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Originally called Siam, Thailand is
a country rich in culture and natural beauty. It has been blessed with expansive natural
parks, fertile plains, remote jungles, beaches washed by turquoise waters and tropical
islands bathed in endless sunshine. The country has more visible historical evidence of
its past cultures than any other country in Southeast Asian. Its history is very complex,
involving the invasion of many different peoples, the rule of different kings, the
establishment of various kingdoms and the interaction of diverse cultures.
The period of time from the mid
1800's until now is probably the most important in terms of the formation of modern day
Thailand. King Mongkut, who ruled the country from 1851 to 1868, was a well educated,
ex-monk who kept Thailand safe from European expansion. His son, Chulalongkorn, took over
in 1868 and continued theenlightenment and modernization of Thailand. King
Chulalongkornmade great strides in improving the country, however he refused to allow his
people democratic rights. This finally led to a takeover by Thai intellectuals, along with
military help, in 1932.
The name of the country was changed
from Siam to Thailand in 1939 by Prime Minister Phibun Songkhram, mainly because he wanted
to disassociate his country from the past. Translated literally, Thailand means "Land
of the Free".
The Thai race was previously
believed to have originated somewhere near Mongolia, later moving southward. However, new
theories based on historical discoveries regard the northeastern part of Thailand as the
birthplace of the Thai race.
Over the years, the country has
become home to many immigrants. The Thai people have managed to preserve the traditions of
their unique culture, at the same time absorbing the practices of modern living.
Nevertheless, the combination of
cultures and backgrounds of these immigrants make Thailand an interesting and memorable
country to visit. Tourism has become an important industry in the country. More people
visit Thailand than any other country in Southeast Asia. In 2000, more than 9½ million
people visited Thailand.
© 1999 - 2001 Peter Kremers
| , 2001
Last updated 06-29-2001