movement. The growth of trade unions led to the establishment in April 1947 of the Central Labor Union. The new constitution of May 1946 made both chambers of parliament elective. The democratic Constitutional Front received a majority in the 1946 elections. The Anticommunist Act of 1933 was repealed in December 1946. The CPT expanded the struggle for a single national democratic front. In December 1946, Siam and the USSR reached agreement on the exchange of envoys (diplomatic relations had been established on Mar. 12, 1941).

In November 1947 a group of reactionary officers carried out a military coup, accompanied by antidemocratic repression. The CPT went underground. Pibul Songgram headed the government from 1948 to 1957.

With the completion of the postwar restoration of the economy, the position of the big bourgeoisie, which was primarily of Chinese origin, was strengthened. The bourgeoisie increasingly closed ranks with the ruling Thai bureaucracy, and together they directed their attention toward an alliance with the imperialist powers. Agreements with the USA on economic and technical cooperation and military aid were signed in 1950. In 1951 the government banned trade with the socialist countries. In 1954, Thailand joined the SEATO bloc.

The government’s reactionary foreign and domestic policies, including the dissolution of all political parties in 1951 and the adoption of the Anticommunist Activities Act in 1952, aroused discontent in the country. In the mid-1950’s, the government undertook some liberalization of the regime; 1955–57 was the “period of democracy.” The conclusion of the Geneva Agreements of 1954 on Indochina helped to strengthen the neutralist mood. Mass demonstrations under democratic anti-imperialist slogans took place in Thailand from February to May 1957. Under these circumstances, the army command carried out another coup in September 1957. Sarit Thanarat, who became head of the ruling Revolutionary Committee in October 1958, acquired emergency powers as the head of the government (1959–63) under the interim constitution of January 1959. All public organizations were banned, and mass arrests of supporters of democracy were carried out.

After an American-Thai declaration on the defense of Thailand was signed in March 1962, American bases were established on Thai territory, and the number of American troops grew. American aircraft, flying from bases in Thailand, carried out raids on the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, parts of South Vietnam, and Laos and Cambodia. Thai units participated in military operations in Vietnam from 1966 to 1972. After the death of Sarit Thanarat in 1963, Thanom Kittikachorn headed a civilian government. A return to limited political freedom lasted from June 1968 to November 1971 but gave way to another coup by the military clique. A new military government headed by Thanom Kittikachorn came to power and ruled until 1973. Martial law was instituted, the 1968 constitution was suspended, parliament was disbanded, and political parties were banned.

An interim constitution was proclaimed in December 1972, but two-thirds of the National Assembly’s membership came from the military. Lawlessness, terror, and inflation increasingly aggravated the situation. Despite the official prohibition, workers’ strikes and student demonstrations became more frequent. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in October 1973, demanding democratization of the regime and the end of the military dictatorship. Thanom Kittikachorn’s military government was forced to yield to a civilian cabinet headed by Sanya Dharmasakti.

The events of October 1973 marked the beginning of a new upsurge in the democratic movement. More than 200,000 people took part in strikes by industrial and transportation workers in late 1973, and demonstrations by peasants demanding improved living conditions became more frequent. The Dharmasakti government declared its intention to change the country’s one-sided foreign-policy orientation and to strengthen friendly relations with all countries. Work on a permanent constitution began in the newly formed National Assembly in December 1973, and the constitution was adopted in 1974.

The coalition government of Kukrit Pramoj was formed after the general parliamentary elections in January 1975. The government demanded the complete withdrawal of all American forces from Thailand. It proclaimed a program of democratic reforms and declared its aspirations for the establishment of a stable peace and friendly relations with all countries. The program, however, was not realized. In January 1976, in the face of attacks from the right-wing parliamentary opposition on the one hand and mass demonstrations by students and workers on the other, the government dissolved parliament. The coalition cabinet of Seni Pramoj, which represented the interests of the right and center parties, was formed in April 1976. Under pressure from forces favoring a neutralist policy, the new government put forth a program for the withdrawal of all American troops. On July 20, 1976, the American armed forces left the country. The American bases were handed over to the control of the local authorities.

