archaeological studies have revealed that the area that
today constitutes Thailand has been inhabited for at least
20,000 years. Around the 10th century, various Thai speaking
people emigrated from Central Asia to the south. During the
13th century, two Thai states emerged. The Suhkothai Kingdom
was founded around 1220 after a successful uprising against
the Khmer kingdom (see Cambodia). The state of Chiang Mai
was founded in 1296 and in 1350 Suhkothai was replaced by
the Aytthaya kingdom, which once again dissolved the Khmer
kingdom which was about to disintegrate.
The Burmese were the strongest rival to the Aytthaya
kingdom. In 1569, the forces of Aytthaya were defeated by
the Burmese who conquered the capital and for 15 years ruled
the country. In 1767 the Burmese once again conquered the
capital of the Thais and brought down the Aytthaya dynasty.
In 1782, Rama I founded the Chakri dynasty - which
continues to rule the country - and moved the capital to
Bangkok (Krung Thep). Rama III extended the Thai empire to
the south, encompassing the entire Malay Peninsula, to the
north into Laos, and to the southeast into Cambodia.
Throughout the 19th century, British and French fought
for control of the area, but in 1896 both colonial powers
entered into an agreement to preserve the kingdom's formal
independence while continuing their rivalry over the
country's agricultural resources. However, the influence of
the colonial powers also led to some modernization of
society. Slavery was abolished, public schooling, railways
and telegraphs were introduced. Central government was
centralized and a comprehensive state bureaucracy was
developed. It was recruited from the traditional feudalist
democracy, which underwent European education to meet the
demands of the new age. At the same time, the military was
developed and modernized. The form of governance during this
period was almost enlightened. All the political power
remained in the king's hands. Under 1.The League of Nations.
Gradually, the monarchy came into conflict with the new
class of officials, and in 1932 the monarchy was abolished
by a bloodless coup. The country was transformed into a
constitutional monarchy by Western European pattern, forming
a parliament elected by universal suffrage. However,
contradictions quickly emerged within the new ruling layer:
the first government under Pridi Phanomyong, supported by
the progressive elements of civilian bureaucracy, had to
step down after just a year. Instead, a Pibul Songgram
Conservative government took over - dominated by the
military. In 1941, the Conservative government allied with
the Japanese to avoid Japanese invasion, and occupied parts
of Malaysia during the war.. When it became clear that the
Japanese would lose the war, Pridi once again seized power,
reconciled with the Allies and initiated a democratization.
In 46, the occupied territories were delivered back to the
British who were colonial lords in Malaysia.
Democratization, however, lasted briefly. In 47, Pibul
returned to power with support from the United States.
In June of that year, King Ananda Mahidol died in
circumstances that have never been clarified. The US
succeeded in placing his brother Rama IX on the throne. Born
in the United States, he never hid his sympathies for this
country. In the years that followed, Thailand evolved more
and more into a North American satellite. A development that
particularly accelerated and reached its peak in the 60s. In
1957, Pibul was ousted by the military and a purely military
dictatorship was introduced. The country experienced strong
economic growth during these years due to large North
American investments, but the development was unilaterally
concentrated in the Bangkok area, where a number of new
industries sprung up. The profits went predominantly to the
foreign major corporations that controlled this development
and to a national citizenship - with strong military
elements - attached to these interests.
militarily, Thailand became a North American satellite: as
early as the 1950s, the United States systematically
supported the building and modernization of the Thai army,
and from the mid-1960s the North American military
"presence" became even more concrete in the form of a series
of aircraft bases and large troop forces - approx. 50,000
men. Already in 1954, the superpower had made Bangkok the
headquarters of SEATO (South East Asian Treaty Organziation)
- a military alliance with the participation of the
Southeast Asian countries and the United States to curb the
revolutionary development of the region. In 1961, large
North American troop forces were sent into the country to
fight the popular uprising in Laos. Throughout the 1960s,
Thailand became one of the most important North American
support points for the Vietnam War, and Thai soldiers fought
on the United States in both Korea and Vietnam.
