of Thailand was known as Siam until 1939. Some parts of Thailand or Siam was governed
by the Khmers, based in what is presently Cambodia,
during the 11th and 12th centuries. In 1238, 2 Thai leaders
fought against Khmer rulers and
founded the 1st self-governing
Thai kingdom. Ayutthaya, located north of Bangkok,
was the first capital of the kingdom from the early-14th century,
until its overthrow by Burmese attackers in
1767. The Burmese were enforced to go out and the monarchy was re-founded.
The certain rule lasted in 1932, when it was displaced by a
system of constitutional monarchy.
Thailand progressively installed a democratic and pluralistic system
of government. Progress was slow, principally owing to the military,
which has strongly influenced on Thai politics.
The army has taken
the government 17 times since 1932. During
the Cold War democratic governments
did not happen very often
in the region and Thailand's chief ally, the USA, were more
encroaching communism from elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Thailand
was an important member of the major regional anti-communist
bloc, Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
played an important role
in proposing the reformation of ASEAN
into a regional trading bloc (see Business).
It was part of a re-alignment of Thai foreign policy contrived
by the government of Chatichai Choonhaven, who
led from his election in 1988 until his removal in a military
coup in February 1991. The coup was a
by army chief General Suchinda Kraprayoon and
ended with a return to democratic civilian government in March
During the next 5 years, Thailand had 4 elections and a variety
of coalition governments. King Bhumibol, who
is greatly esteemed
as a semi-divinity by Thai people, intervened to calm down difficult situations and arguments that seemed to be spiraling out of control.
As well as the problems of coalition politics, succeeding governments
were also being
by growing corruption in Thailand's
political and business life. These issues came to a head by the
1997 Asian financial crisis, of which Thailand
was 1 of the main victims. The government fell, owing to
its inept handling of the crisis.
In 1997 a new constitution limiting the military power was at last put in place. The first elections for a new Senate
under this new constitution were held in March of 2000. The poll
for the more influential House of Representatives
took place in January 2001. The problem of corruption, which
has long haunted Thai politics, was reflected in the fact that
the winner – the billionaire tycoon, Thaksin Shinawatra
– had been officially charged with fraud and tax evasion.
Nonetheless, leading the quirkily named Thai Rak Thai
(Thais Love Thais) party, Thaksin Shinawatra won a mandate on
the promise to support poor farmers and stand up to the IMF.
In spite of
his personal troubles, Thaksin has presided
over a relatively successful administration and, barring a major
political faux pas, is likely to lead Thai Rak Thai in his now
second term in office. The Democrats have not
been able to overturn Thaksin's huge majority, particularly since
their most popular and experienced politician, Chuan Leekpai,
retired in 2003.
The economy is booming once again and progress
has been made in the foreign policy field, particularly in relations
with India, China and Malaysia,
with whom co-operative agreements on bilateral mutual security
have been signed. Thailand also hosted successful peace talks
between the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil
Tiger rebels (see Sri Lanka). The border with Myanmar,
Thailand's most troublesome neighbour in recent years, closes
from time to time due to fighting between the Myanmar army and
Shan rebels spilling over into Thai territory. There is also
a strongly growing
rebellion in the principally Muslim-populated provinces
in southern Thailand which border Malaysia. This is quickly becoming
problem for the Thai government.