A military coup took place in Thailand in October 1976, bringing to power the high command of the country’s armed forces. All political parties were disbanded. The government of Thanin Kraivichien, noted for a conservative course, was replaced by a cabinet headed by General Kriangsak Chamanand. The new government proclaimed a policy of partial democratization, permitted trade unions and other public organizations to function, and declared its intention to expand friendly relations and cooperation with all countries.


Berzin, E. O. Istoriia Tailanda (Kratkii ocherk). Moscow, 1973.
Berzin, E. O. Bor’ba evropeiskikh derzhav za siamskii rynok (30–80-e gody XVII veka). Moscow, 1962.
Rebrikova, N. V. Ocherki noveishei istorii Tailanda (1918–1959). Moscow, 1960.
Rebrikova, N. V. Ocherki novoi istorii Tailanda (1768–1917). Moscow, 1966.
Sovremennyi Tailand. Moscow, 1958.
Dol’nikova, V. A. Rabochii klass Tailanda. Moscow, 1971.
Iskol’dskii, V. I. Tailand: Ekonomicheskie ocherki. Moscow, 1971.
Chula Chakrabongse. Lords of Life: The Paternal Monarchy of Bangkok, 1782–1932. New York, 1960.
Thompson, V. Thailand, the New Siam. New York, 1941.
Landon, K. Siam in Transition. Chicago, 1939.
Sivaram, M. The New Siam in the Making. Bangkok, 1936.
Fistié, P. L’Evolution de la Thailande contemporaine. Paris, 1967.
E. O. BERZIN (to the late 18th century) and V. I. ISKOLDSKII (from the late 18thcentury)

As of early 1976, there were 58 registered political parties in Thailand. The main right-wing parties are the Thai Nation Party, the Social Justice Party, the National Socialist Party and the Social Agriculture Party, which represent the interests of the high ranks of the army and police, bankers, and large landowners. Prominent among centrist parties are the Democracy Party, the Social Action Party, and the New Force Party, which represent the liberal big and middle bourgeoisie, the aristocracy, and the monarchist intelligentsia. In 1978 the Democracy Party, the Thai Nation Party, and the New Force Party remained influential.

The Communist Party of Thailand, founded in 1942, has operated clandestinely since the 1947 coup d’etat.

General characteristics. Thailand is a developing agrarian-industrial country whose economy is highly dependent on foreign capital. The main branches of the economy are oriented toward exports. Although Thailand has retained its political independence, it has been unable to protect its economy from the expansionist aspirations of the developed capitalist countries, which exploited its natural resources and cheap labor force in their own interests. During the postwar period, the greater part of capital investment, especially in industry, came from the private sector, primarily local capitalist entrepreneurs. At the same time, while attempting to strengthen its position and its control over economic activity in accordance with programs for economic development, the government took steps to expand the public sector, using domestic and foreign sources—for example, loans, credit, and subsidies from foreign states and international organizations—to finance its measures. The state undertook capital investments for the development of agriculture (irrigation), transportation, power engineering, and industry.

Japanese capital accounts for the largest foreign investments in Thailand. Loans and credit have been suplied by the USA, Japan, France, and West Germany, as well as by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank.

The value of the gross domestic product rose considerably during the postwar years, reaching 187.7 billion bahts in 1973, and the number of employees in the economy rose. Although the role of agriculture decreased somewhat, there were no fundamental changes in the structure of the economy. This was due less to the growth of industrial production than to the expansion of the service sphere as a result of the increased activity of foreign firms in the country, the increase in foreign trade operations, and the prolonged presence of foreign armed forces on Thai territory.

In 1973, agriculture and forestry accounted for 31 percent of the gross domestic product, as against 40 percent in 1960; industry and construction accounted for 25 percent, trade 21 percent, and transportation 6 percent. (The 1960 figures were 19 percent, 18 percent, and 7 percent, respectively.) Thailand is an important producer of rice and bast crops, and it is third, after Malaysia and Indonesia, in production of natural rubber. It is fourth (1973), after Malaysia, Bolivia, and Indonesia, in the production of tin concentrate and second, after Malaysia (since 1965), in the smelting of raw tin. Thailand is a major supplier of valuable wood for the world market.

