A hilltribe woman near Chaing Rai
HistoryNortheastern Thailand, near the Mekong, is believed to have been the birthplace of Thai civilization more than 6 thousand years ago. In the 13th century, the Thais broke away from the Khymer Empire and established an independent kingdom in Sukhothai. By the beginning of the 14th century, the kingdom extended west to the Bay of Bengal, south to Singapore and north into Laos.
The king, Ramkamhaeng, revered as the father of Thailand, also created the Thai alphabet, helping to unite the scattered tribes of the country. After his death, the kingdom of Ayutthaya rose to become a great empire.
Thailand has a history of fierce struggles to maintain its independence. The Burmese captured and destroyed Ayutthaya in 1767. The Thais drove out the enemy and re-established their capital in Bangkok.
The Chakri dynasty came into power and under Rama IV and Rama V held off colonial threats from the British and the French. In 1932, after a bloodless coup, Thailand became a constitutional monarchy.
King Bhumibol, with his wife Queen Sirikit, have been Thailand's spiritual leaders since 1946. The King sets the moral tone for Thailand and has often settled political disputes within the government and prevented bloodshed. 1996 marks the Golden Jubilee of his accession to the throne.
Jewels of the Mekong
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