Thailand History, Language and Culture

History of Thailand

Thailand’s social history can be traced back to the Neolithic period, but the country we know and love came into effect with the establishment of an alliance between three kingdoms – Lan Na, Sukhothai, and Phayao in the 13th century. The 14th and 15th centuries witnessed the emergence and growth of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which continued until it fell to the Burmese, initially in 1569, then again in 1760, before finally succumbing in 1767.

Thailand’s current Chakri Dynasty began in 1782 when Phraya Chakri ascended the throne as King Ramathibodi, Rama I. The new dynasty moved the country’s capital city to Bangkok where it remains to this day. King Mongkut, Rama IV, instigated trade and diplomatic relations with European countries in the mid-19th century, as well as educational reforms.

During the reign of King Prajadhipok, Rama VII, Thailand changed from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy following a coup d’état in 1932. The country’s name was officially changed in 1939 from Siam to Prathet Thai, or Thailand, meaning ‘land of the free’, a phrase used to express pride in the fact that Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to be colonised by a European state.

The Thai military government sided with the Japanese in WWII and allowed US forces to use Thai territory during the Vietnam War. Democracy developed slowly in Thailand and after a quarter of a century of military rule, civilian government was restored in 1973 following the student riots in Bangkok, but this was to last only three years before the military again took control.

The country continues to move between civilian and military administration – the latest coup in May 2014 resulted in new elections with an end to martial law declared on 1 April 2015, prompting one commentator to note that in the 83 years since absolute monarchy ended in 1932, uniformed or ex-military men have led the nation for 55 years.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX was one of the world’s longest serving head of state and Thailand’s longest reigning monarch, having ascended the throne in 1946. After his death in October 2016, his son Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (known as Vajiralongkorn) has taken to the throne, although he has not yet been crowned formally.

Did you know?
• Thailand colluded with the Japanese in the construction of the infamous Burma-Siam railway, made legend by the film The Bridge on the River Kwai.
• Although the elephant is Thailand’s national symbol, its numbers have dropped from 100,000 in 1850 to around 2,700 domesticated elephants today, and 2,000-3,000 in the wild.
• In Thailand, it is illegal to leave home without wearing underwear.

Thailand Culture


The vast majority adhere to Buddhism (Theravada form), 5% are Muslim and there are Christian and Hindu minorities.

Language in Thailand

Thai is the official language. English is widely spoken, especially in establishments catering for tourists.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.