Agriculture. Much of the land in Thailand is the property of feudal landlords, whereas the bulk of the peasants are landless or land-starved. Leasing is widespread. There are capitalist plantations. In accordance with the economic-geographic features of various parts of Thailand, which are mainly associated with agricultural specialization, four regions may be distinguished—the North, Central Thailand, the Northeast, and the South. The main suppliers of agricultural commodities for export are the tenant farms of Central Thailand and the plantations of the South. Small-scale farms on which crops are grown for personal consumption are mainly characteristic of the North and Northeast. In 1971, according to UN data, agricultural lands totaled 15.9 million hectares (ha), of which about 3 million ha were irrigated. Plowlands totaled 12.4 million ha, 1.5 million ha were under perennial crops, and 2 million were meadows and pasturelands.

Land cultivation is the main branch of agriculture. The main crop is rice, with a harvested area of 7.7 million ha and a yield of 13.2 million tons (1974). Rice is cultivated primarily in Central Thailand and in the delta of the Chao Phraya River, which is called the rice bowl of the country. A substantial portion of the region’s output of rice is exported. More than 1 million ha are under corn, which produces a harvest of 2.5 million tons. Other crops include millet, sorghum, legumes, sweet potatoes, cassava, peanuts, castor-oil plants, sesame, sugarcane (14.5 million tons), coconut palms, tea, coffee, kenaf, cotton, tobacco, and spices (pepper and cardamom). Subtropical and tropical fruits, such as mango, pineapple, and citrus fruits, are grown. Hevea cultivation is important, and there are rubber plantations in the South. Production of natural rubber was 380,000 tons in 1974, as against 170,000 tons in 1960. Sericulture is also practiced. The livestock population (1974) includes 4.8 million head of cattle, 5.7 million buffalo, 4.7 million hogs, and 10,000 elephants; there are more than 55 million fowl.

FISHING. Fish, along with rice, makes up the daily diet of the people of Thailand. The catch of carp and other fish in inland waters and of mackerel, herring, barracuda, and bluefin in the sea, primarily in coastal waters, is growing rapidly (1.6 million tons in 1974 compared to 400,000 tons in 1963).

FORESTRY. Forestry is a traditional export branch of the country’s economy. Thailand’s forests have considerable reserves of valuable woods, such as teak, ebonv, sandalwood, sal tree, and mahogany. Logging is carried on primarily in the North, where the lumber is then floated downriver to the processing and export center, Bangkok. The total volume of logging is 2.2 million cu m (1974).

Industry. Definite shifts in the structure of industry occurred from the 1950’s to the 1970’s: branches new to Thailand, such as tin smelting, electrical engineering, and oil refining, appeared alongside such traditional branches as woodworking and the food industry. The output of electric power also rose considerably.

EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY AND POWER ENGINEERING. The mining of tin ore (cassiterite) is of the greatest importance in Thailand’s extractive industry. Tin is mined in the southern part of the country, on the Malay Peninsula and the island of Phuket, and on the shelf of the Gulf of Thailand (the output of tin concentrates was 20,300 tons in 1974, as against 15,800 tons in 1963). Tungsten ore is recovered as a by-product of tin extraction (2,700 tons in 1973; 124 tons in 1963). The Mae Klong River basin is the most important area for the mining of iron ore (36,000 tons in 1973), antimony (3,500 tons), manganese (12,000 tons), lead and zinc, fluorite (417,000 tons), barite (113,000 tons), asbestos, salt, and precious stones (sapphires and rubies). Coal—mostly brown coal and lignite—is mined in Krabi, Mae Mo, and Li (361,000 tons in 1973), and oil is drilled (6,000 tons) in the vicinity of Fang.