Yellow shirts and red shirts
After the People's Party election campaign, 2008 was a
very turbulent year with political power struggles and
massive, violent street demonstrations. Under the leadership
of Samak Sundaravej, the People's Party had profiled their
close ties to the fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra. It now formed
a majority government in the form of a six-party coalition.
But in September 2008, Samak was disqualified by the
Constitutional Court: He continued as a TV chef in some
programs after becoming prime minister, something the court
found to be illegal. Deputy Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat
took over the Prime Minister's post. Like Thaksin's
brother-in-law, he was also regarded as his political
deputy, and immediately became the object of the "yellow
The conditions were particularly chaotic towards the end
of 2008. The Anti-Thaksin movement, which called itself the
People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), paralyzed central
parts of Bangkok for months with its massive protests.
Somewhat paradoxically, many in the People's Alliance claim
that Thailand is not ripe for Western democracy. On the
other hand, they advocate a "controlled democracy" in which
the military has a role as a political order power.
The People's Alliance's "yellow shirts" kept the
government building occupied to push the Somchai government
to resign. The riots culminated in November, when the yellow
shirts occupied and blocked Bangkok's new main airport,
Suvarnabhumi. They also took over the old airport, Don
Muang, where the Somchai government had established with
provisional offices. The airport occupation caused over
300,000 tourists to be stranded for days.
The airport occupation ended when the Constitutional
Court issued a new ruling on December 2: The People's Party
had been found guilty of voting in connection with the
December elections. On December 15, 2008, Parliament elected
the leader of the Democratic Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to
Thailand's fourth prime minister in one year.
Some defectors from the Thaksin camp now joined parties
that supported the Democratic Party, which could gather a
majority behind it. The situation was still unclear and
unstable, with no sign of national reconciliation. A new
massive protest movement has now plunged into the streets
with red shirts as a hallmark. The red shirts from the
pro-Thaksin movement called themselves the National Front
for Democracy Against Dictatorship, the National United
Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, UDD. By blocking
the parliament building, they managed to delay the accession
of the Abhisit government.
The turmoil flared up again in March / April 2009. The
National Front red shirts blocked the central government
buildings in Bangkok for weeks. They also halted a scheduled
summit in the ASEAN federation by storming the conference
rooms in Pattaya. The rebel police failed to deal with the
red shirts, and as a host, the Abhisit government suffered a
severe "loss of face". The heads of government from 12
Southeast Asian countries had to be evacuated by helicopter.
During the riots, Thaksin Shinawatra came from his exile
in Dubai with a call to his followers to go out into the
streets and revolt. On this basis, an arrest warrant was
issued again, and Thaksin was charged with, among other
things, having financed the unrest. He thus faces up to 12
years in prison if he returns.
Thaksin, by the way, had returned from exile after the
People's Party's election victory in 2007. He resumed exile
in 2008 after being tried in court with his wife, Khunying
Potjaman. In October 2008, he was sentenced by the Supreme
Court to two years in absentia for abuse of power in
connection with his wife's purchase of public land.
Khunying's husband was jailed for three years. Thaksin
argued that the judgments were politically motivated. From
his exile life, he still has his political outlook, and is
thus still a central figure in Thai politics. He is
reportedly still Thailand's richest man, but much of the
family wealth, probably about $ 14 billion, has been blocked
by the authorities.
In March 2010, the UDD and the red shirts mobilized
again. They demanded that Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolve the
National Assembly and announce new elections. Abhisit was
accused of lacking legitimacy as he had won no election but
was appointed by parliament when the People's Party PPP in
December 2008 was dissolved by the Constitutional Court.
Several red-shirt leaders also went hard and accused the
King of political interference.
In April 2010, there was a clash between red-shirt
protesters and security forces. 28 people lost their lives
in the period 10-15. April. In May, the protests escalated
again and the red shirts occupied central parts of Bangkok.
On May 19, the army intervened against the protest camp. It
was shot sharply and the leaders of the UDD were arrested.
At least 52 people were killed in the period 14-19. May and
around 50 civilians are still missing.