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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia


Thailand / Siam

MapThe perspective on Thai history has been changed by archaeological excavations in the north-east of the country. Discoveries involving bronze metallurgy seems to suggest, controversially, that the Thais may have originated in Thailand following the initial arrival of Homo sapiens in South-East Asia and later scattered to various parts of Asia, including China. No definite conclusion has been reached, and many more theories have been put forward with some suggesting that Thais were originally of Austronesian rather than Mongoloid origin.

Around 2000 BC, Chinese rice and millet farmers spread southwards into a region which stretched between Vietnam and Burma. There, they interbred with local hunter-gatherers in two main pulses, this being the first with the second taking place around the end of the first century BC.

These events and many lesser integrations produced a people who bore a highly mixed ethnic heritage, albeit one which was initially provided by Thai migrants as they pushed southwards into South-East Asia from the eighth century AD kingdom of Nanzhao in south-western China. That movement increased when the Mongols invaded China, entirely sidelining the collected native Akha people (an imposed name which means 'slaves').

In 2017 a team led by Harvard Medical School geneticist, Mark Lipson, concluded that these population movements brought agriculture to the region and triggered the spread of Austroasiatic languages that are still spoken in parts of south and South-East Asia. Over the preceding twenty years, archaeology had already accumulated increasing amounts of evidence to support the emergence of rice farming in South-East Asia between 2,500-2,000 BC, accompanied by tools and pottery which revealed links to southern China.

(Additional introductory details by Kris Tang, and from External Links: Thai History at sunsite.au.ac.th (dead link), and Ancient Chinese farmers sowed literal seeds of change in south-east Asia (Science News).)

7th-10th century

A Hindu and Buddhist Dvaravati culture predominates in territory that will later form parts of Siam. This culture is thought to consist of the ethnic Mon people.

Tai people (of which Thais form a sub-group) first arrived in the region of today's Thailand around 600 BC, but heavy inwards migration only took place between the eighth to tenth centuries AD

Thai Period

Until recently, the accepted theory was that the Thai / T'ai people originated in north-western China, and migrated south to Thailand around 600 BC. Once there, they split into two main groups; one settled in the north and founded the kingdom of Lan Na, the other settled further south to found the kingdom of Sukhothai. A modern theory suggests that the migration took place in the opposite direction, from Thailand to China and elsewhere. An inwards Hindu migration followed in 300 BC which gave the country a diverse ethnic and cultural background.

c.AD 1238

The Sukhothai kingdom is founded in the south of Thailand.

c.AD 1259

The Lan Na kingdom is founded in the north of Thailand.

Ayutthaya (Ayuddhya/ Ayutthya) Kingdom (Thais)
AD 1350 - 1767

The second Thai empire after that of Sukhothai was founded by U-Thong in 1350 (also known as King Ramathibodi I). At the height of its power, Ayutthaya was one of the world's largest and wealthiest cities, with over a million inhabitants. The city was built on an island which was surrounded by three rivers, the Chao Phraya, the Pa Sak, and the Lopburi, all of which served as a natural barrier against invaders.

Ayutthaya was connected to the Gulf of Siam about a hundred kilometres to the south by the Chao Phraya river. A number of palaces and many of the empire's imposing temples were built with external influences being taken on board, especially from Sukhothai to the north and the Khmer to the east, as well as China, Japan, and later on several European countries.

Ramathibodi I expanded Ayutthaya's territory, especially towards Sukhothai and the Khmer capital of Angkor. The government was an autocracy with, roughly, three classes of people, these being the king at the top, plus his family and ministries, then the commoners, and then the slaves at the bottom.

The first Europeans to visit what would become Thailand visited Ayutthaya, which was responsible for one of the area's most glorious eras. The capital was roughly fifty-five kilometres to the north of Bangkok.

(Additional information from External Link: Ayutthaya Kingdom (Renown Travel).)

1350 - 1369

Ramathibodi I / U-Thong

Founded kingdom.

