Thailand


Figure 1.--This Thai postcard shows boys playing 'Combodia' in 1995. Notice the Western styles.

Thailand is the Southeast Asian country bordering on all the Southeast Asian countries except Vietnam. The country until the mid-20th century was known as Siam. Thailand's history like that of other countries in the region until modern times was one of continuing wars with rival neighboring states In modern times, Thailand was the only Southeast Asian country not colonized by the Europeans. The Thais avoid Japanese occupation in World War II by becoming an Axis ally. The government is a constiutional monarchy with a democratic parliament. The country's longest border is with Burma because the two countries share the northern streaches of the Malay Peninsula. The climnate is tropical with the southern border reaching 6°N along the Malaysia border. The religion is primarily Buddhist. The population is ethnically Thai, but their is a Malay population in the south. The Malays are mostly Muslim. The official language is standard Thai, but tghere are many local dialects. Thailand is noted for beautiful traditional garments done in Phraewa silk. Thailand has a large modern textile clothing industry. The warm tropical cliamte is a major factor in clothing. One Thai reader reports that girls like to wear all colours, eccept for their school uniform. They like to wear shorts, T-shirts and some wear hats . Boys like to wear jeans, pants, T-shirts and hats. All Thai schools require uniforms.

Geography

Thailand is the Southeast Asian country bordering on all the Southeast Asian countries except Vietnam. The country until the mid-20th century was known as Siam. The country's longest border is with Burma because the two countries share the northern streaches of the Malay Peninsula. The climnate is tropical with the southern border reaching 6°N along the Malaysia border.

History

The Thais first began appeared in the area of modern Thiland (6th century). Thais and Kymers have left ancient walled cities and elaborate temples. The Thais dominated the westen area (13th century). The Chinese Mongol Court referred to the newly formed city state of Ayutthaya as “Hsien” which was pronounced something like Sayam / Siam -- this was the origins of the country's name until Thiland was afopted. The Thais fought wars with the Cambodians in the east and and the Burmese in the west. After the British established the Raj in India, the Europeans (Britain France, and the Netherlands) began colonizing Southeast Asia. Thailand was the only country that was able to avoid foreign colonial control. The British seized control of Burma (1824). The French seized control of Cambodia and Vietnam (1887). An Anglo-French accord guaranteed the independence of Thailand (1896). A military coup seized control from the monarchy became a figurehead and established representative government based on universal suffrage (1932). The military susequently seized effective control. Thailand during World War II joined the Axis. After Pearl Harbor, the Thais under Japanese pressure declared war on America and Britain (1942). The Thais allowed the Japanese in Indo-China (Vietnm) to pass through the country unimoeded to attack the British in Burma (1941). As the British were retaking Burma, the pro-Japanese Thai government fell and the new government repudiated the declaration of war. The Thais were concerned about Communist subversion after the Communist victory in China (1948) and North Vietnam (1953). They supported U.S. efforts to prevent a Communist takeover of South Viertnam and Cambodia. The United States supported Thasiland with $2 billion in economic and military aid. The Thais committed troops to South Vietnam andc allowed American bombing raids from bases in Thailand. The American withdrawl from Vietnam (1973) and subsequent collapse of South Vietnam and Cambodia (1975) forced the Thais to reorient their foreign policy. The United States withdrew its military forces (1976). Thailand now faces Muslim terror attacks in the southeast.

Economy

The Thai economy is the second largest in Southeast Asia, only exceeded by Indonesia. Like all the countries in the region it is heavily dependent on agricultural. Southeast asia has some of the most prodictive agricultural lands in the world. It is well wateres and rivers from the Himilayan highlands feed into the area bringing bith water ad rich aluvial soil. Thailand was the firt counbtry in the region to begin to build a modern economy, process largely beginning adter World War II. Thailand has a large modern textile clothing industry and there has been diversification into electronics in recent years. The modern Thai economy is heavily dependent on export markets. About two-thirds if the Thai GDP is derived from exports. Only Singapore in the region is more dependant on exports. The two principal economic sectors are today industry ad services. Industry is now the dominant sector (40 percent). Other important sectors are trade (almost 15 percent) and logistics (nearly 10 percen). Other service sectors (including the financial, education and hotel and restaurant sectors) are all important (totaling 25 percent). Agriculture i no longer central, but still of some impotance (nealy 10 percent). This is the lowest in Southeatvasia, of course except for largely urban singapore. Telecommunications and trade are the fastest growing sectors. Incomes measured in per-capita GDP (US$5,390 in 2012) places Thailand in the middle of Southeast Asian in income terms (after Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia). Thailand's unemployment rate is low, primarily because large numbers of people are still involved in subsistence agriculture or self employed such as hwking merchandice on the street.

Chronology


Garments

The warm tropical cliamte is a major factor in clothing. Heavy clothing is not needed. The earliest trditional garments seem to have Indian styles even though the people themselves appear to have migrated from Vhimese border lands befor the onset of Chinese civilizxation. China is closer to Thailand than India, but the sea connctions, meaking trade routes are more direct with India. There was also contact with China where silk garments forst appear. Climate meant that there was little access to wool. Most people wire cotton garments. We notice the use of silk for luxurios garments. Thailand is noted for beautiful traditional garments done in Phraewa silk. The early styles for women were baically wrappings. Garments as they developed include: Pha nung, Chong kraben, Sin, Sabai, and Suea pat. we have, however, very little information on traditional clothing yet. Western styles began to become common after World war II. We see Thais, at least in urban areas, wearing mostly Western clothing now. we still see some traditional clthing in rural areas. Some Thais may dress up in traditional outfits for special occassions. This is mostly women and girls. One Thai reader reports that girls like to wear all colours, eccept for their school uniform. They like to wear shorts, T-shirts and some wear hats . Boys like to wear jeans, pants, T-shirts and hats. Thai schools require uniforms. We also see Thai children mostly wearing Western clothing as casual and play outfits. This is probanly mostly a matter of practicality. These garments are the same as worn in Westen countries and the T-shirts often have English-lanuage messages. Since the 1970s we see Thai boys wearing the same csual styles popular in the west--basically Americamn fashions.