Most of the energy consumed in Thailand comes from imported oil. Production of electric power rose sharply in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as a number of hydroelectric, thermal, and diesel electric power plants were put into operation. Electric power production was 900 million kilowatt-hours (kW-hr) in 1963, and by 1972 it had risen to 6.2 billion kW-hr, with about 2 billion kW-hr coming from hydroelectric power plants. The largest thermal power plants are South Bangkok (400 MW) and North Bangkok; the major hydroelectric plants are Bhumibol (420 MW), near the city of Chainat, and Sirikit (375 MW) on the Nan River.

The traditional branches of the manufacturing industry use local raw materials and are represented mostly by small enterprises. Prominent among this group are the food and condiment industry (rice hulling and milling, fish processing, sugar refining, and production of coconut oil, canned fruit, and tobacco articles), sawmilling, and primary processing of rubber. The textile industry has developed; its main areas are the production of cotton and synthetic fabrics and jute articles.

The 1950’s to the 1970’s were characterized by the appearance of various comparatively large enterprises owned mainly by foreign or mixed capital and relying on imported raw materials and semifinished products. This group includes the petrochemical, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries, paper-making, metal-working, and machine building (assembly of automobiles, tractors, radio and television sets, and transformers). Developing branches of industry include the production of metal articles and tools, the repair of railroad rolling stock and ships, nonferrous metallurgy (smelting of tin, the manufacture of copper and aluminum wire), ferrous metallurgy, and the production of building materials (3.85 million tons of cement in 1974). Handicraft production of foods, domestic articles, agricultural implements, and objets d’art is widespread (see below: Art and architecture).

Transportation. Thailand has 3,850 km of railroads (1974) and 18,500 km of highways. The country has 300,000 passenger cars and buses and 177,000 trucks. Inland waterways—for example, the Chao Phraya River system and canals—are also used. The country’s foreign trade is conducted mainly by sea. The tonnage of the national merchant fleet is 96,800 (1974). Bangkok is the main seaport; others include Phuket, Satthahip, Songkhla, and Kantang. Thailand’s international airports are at Don Muang (near Bangkok) and Hat Yai (in the south).

Foreign trade. The value of Thailand’s imports somewhat exceeds that of its exports. The main export articles are rice and corn, rubber, tin, tapioca, kenaf, precious stones, and lumber; other export articles include paper and electronic items. The main import articles are machines, industrial equipment, petroleum and petroleum products, ferrous metals, chemicals, and various consumer goods. Thailand’s main trading partners are Japan, the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. Thailand is starting to develop trade relations with socialist countries. The permanent deficit in the trade balance is covered primarily by foreign “aid,” loans, and income from foreign tourism (1.1 million tourists visited Thailand in 1974). The monetary unit is the baht.


Thailand’s armed forces consist of land troops, an air force, and a navy. The commander in chief is the king. The total strength of the armed forces is about 204,000 (1975); in addition, the volunteer local defense corps and border patrol number about 60,000. Recruitment is based on compulsory military service, and the term of active service is two years. The land forces (135,000 men) consist of five infantry divisions, two regimental combat teams, and a number of individual special units and sub-units. Armaments are Americanmade. The air force (about 42,000 men) has 105 obsolete fighters and 50 helicopters. The navy (about 27,000 men, including 9,000 marines) has seven frigates, 14 antisubmarine destroyers, one seagoing and four coastal minesweepers, two minelayers, 24 patrol boats, 38 landing craft, and seven landing ships. The main naval base is Bangkok.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO; 1972), the birthrate in Thailand is 32.8 per thousand, and the death rate is 7.7 per thousand; infant mortality is 24.4 per thousand live births. Infectious and parasitic diseases predominate; they are the main cause of death. Malaria, tuberculosis, gastroenteritic infections, dengue, yaws, venereal diseases, and leprosy are the most widespread. Most common among noninfectious diseases are cardiovascular and oncological disorders and nutritive deficiencies. There are no significant differences in regional pathology. With WHO support, the country’s public health service is conducting programs to wipe out malaria, tuberculosis, yaws, and leprosy.