1369 - 1370


1370 - 1388

Borommaracha I


Thong Chan

1388 - 1395



1395 - 1409


1409 - 1424

Intharacha I

1424 - 1448

Borommaracha II


Sukhothai is conquered by Ayuddhya.

1448 - 1463


Ruled in Phitsanulok only (1463-1488).

1463 - 1488

Borommaracha III

1488 - 1491

Intharacha II

1491 - 1529

Ramathibodi II


A Portuguese embassy is established soon after the arrival of these first Europeans.

1529 - 1569

Ayutthya, and Lan Na's capital at Chiang Mai are taken under the control of the Burmese. The Thais are able to regain both states' capitals, Ayutthya's being regained by 1584.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Ayutthaya took on influences from many external players, including Sukhothai and the Khmer, as well as China, Japan and - later - several European countries, with that influence being sen in Wat Chaiwatthanaram

1529 - 1533

Borommaracha IV

1533 - 1534


1534 - 1547


1547 - 1548

Yot Fa


Khun Worawongsa

1548 - 1569




1569 - 1590

Maha Thammaracha

Burmese vassal.


A new Royal Seal is obtained from China.

1590 - 1605


Fought the Khmer. Defeated the Burmese.


The Burmese are defeated at the battle of Nong Sarai.

1605 - 1610/11


1610? - 1611

Si Saowaphak

May not have ruled.

1610/11 - 1628

Songtham / Somg Tham Intharacha

1628 - 1629




1629 - 1656

Prasat Thong





1656 - 1688


Established first French embassy.

1688 - 1703

Phra Phetracha

1694 - 1704

The last effective ruler of Lan Xang dies. The resulting succession battle causes the kingdom's supporting federation to collapse. Trịnh Căn apparently sends in his Trịnh-controlled army to see if he can take control there, but it becomes embroiled in a decade-long conflict which also involves Phra Phetracha.

Three weakened kingdoms emerge from the mess, each of which is forced to pay tribute both to the Ayutthaya kingdom and to the Viet under Trịnh control (although this is open to question, with the Nguyễn lords also being suggested as the leaders of Viet involvement).

1703 - 1709


1709 - 1733

Phumintharacha / Thai Sa

1733 - 1758




1758 - 1767


1765 - 1768

The Burmese invade the city of Ayutthaya again and, this time, they succeed in taking it. However, after two years the Burmese find they cannot hold onto the kingdom in the face of attacks by Phaya Taksin and withdraw, leaving Siam in a power vacuum.


General Phaya Taksin flees to Krung Thonburi and promotes himself king.

Krung Thonburi Kingdom
AD 1769 - 1782

Phaya Taksin was a Thai general from the Ayuddhya Kingdom who fled to Krung Thonburi and promoted himself king, taking advantage of the power vacuum which existed after the Burmese had been driven out of the region.

1769 - 1782

Phaya Taksin

Former general who filled a power vacuum.

1774 & 1776

Krung Thonburi conquers Lan Na.


Taksin is executed by his ministry, allegedly because he is psychotic. Rule of the country passes to the Chakris.

Modern Thailand / Rattanakosin Kingdom (Chakri Dynasty)
AD 1782 - Present Day
Incorporating Krung Thep

The Rattanakosin kingdom saw the accession of a dynasty that remains on the throne in modern Thailand. The country has, since 1932, been governed as a constitutional monarchy (albeit with spells under military junta), with its capital at Bangkok (founded by the Chakris), and a population (in 2015) of over sixty-eight million.

The kingdom occupies much of the Indochinese peninsula, and is bordered by Laos to the north and much of the east, with Cambodia taking up the lower eastern border, and then by Malaysia to the south, while the long western border is filled by the Andaman Sea and Burma. It contains several minority populations which include the Akha people and others.