Activities

We note a range of children's activities in Thailand. As in most countries, schools are the most important activity for children. Education has been significantly expanded in recent years. Thai children wear school uniforms. The country is a largely Buddhist country, but there is a restive Muslim minority in the south. The Muslims are largely ethnic Malays. Thailand has an important youth movemnent and participation is part of the school program. Religion is also important in Thailand. We do not yet have much information about holiday celebrations in Thailand. We know very little about the games children play in Thailand. Sports are played, but do not seem as popular as in many countries. We are not sure just why that is. We do not know much about the arts in Thailand. There is a interesting traditional dance.

Ethnicity

The Thai population is primarily ethnically Thai, comprising about 75 percent of the population. The remaining 25 percent is divided among 30 other ethnic groups which make of the Thai population. These groups have varying historical experiences, language, religion, physical appearance, and cultures. The Thai are one of the principal ethnic groups of Southeast Asia. They are cioncentrated in Thailand, but minorities are found in several neigboring countries and the Lao in Laos to the north are related ehnically. As are the Shan people of (Myanmar/Burma) and various Thai peoples (soiuthern China). The Thai people are divided into three major groups and three groups of lesser importance. The three major groups are: 1) the Central Thai (Siamese) which inhabit the Central Valley, 2) the Eastern Thai (Lao) of the Northeast (Khorat) and the Northern Thai (Lao) of northern Thailand, and 3) the Southern Thain (Chao Pak Thai) of peninsular Thailand. The minor Thai groups include: the Phuthai of northeastern Khorat, the Shan of the far northwestern corner of northern Thailand (along the Burmese border), and the Lue in the northeastern section of northern Thailand. Despite the various groupings, the Thai people are united by a common language. The official language is standard Thai, but there are many local dialects. The largest ethnic minority as is the case in much of Southeast Asia is the Chinese (about 15 percent). They are the descendents of Chinese merchants and traders who emigrated into the area as trade developed with China. The Chinese are a largey urban population involved in business and commerce throughout the country. Other smaller groups account for the rest of the country's population (10 percent). Here the largest group is Malay (less than 5 percent) and they are found primarily in the southern peninsular area leading to Malaya, but to a limited extent along the southeast coast. The other ethnic groups represent only a small portion of the population. Khmers are found all along the Cambodian border from the Mekong to the Gulf of Thailand. Given the fact that Thailand and Cambodia share a long common border. The small Kymer population is probably because of the historical animosities and conflict between these people has meant that both groups along theborder have moved into their repective nation states. Vietnamese / Annamese inhabit the southern Khorat and on the southeast coast. Thee are many different tribal groups, although the number of people is relatively small. Most of the tribal groups are hill peoples. This mnans that over time as the Thai moved into the rich Mekong agicultural Valley, they drove the more primitive people into the arginal hill lands. The tribal people include: the Kui and Kaleung, in the northeast; the Mons, living mainly on the peninsula along the Burmese border; and the Karens along the southern Burmese border. Many of the Hill tribes are also found in adjacent areas oif Burmna and Laos. There are some 20 other very small tribal groups: the Akha, Musso, Meo, Kamuk, Tin, Lawa, and So. These tribes tend to be very primiive engaged in hunter-gather life styles supplemented by primitive agriculture and live in very isolated forret regions. A destinctive group shared with Burma are the Moken ( Mawken or Morgan), some times called the 'sea people' or 'sea gypsies'. They are an Austronesian ethnic group composed of about 2,500 people. As their names sugget, they pursue a sea-based culture. They speak a destinctive language in the Austronesian language family rather than Thai.

Royalty

The Thai monarchy is little knowm outside of Southeast Asia. All that most Westerners know is that there was a Thai monarchy as a result of the wonderful play and movie: "Ana and the King of Siam"/"The King and I". The Chakrias are the current reigning dynasty. The dynasty has reigned since 1782. In the more than two centuries there have been nine reigning kings, a remarkably small number. Each of the Chakria kings has taken the name Rama. The famous king in the "King and I" was King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). Chulalongkorn took many steps to modernize the country and prevent seizure by the European colonial powers. Thialand (then called Siam) was located between British Burma to the west and Frech Indochina to the east. He abolished slavery among other modernizing steps. He was succeeded by two of his sons, first Vajiravudh (1910) and Prajadhipok (1925). King Prajadhipok died unexpectedly (1935). The crown then passed to to Prajadhipok's nephew--Ananda Mahidol. King Mahidol was assasinated (1946). The throne then passed to his younger brother--Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). He is greatly revered in Thailand although his real power is limited. The king and Queen Sirikit married in 1950. King Adulyadej is still the Thai monarch, the longest reigning living monarch. The royal couple have four children, including the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is heir to the throne.








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Created: 5:38 AM 8/13/2010
Last updated: 11:15 PM 6/9/2012