In 1972, Thailand had 533 hospitals, with 43,000 beds (1.2 beds per 1,000 inhabitants), 40,500 of which were in the 438 state institutions. Outpatient care was provided (1971) in polyclinics at 130 hospitals and in 3,800 public health centers and 5,900 medical aid stations, which are primarily in rural localities, and by 92 mobile units.

In 1971 there were 4,800 physicians (one per 7,200 inhabitants), 663 stomatologists, 1,900 pharmacists, and 7,100 nurses. Bangkok, with 5 percent of the country’s population, had 60 percent of the doctors, 79 percent of the stomatologists, and 67 percent of the nurses. Doctors are trained in four higher medical schools; there are schools to train secondary medical personnel. Expenditures for public health amounted to 3 percent of the state budget in 1973. According to estimates, three-fourths of the per capita expenditures for public health went for payments by the population for private medical services.


Veterinary services. Provision of veterinary services in Thailand is better than that of the other countries of Southeast Asia. However, foot-and-mouth disease, hemorrhagic septicemia, and Newcastle disease present significant problems. Swine plague, glanders, mycotic lymphangitis, strangles, leptospirosis, coccidiosis, anthrax, blackleg, salmonellosis, tuberculosis, brucellosis, rabies, carnivores’ plague, anaplasmosis, piroplasmosis, liver rot, and trichinosis are also recorded. Veterinary services are administered by the Ministry of Agriculture. Diagnostic work is performed at provincial laboratories. Veterinarians are trained at the faculties of veterinary medicine of Chulalongkorn and Kasetsart universities in Bangkok. Thailand has 951 veterinarians (1974). Research is conducted at the country’s universities and at the foot-and-mouth disease center in Nong Sarai.


The Thai educational system includes preschool, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels.

Children aged 4 to 7 attend preschool institutions, where enrollment exceeds 176,000 (1974). Children are admitted to elementary schools at the age of 7. The course of study in the elementary schools is seven years (four years in the lower level and three in the upper level). Elementary school is considered compulsory; in 1970, however, elementary education extended to 79.42 percent of children between the ages of 7 and 14. There were 6,506,000 pupils in elementary schools in the 1974–75 school year.

The course of study in the secondary general education academic schools is five years, with three-year and two-year stages. Secondary school enrollment in the 1974–75 school year was 842,800. There are many private schools. The language of instruction is literary Thai. Students enter the lower level of the secondary vocational-technical school (one to three years) from elementary school, and they enter the higher level (one to three years) from incomplete secondary school or the three-year lower-level secondary vocational-technical school. In the 1974–75 school year there were 75,500 students in higher-level secondary vocational-technical schools. Teachers for the elementary schools go through a two-year course of study after incomplete secondary school. Secondary school teachers are trained at pedagogical institutes and universities. In the 1974–75 academic year there were 60,400 students in the teaching-training system.

There are five universities in Bangkok, the largest of which are Chulalongkorn University (founded 1917) and Thammasat University (1933). There are also universities in the cities of Chiang Mai (1964), Khon Kaen (1964), and Songkhla (1964). In 1974–75, there were about 58,400 students in the universities and 19,500 in the technical institutes. The National Library (founded 1905; more than 724,000 volumes and 144,000 manuscripts) and the National Museum (1926) are located in Bangkok.


The system of scientific and scholarly institutions of Thailand took shape after World War II (1939–45). The government coordinates scientific activity through the Applied Scientific Research Corporation of Thailand (founded 1963), under which are the Environmental and Ecological Research Institute and the Thai National Documentation Center, and the National Research Council. Most scientific and scholarly organizations are under the jurisdiction of the ministries. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture has a laboratory for sea fishing, and the Ministry of National Development has a division concerned with the use of natural resources. There are research centers under the auspices of the universities in Bangkok (Kasetsart University) and Chiang Mai, and under the regional Asian Institute of Technology. The main research concerns are the national economy and problems of agriculture, forestry, and fishing. The Siam Society (founded 1904), which conducts research on history, ethnography, and archaeology, is the country’s largest scholarly society. Scientific and scholarly work is funded mainly by the state budget; some of it is funded by foreign and international sources.