The Chakris were inaugurated on 6 April 1782, following the execution of General Phaya Taksin who ruled the country after a Burmese invasion ended the previous ruling dynasty. The official name of the monarch is always 'rama', with each monarch's personal name being shown after this. During the great colonial age of the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries, Siam (as it was known) was the only country in South-East Asia to escape occupation and foreign rule. Instead its monarchy, Buddhist religion, and the military helped to shape a forward-thinking, progressive state that was able to negotiate its way around various attempts to initiate colonisation by European powers. Essentially, it became a western power that could demonstrate that it was equal to the representatives of the other western powers, thereby removing any pretext for an invasion or the establishment of a colonial protectorate. Also unlike most of its neighbours, Thailand retained its pre-colonial age institutions, especially the monarchy.

The new capital was referred to in Thai sources as Rattanakosin, a name which was shared with the Siamese kingdom of this historical period. The names Krung Thep and Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, both of which were shortened forms of the full ceremonial name, began to be used near the end of the nineteenth century. Foreigners, however, continued to refer to the city by the name of Bangkok, a practised which has continued to this day.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Restoration of Thailand under Rama I, 1782-1809, Klaus Wenk (1968), from A History of Thailand, Chris Baker & Pasuk Phongpaichit (2005), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Royal Thai Army (in Thai), and Thai Government, and World Population Review, and Global Security.)

1782 - 1809

Rama I / Buddha Yot Fa Chulalok

Founded dynasty.


Rama raises new laws to govern the country, and extends Siam's territory to encompass all of Vientiane, and parts of Burma, Cambodia, and the Kedah province in Malaysia. Rama also realises that the capital at Krung Thonburi is vulnerable to invasion, so has it moved across the River Chao Phaya to a small village known as Bangkok.

Early Bangkok in 1900
This photo shows a floating dock on the River Chao Phraya in Bangkok around 1900, over a century after the city's founding by King Rama I

1782 - 1803

Maha Sura Singhanat

Brother and 'Second King' (co-ruler and heir). Died.

1808 - 1809


Son of Rama I and 'Second King' (co-ruler and heir).

1809 - 1824

Rama II / Loetlanaphalai

Royal 'rama' naming system established by his son.

1809 - 1817

Maha Senanurak

Brother and 'Second King' (co-ruler and heir). Died.


The reign of Phra Phutthaloetla Naphalai, who accedes as King Loetlanaphalai, is recognised as a glorious one for art and literature. He writes a new version of Ramayana, which becomes one of the most beautiful epics in history. Many pieces of valuable literature are written in this era. However, as soon as he succeeds his father, he faces rebellion by Prince Kshatranichit, the surviving son of Taksin of the preceding Krung Thonburi kingdom. The rebellion is very quickly crushed.

Next is King Bodawpaya of Burma, who marches an army into Chumporn and conquers Thalang (Phuket) in the same year. Loetlanaphalai sends his brother, Maha Senanurak, to recapture Thalang, which had been razed to the ground. This 'Thalang Campaign' is the last invasion by the Burmese into Siamese territory.


Prince Kshatranichit

Son of Phaya Taksin of Krung Thonburi. Pretender.

1824 - 1851

Rama III / Nang Klao / Nangklao

Son. Re-established vital trade relations with China.

1824 - 1832


Uncle and 'Second King' (co-ruler and heir). Died.

1826 - 1827

The First Anglo-Burmese war ends in 1826 with the Treaty of Yandabo, according to which Burma cedes the Arakan coastal strip, between Chittagong and Cape Negrais, to the British East India Company. The British victory gives the subjugated King Anouvong of Vientiane (Laos) ideas of independence from his other oppressor, Siam. He advances to Korat, the main border city between Laos and Siam, but the non-Laos citizens there rebel against him and the Siamese army under Sakdiphonlasep catches up with him at Vientiane. After three days of fighting Anouvong is defeated but remains free to recapture his own capital from Siamese troops. The Siamese have to defeat him again, and the captured monarch is placed in a cage for the remaining year of his life. The Laos Rebellion is at an end.

