Two unified Thai kingdoms emerged in the mid-13th century. The Sukhothai, located in the south-central plains, gained its independence from the Khmer Empire to the east. By the late 13th century, Sukhothai’s territory extended into present-day Burma and Laos. Sukhothai lasted until the mid-15th century. The Thai Lan Na Kingdom was established in the north with its capital at Chang Mai. Lan Na was conquered by the Burmese in the 16th century. The Ayutthaya Kingdom (14th-18th centuries) succeeded the Sukhothai and would become known as the Siamese Kingdom. During the Ayutthaya period, the Thai/Siamese peoples consolidated their hold on what is present-day central and north-central Thailand. Following a military defeat at the hands of the Burmese in 1767, the Siamese Kingdom rose to new heights under the military ruler TAKSIN, who defeated the Burmese occupiers and expanded the kingdom’s territory into modern-day northern Thailand (formerly the Lan Na Kingdom), Cambodia, Laos, and the Malay Peninsula. The kingdom fought off additional Burmese invasions and raids in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In the mid-1800s, Western pressure led to Siam signing trade treaties that reduced the country’s sovereignty and independence. In the 1890s and 1900s, the British and French forced the kingdom to cede Cambodian, Laotian, and Malay territories that had been under Siamese control.
A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. After the Japanese invaded Thailand in 1941, the government split into a pro-Japan faction and a pro-Allied faction backed by the king. Thailand became a US treaty ally in 1954 after sending troops to Korea and later fighting alongside the US in Vietnam. Thailand since 2005 has experienced several rounds of political turmoil including a military coup in 2006 that ousted then Prime Minister THAKSIN Chinnawat, followed by large-scale street protests by competing political factions in 2008, 2009, and 2010. THAKSIN's youngest sister, YINGLAK Chinnawat, in 2011 led the Puea Thai Party to an electoral win and assumed control of the government.
In early May 2014, after months of large-scale anti-government protests in Bangkok beginning in November 2013, YINGLAK was removed from office by the Constitutional Court and in late May 2014 the Royal Thai Army, led by Gen. PRAYUT Chan-ocha, staged a coup against the caretaker government. The military-affiliated National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), led by PRAYUT as the appointed minister, ruled the country for more than four years, during which time the NCPO drafted a new constitution guaranteeing military sway over Thai politics in future elections by allowing the military to appoint the entire 250-member Senate and requiring a joint meeting of the House and Senate to select the prime minister, effectively giving the military a veto over the choice for the top executive. King PHUMIPHON Adunyadet passed away in October 2016 after 70 years on the throne; his only son, WACHIRALONGKON (aka King RAMA X), formally ascended the throne in December 2019. He signed the new constitution in April 2017. A long-delayed election in March 2019, disputed and widely viewed as skewed in favor of the party aligned with the military, allowed PRAYUT to continue his premiership. The country experienced large-scale anti-government protests in 2020.
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NOTE: The information regarding Thailand on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Thailand 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Thailand 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.
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