Research Institutes and Researchers of Asian Studies in Thailand. Tokyo, 1964.

Thailand has (1977) several dozen newspapers, most of them published in Bangkok. The total circulation of the daily newspapers is as much as 1 million. The largest Thai-language papers are Thai Rath (circulation, 500,000), the Daily News (230,000), Siam Rath (100,000), the Thai Daily (38,000), and Prachathipathai (84,000). Prior to October 1976, there were 30 Chinese-language newspapers, the largest of which were Hsing Hsien Jih Pao (circulation, 67,000), Ching Hua Jih Pao (65,000), Chung Hua JihPao (52,000), and Shih Chieh Jih Pao (32,000). After the 1976 coup d’état these newspapers were closed down. The largest English-language paper is the Bangkok Post (more than 17,000).

Radio broadcasting in Thailand began in 1938. There are more than 200 radio stations, most of which are small. The largest, the Voice of Free Asia, is state-owned. Television broadcasting began in 1955. There are seven television stations.


The first works of Thai literature date from the late 13th and early 14th centuries and consist of inscriptions on stone, primarily in the nature of annals. The earliest epigraphic work is the stela of Rama Khamhaeng (1292). Until the late 19th century, because of the decisive role of Buddhism in the cultural and social life of the country, the formation and development of Thai literature were strongly influenced by Indian literature.

Medieval classical literature, especially that of the early period, consisted mainly of religious apologia and found its expression almost exclusively in verse. Examples of this literature include the epic poem The Great Reincarnation (1482), which became a permanent part of the Thai religious liturgy, and the anonymous 15th-century historical naarrative poem Defeat of the Yuan. Lyricism developed greatly against the background of the official literature. The earliest and best known work of the kind was the lyric epic poem Pra Lo (15th—16th centuries). The poets Siprat and Phra Maharachakhru (both from the second half of the 17th century) and Thammathibet (1732–55) were endowed with great skill in the lyric genres. A prominent place in literature was occupied by frame stories—for example, the collections Fifty Jatakas, The Book of the Birds, and The Twelve Sides —and by the Ramayana (in the Thai version, the Ramakien).

A gradual turn from religious to secular themes began in the late 18th century. The democratization of the literary language became evident. The first prose works appeared, among them the translated historical novels Rachatirat (1785) and The Three Kingdoms (1802). The greatest works of 19th-century literature were the lyric epic poem Khun Chang Khun Phaen and the verse fantasy Phra Ahpaimani (c. 1850) by Sunthorn Phu (1786–1855), the dramatic narrative poem Inao by King Rama II (ruled 1809–24), and the satiric poem Prince Landai (second quarter of the 19th century) by Phra Maha Montri.

After the coup d’etat of 1932, realism became the predominant method in Thai literature. Prose, in the form of the short story, the novella, and the novel, assumed the dominant position. Two main trends, naturalism and social realism, appeared in literature. The exponents of the first trend were typified by their passion for psychological conflict and their idealization of reality. Members of this group were the women writers Dokmai Sot, author of a series of novels and stories about the “model” Thai (The Respectable Man, 1947; The Nobles, Three Men, and This Is Our World), and Ko Surangkhanang (born 1911), author of novels drawn mainly from the life of high society (The Golden Sand House, 1950; The Prostitute, 1937; and Reflection). The naturalistic trend was also represented by authors writing about society and everyday life, such as Sot Kuramarohit (born 1908), author of Our Land and Raya, and Malai Chuphinit (1906–63), author of The Great Field and Her Name Is Woman.