1831 - 1834

The Siamese-Vietnamese War has the alternate title of the Siamese-Cambodian War. Following Ang Chan's recapture of the Cambodian throne in 1812, the Siamese have been moving into northern Cambodia and then advancing towards the south in support of their own claimant. The Cambodians are routed at the Battle of Kompong Chang in 1832, and Ang Chan is forced to flee to Vietnam. Siam is soon distracted by a revolt by the Cambodians at the same time as the Vietnamese-controlled Laos revolt. A Vietnamese army of 15,000 advances towards the Siamese in 1833, forcing the latter to withdraw. Ang Chan is restored, albeit as a Vietnamese puppet.

1841 - 1845

The 'Siamese-Vietnamese War in Cambodia', as it is known, has seen increasing Vietnamese influence in Cambodia during the reign of Queen Ang Mey. The Cambodians rebel in 1841, overthrowing the pro-Vietnamese elements and appealing to Siam. Their chosen candidate is Prince Ang Duong, and he is duly installed by force in 1842. Vietnam and Siam now face strike and counter-strike by their respective armies while the Cambodians rebel against the same Siamese heavy-handedness that started the war in the first place. On 13 September 1845, the Vietnamese take Phnom Penh and Siam is forced to withdraw. During the subsequent peace negotiations, Cambodia is placed under joint Siamese-Vietnamese protection.

1851 - 1868

Rama IV / Mongkut (Phra Chom Klao)

Son of Rama II. 'First King'. Killed by malaria.

Mongkut lives as a Buddhist monk for twenty-seven years before he becomes king. During his monastic period, he learns seven languages including Latin and English, and five others. He also studies western sciences and adopts the discipline of the local Mon monks. During his time on the throne, he creates new laws to improve women's and children's rights, opens new waterways and roads, and creates the first printing press. (He is also made forever famous in the west by being the subject of the musical film, The King and I, and the novel upon which it is based, in which his son and heir, Prince Chulalongkorn is also present.)

1851 - 1866


Brother and 'Second King' (co-ruler and heir). Died.


King Norodom requests that France establishes a protectorate over Cambodia, ending joint Siamese-Vietnamese protection. Siam voluntarily relinquishes its role and recognises the French protectorate of Cambodia.

Vietnam has its own problems, with creeping French colonial activities taking place within its borders, while uninhabited parts of Siam are the destination in the late 1800s for Hmong migrants who are leaving the Lao kingdoms.

1868 - 1910

Rama V / Chulalongkorn

Son of Rama IV.

1868 - 1910

Chulalongkorn continues his father's progressive policies with reforms of the state's tradition, legal, and administrative realms. As a starting point, officials are allowed to sit on chairs during royal audiences. Thailand also develops relations with European nations and the USA, and introduces schools, roads, railways, and Siam's first post office. He even establishes a civil service system.


Siam loses some territory to the French, Laos, and British-controlled Burma. After that Chulalongkorn declares his country to be an independent kingdom on 23 of October, making the day a national holiday (this national holiday is subsequently celebrated every year in commemoration of this event, and people lay wreaths in memory of the king they call 'Phra Piya Maharaj', 'piya' meaning 'beloved', and 'maharaj' meaning 'great king').

King Chulalongkorn's funeral
King Chulalongkorn's funeral in 1910 was a state affair, documented in photographs and  mourned by people wearing the seventeenth century costumes of Ayutthaya, Siam's former capital


The king overhauls the administration of Siam to a form of cabinet government which consists of twelve ministers.


Siam has been refusing to give way to French advances along the Mekong, so French ships make a show of strength off Bangkok. Later in the year, on the advice of their British advisors, Siam withdraws from the eastern bank of the Mekong and gives official recognition to French Indochina and its protectorate of Laos within the evacuated territory.


The Akha establish their first hill tribe village in Thailand, in the Phaya Phrai region near the border with a Burma which is now a province of British India.

1910 - 1925

Rama VI / Vajiravudh


1910 - 1925

Vajiravudh introduces westernisation to Siam, bringing in primary school education, and encouraging Thai women to grow their hair to a certain length. Surnames and football are also introduced.

1917 - 1918

Having jointly guaranteed in 1839 to support the neutrality of Belgium, when the country is invaded by Germany, Britain and all its territories and colonies (including Canada), France and Russia are forced to declare war at midnight on 4 August 1914. The First World War (variously called World War I, or the Great War), begins, and in 1917 Thailand decides to become an official ally of Britain.

1925 - 1935

Rama VII / Prachadhipok / Prajadhipok

Brother. Abdicated.


The world's economy is still suffering badly from the Great Depression, and Siam is heavily affected. Prachadhipok has already replaced many of Vajiravudh's discredited civilian advisers with more experienced members of the royal family. Unfortunately they have not adequately communicated their policies to the general populace. Prachadhipok has been blocked from changing Siam's form of government from absolute monarchy to democracy, so elements of the military take the decision out of his hands in a bloodless coup. The reforms are forced through, developing the new constitutional monarchy along British lines, with mixed military and civilian power-holders and a parliamentary government.

Commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena, and his immediate successor, Lord Phibul Songkhram, are both key players in the coup - two of the so-called 'Four Musketeers'. The latter maintains his own position and power from 1938 until the end of the Second World War. Several other military leaders follow, and all of these are shown below with a shaded background.

1932 - 1938

Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena

Commander-in-chief of the military and the true power.

1935 - 1946

Rama VIII / Ananda Mahidolo

Nephew of Rama VII. Assassinated, circumstances unclear.

1938 - 1944

Lord Plaek Phibul Songkhram

Military leader and the true power.

1940 - 1941

From about October 1940 onwards, Thailand under the military domination of Lord Plaek Phibul Songkhram begins attacking the eastern banks of the Mekong between Vientiane and Champassak province, intent on creating a pan-Thai empire.

This erupts into a full Thai invasion of Laos in January 1941, but initial victories soon give way to a stalemate when the French colonial authorities of French Indochina win a great naval victory at Ko Chang.

Their Japanese overlords mediate a ceasefire, compelling the French colonial government to cede Champasak and Xaignabouli province in Laos and Battambang province in Cambodia to Thailand. This ends the war.

1941 - 1942

Almost simultaneous with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, their forces land in Siam's territory. Initial Siamese resistance is brief, and following negotiations, the Japanese forces are allowed to advance towards the British-controlled Malay peninsula, Singapore, and Burma.

Now under some pressure and persuasion from Japan, in 1942 the military government declares war on Britain and the US, although the Thai ambassador in Washington refuses to deliver the declaration to the US government.

Having been moved by his parents to Lausanne in Switzerland in 1933 for protection during the post-coup period, King Ananda is away again when the Japanese arrive. He is unable to return until 1945.

1946 - 2016

Rama IX / Bhumipol Aduldej / Adulyadej

Brother of Rama VIII. World's longest-serving monarch.

1946 - 1947

The country's name is officially changed from Siam to Thailand, which is defined in the Thai language as 'Prathet Thai'. 'Prathet' means 'country' and 'Thai' means 'freedom', declaring Thailand to be the 'Free Country'. Unfortunately in the post-Second World War period, the country has many spells during which it is not as free as it should be. The military rules for much of the time, with a few interludes in which the country enjoys a democratically-elected government. The first of these coups takes place in 1947. The military retains power continuously until 1973, despite attempted counter-coups by elements that are linked to the monarchy and by rival military elements.

1948 - 1957

Lord Plaek Phibul Songkhram

Military leader who returned to power. Exiled.


The coup d'état of 1957 - seemingly with US involvement - leads directly to a second coup in 1958, this time by Field Marshal Sarit Dhanaraj. He is supported by a good number of royalists who want to tilt the balance of power back in their favour. Phibul Songkhram is forced into exile in Japan, where he remains until his death in 1964.

1957 - 1963

Sarit Dhanaraj

Field marshal and the true power. Died in office.