The life of the people was reflected in the work of the social realist writers. Sibunrapha (1905–74) was the author of the socially oriented novel Facing the Future (1955), and Lao Kamkhom (born 1930) wrote a series of short stories devoted to the peasants (the collection God Cannot Help, 1955). Achin Panchaphan (born 1927) is the author of the collections of short stories In the Mines and The Call From the Mines (both 1965), the central characters of which are workers. Seni Sawvaphong (born 1918) produced the pointed social novel The Devil (1957), and Manat Tiyanrayong (born 1907) is the author of collections of short stories drawn from the life of the lower strata of society (A Simple Mortal, The Tramp, and The Thickets). Itsara Amantakun (1920–69) wrote The Yellow Tiger and The Tiger Sheathes His Claws, which depict contemporary society from a critical standpoint, and the woman writer Thomyanti exposed the vices of high society in the novels Filth and The Concubine.


Kornev, V. Literatura Tailanda. Moscow, 1971.
Schweisguth, P. Etude sur la littérature Siamoise. Paris, 1951.

Monuments of the artistic culture of Thailand, including pottery from burials in the valley of the Kwai River and rock paintings in northwestern Thailand, date from the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. The art of the Mon from the state of Dvaravati and the Khmers of the Khmer empire developed in what is now Thailand in the first centuries of the Common Era and served as the foundation for the Thai artistic culture (temples in Lamphun and Chiang Mai; massive statues of the Buddha with details as fine as jewelry).

The shaping of a national art under the aegis of Buddhism began in the 13th century with the formation of the Sukhothai state. The wat, a characteristically Thai religious complex, became a distinctive architectural form. The wats contained prang or phra prang sanctuaries, with a tower-like rounded peak; chedi or phra chedi, with a bell-shaped roof and steeple; and temples (vihans). Examples of this type of architecture are the wats of Chang Lom in Sawankhalok (late 13th century) and Mahadhat in Sukhothai (Sukhothai, 1345). In sculpture, the graphic, elongated forms characteristic of Thailand were developed.

In the 14th to 19th centuries, during the flowering of the Siamese state, the traditions of Sukhothai were further developed. Cities with grid patterns appeared; they were enclosed by brick walls with indentations of an original type, in the shape of lily pads. In Ayutthaya, Bangkok, and other centers, many complex wats and palaces were constructed and were richly decorated with multicolored mosaics, paintings, and carvings. Numerous works of sculpture were created, but their graceful expressiveness was gradually lost because of excessive decor. Tempera wall painting was known from the 14th century. Examples of this genre include paintings on themes from the life of Buddha in the temples of Ayutthaya (15th century) and scenes from the Tosachata and Ramayana in the temples of Bangkok (18th–19th centuries).

Western European and American artistic traditions were introduced into Thailand in the late 19th century. Intensive construction on European and American models was carried on in Bangkok, where numerous banks, office buildings, and hotels were built in the spirit of contemporary “international” architecture and residential areas with a regular, planned layout were developed. In the second half of the 20th century, such progressive artists as the painters Fua Harabhitak and Tawee Nandakhwang, the sculptor-Kien Yimsiri, and the graphic artist Manit Poo-aree sought to maintain the traditional features of the national art, while following European realism.

The most prominent areas in Thai decorative and applied folk art are lacquer painting (since the 17th century), the manufacture of articles made from lacquer and buffalo hide, wood carving, silver stamping, weaving, and wickerwork.


Ozhegov, S. S. “Arkhitektura Tailanda.” In Vseobshchaia istoriia arkhitektury, vol. 9. Leningrad-Moscow, 1971.
Arts of Thailand. Edited by T. Bowie. Bloomington, Ind., 1961.

Since ancient times, the observance of every religious ritual, village holiday, marriage, and birth has been accompanied by singing and music. The absence of semitones is characteristic of Thai music. Musical works usually have a simple rhythm, with slight variations, and are most frequently performed in a rapid tempo. The musicians learn the basic melody by ear and vary it by improvisation during performance. A Thai orchestra has no conductor; this function is fulfilled by a person performing on the ching (small cymbals).