1963 - 1973

Thanom Kittikachorn

Field marshal and the true power. Stepped down.


Thanom Kittikachorn's constant self-promotion (literally, as he continually appoints himself to ever more senior military ranks and positions) has finally generated enough public discontent to make a difference. The '14 October 1973 Uprising' involves student-led demonstrations for a re-establishment of democratic government. Three days of violence later, Thanom Kittikachorn's regime collapses and he flees the country.


Thanom returns to Thailand on in October, now in the guise of a novitiate monk. His return triggers student protests which quickly increase. Given the highly unstable political situation in the region, especially in Cambodia, Laos and South Vietnam, right wing Thais see the protests as a move to initiate another communist takeover. A massacre of protesters takes place on the Thammasat University campus, enacted principally by right wing activists but backed by the government. The military seizes power later that same day under the leadership of Admiral Sangad Chaloryu, removing the elected civilian government from power. However, it is the king who appoints the new prime minister, and the military are limited to secondary posts.


Sangad Chaloryu

Admiral and coup leader.

1976 - 1977

Tanin Kraivixien

Civilian prime minister, unelected and dictatorial.


An attempted coup is foiled without being able to achieve its aim of removing Tanin Kraivixien, who has proved himself to be a dictator in all but name. Admiral Sangad Chaloryu steps in and ensures the prime minister's removal himself. As the head of the National Administrative Reform Council (NARC) - the military junta that takes control - he briefly rules before being replaced by the true power behind NARC, Kriangsak Chamanan.


Sangad Chaloryu

Led a fresh coup.

1977 - 1980

Kriangsak Chamanan

Military leader. Power behind NARC (the junta). Retired.

1980 - 1988

Prem Tinsulanonda

Military leader.


Prem Tinsulanonda dissolves parliament following political unrest. He calls for a general election and refuses requests to return to his role as premier. Instead the winning Chart Thai Party now governs the country.

2001 - 2014

Thai politics becomes dominated by the irreconcilable split between the supporters and detractors of Thaksin Shinawatra, who serves as the new prime minister until he is ousted by the military in 2006. Thaksin's sister, Yingluck, becomes prime minister following the 2011 election but in turn is ousted by a military coup in 2014.

Thailand's 2014 coup
The 2014 army coup in Thailand was largely peaceful, but after a week of protests the army chiefs decided enough was enough and banned further demonstrations

The government and military control nearly all of the national terrestrial television networks and operate many of Thailand's radio networks. The media are free to criticise government policies, and cover instances of corruption and human rights abuses, but journalists tend to exercise self-censorship regarding the military, the monarchy, the judiciary, and other sensitive issues.

2014 - Present

Prayuth Chan-ocha

Military leader and the true power.


The death of eighty-eight year-old King Rama IX on Thursday 13 October prompts a national outpouring of grief for the beloved monarch. Two days later the crown prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn, announces a personal period of mourning of a year, with his coronation delayed until then. The country, too, enters a period of mourning that will last a year, with entertainment events and tv toned down or cancelled altogether. Former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda stands in as regent for the duration.

2016 - Present

Rama X / Maha Vajiralongkorn

Son and heir of Rama IX. Born 28.06.1952.


The fact that Maha Vajiralongkorn has been married four times and divorced three times, and has eight children, makes the succession rather more complicated than it normally would be. His sons by his second wife have been stripped of their royal status following their father's divorce and their mother leaving Thailand to live first in the UK and then the USA. The daughter from that relationship was soon kidnapped by Vajiralongkorn and brought back to Thailand where she has been confirmed as Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana.

The king has married twice since that relationship, first to Srirasmi Suwadee (divorced 2014), and then to Nui, more formally known as Suthida Vajiralongkorn. The first of those unions produced Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, the current heir presumptive, while the second produced a boy (around 2014-2015) who would seem to be second in line to the throne.

Dipangkorn Rasmijoti

Son and heir presumptive.

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