Instrumentation in Thai music is diversified, with percussion instruments predominating. One of the oldest instruments, the pi nai, is similar to the Scottish bagpipes. The most common string instruments include the ku saw sam sai, which is made of coconut shells, with an ivory fingerboard and three silk strings, and the thakau, which is similar to a large guitar and is played primarily by women. The orchestra usually consists of the Indian timbrel, called the taphon in Thailand, and two Chinese drums, the klong thad. Small ensembles are popular. A typical ensemble consists of a gong wong yai (16 gongs suspended from a circular frame) and a ranat ek (a xylophone in the form of a riverboat). Large orchestras include string instruments, such as the saw sam say, one of the renowned masters of which was the early 19th-century king Rama II, and Chinese violins, the sa dueng and sa u, whose sad sounds the Thais love to hear in solo performances.

European musical instruments—and, with them, European music—were introduced into Thailand in the late 19th century. The composers of Thailand have sought to master the methods of European musical technique. There are European-style orchestras in Bangkok and other large cities.


The classical theater of Thailand originated with the Indian epic, the Ramayana, which was known in the country in its Thai version, the Ramakien, in the 15th century. Themes from the Ramakien were the basis for the formation of three types of classical presentations: the khon, the nang, and the lakon. The khon and nang are mentioned in chronicles from the mid-15th century.

The khon is a pantomime theater with masks, in which all roles are performed by men. The masks, of which there are more than 100, define the character and functions of the heroes: the bright green is Rama, the gold is Laksmana, the white is Hanuman, and the red is Sugriva. The actors do not recite the text; it is read behind the stage. Episodes from the Ramakien are performed, and the actor’s every gesture and movement have symbolic meaning. The presentation is accompanied by a folk orchestra and chorus.

The nang is a shadow theater. The figures of the characters, which are cut out of buffalo hide, are black or colored. The black figures are manipulated behind a lighted screen in evening performances, and the colored figures are manipulated in front of the screen during the day. The show is accompanied by declamation by the actors, who explain the actions of the heroes. Episodes from daily life are often performed.

The lakon is the Thai classic drama. The themes are drawn from Buddhist jatakas (stories). The lakon staged in the palace in the second half of the 15th century was known as the lakon nai, and the roles were performed by women; shows outside the palace—the lakon nok —were performed by men and women. The text was declaimed by actors. A small chorus played an auxiliary role, explaining the action and providing characterization of the heroes. The main element of the lakon was the dance (known as the Siamese dance), in which the graceful movement of the fingers was brought to perfection. The lakon performances combined traditional classic episodes with folk comedy, close to farce. The likay and nora; contemporary folk spectacles, are varieties of lakon.

There is no permanent theater in Thailand. There is an amateur troupe with 100–150 members under the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Education (1975).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Kingdom of Thailand

Capital city: Bangkok

Internet country code: .th

Flag description: Five horizontal bands of red (top), white, blue (double width), white, and red

National animal: Elephant

National architecture: Sala Thai (Thai Pavilion)

National flower: Ratchaphruek (Cassia fistula Linn)

Geographical description: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, southeast of Burma

Total area: 198,114 sq. mi. (513,115 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; rainy, warm, cloudy southwest monsoon (mid-May to September); dry, cool northeast monsoon (November to mid-March); southern isthmus always hot and humid

Nationality: noun: Thai (singular and plural); adjective: Thai

Population: 65,068,149 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, other 11%

Languages spoken: Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects

Religions: Buddhist 94.6%, Muslim 4.6%, Christian 0.7%, other (including Hindu, Brahmin) 0.1%

Legal Holidays:

Chakri DayApr 6
Chulalongkorn DayOct 23
Constitution DayDec 10
Coronation DayMay 5
Her Majesty the Queen's BirthdayAug 12
His Majesty the King's BirthdayDec 5
New Year's DayJan 1
New Year's EveDec 31
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a kingdom in SE Asia, on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Siam: united as a kingdom in 1350 and became a major SE Asian power; consists chiefly of a central plain around the Chao Phraya river system, mountains rising over 2400 m (8000 ft.) in the northwest, and rainforest the length of the S peninsula. Parts of the SW coast suffered badly in the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. Official language: Thai. Official religion: (Hinayana) Buddhist. Currency: baht. Capital: Bangkok. Pop.: 63 465 000 (2004 est.). Area: 513 998 sq. km (198 455 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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