Thailand (Thai: ประเทศไทย, Prathet Thai
), officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand (Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย Ratcha Anachak
), formerly known as Siam (Thai: สยาม, Sayam
), is a country in Southeast Asia.
The history of the country dates back pretty far, and was once considered to be the location of the oldest Bronze Age culture in the world (Ban Chiang village), but radiocarbon dating found that it actually came much later.
Thai people normally consider 1238 as the year of the country's formation, with Sukhothai as the capital, even though that there are several small kingdoms in the area before that, competing to carve out land.
Thailand lost half its territory to France and Britain in the 1800s, but it was the only South or Southeast Asian country never colonized by a Western power, by China, or by Japan (or one of two South and Southeast Asian countries never colonized, if one counts Afghanistan). Thailand survived through a combination of luck and having rulers whose skills were far into Magnificent Bastard
levels, playing off the British, French, Burmese, Chinese and Vietnamese off one another.
Thailand was occupied by Japan in the Second World War
, and became a Japanese ally — but how much the Japanese trusted their new ally can be deduced from the fact that they issued the Thais rifles of a caliber made nowhere else in the world, and never issued them more ammunition than the bare minimum necessary for the next battle. The Free Thai Movement
was significantly more active than the Thai military although the difference between the two was a bit fuzzy. The Army Chief of Staff was the head of the Free Thai movement and the pipeline for escaped allied air crew was run by the Thai police. Allied personnel in Thailand were driven around in official limousines. See Bangkok - Top Secret
for the gruesome details of how the Thais made the Japanese look like idiots. After the war, free of the Japanese threat, Thailand allied itself with the United States.
The country was originally named "Siam;" it renamed itself to "Thailand" in 1939, "Siam" in 1945, and "Thailand" again in 1949.
The name "Thailand" is often thought to derive from tai
, "free," in commemoration of the independence of Thailand in the 18th century; it's more likely that it derives from the name of the Thai ethnic group, the predominant one in the country, with the connotation of "free" as a bonus. (Tai
may actually mean "people," not "free;" The Other Wiki
has more here
The country changed from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy in a bloodless coup in 1932. It had some bloodier coups with the right-wing military governments set up after World War II. A revolution in 1973, led by left-wing students, shifted the country towards democracy; the military seized control again in 1976. Thailand became a bicameral parliamentary constitutional monarchy, more or less after the English fashion (with a prime minister, and the king as a primarily ceremonial figure). Another coup occurred in 2006, but ended in the restoration of democratic government; the current political situation remains unstable, with an Islamist insurgency in the ethnically Malay southeast region of Pattani and, since 2005, political crisis concerning the (former) Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies / successors.
Several dynasties have ruled the country. The current King is Bhumibol Adulyadej, 9th King of the Chakri dynasty, who is ruling since 1946 and is the world's longest-serving current monarch. Yellow is considered to be the color of the monarchy, and many people wear yellow clothing on occasion
to show respect to the king. (Don't confuse this with The King in Yellow
The monarchy is considered to be sacred by the Thai people and any
criticism of the monarchy is illegal - including from foreign nationals speaking or publishing from their own country. This has caused several works to be censored in Thailand
, like The King Never Smiles
, and The King and I
(which is sufficiently far from completely accurate that it scandalized Thailand when it was released; see The Other Wiki
). The worst case of censorship was in early 2007 when the government blocked access to YouTube
because there were videos that were considered to be anti-monarchy.
Most people know Thailand for Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing), elephants, and Thai cuisine.
Censorship is pretty bad (although getting better), with Animation Age Ghetto
in full effect, leading to massive blurring of scenes like exposed midriffs
. This carries over to other works, to the extent where even a mannequin used in an education show was censored because it was female-breasted. Video games are also viewed in a bad light, too. Thailand also censors unflattering portrayals of the monarchy, as stated above.
The country is infamous for its sex tourism (people do not talk about them openly though; most Thai follow strict religion rules), especially in Pattaya, and its massive drug trade which has led to Bangkok
's reputation as a Wretched Hive
and Den of Iniquity
. During The Vietnam War
, it was a place where American soldiers went on rest And recreation. The sex shows are considered to be some of the most unbelievably raunchy in the world
, minors of both genders are reportedly available for purchase, and male-to-female transsexual
performers hold a special, almost revered place in the subculture. It apparently also has some number of Mail Order Bride
businesses, if the page ads above are to be believed. Some caution is needed here; Thai women themselves will admit
that they make wonderful girlfriends but terrible wives.
Asian elephants are revered in Thai culture. "White" (actually albino and rather pinkish) ones are all officially owned by the king, in much the way that all mute swans in Britain are owned by the Queen (actually it's only some swans, but never mind). This is the origin of the English phrase 'white elephant', as white elephants were considered desirable by Thai nobles but cost a lot to maintain and could not be used for practical purposes—so they looked big and impressive but were money sinks; in past eras, a savvy monarch could use a gift of a white elephant to ruin an annoying courtier or overly-ambitious noble. Elephants are seen in daily life being used as work animals as they have been for hundreds of years, and vehicle/elephant car crashes was
a leading form of road accident. (Elephant vs. tiny Asian car, elephant wins
. Now it's more about reckless motorcycle drivers as bringing elephants out on the road is strictly prohibited.) The Thai flag used to be three stripes of red on white with a white elephant on the middle stripe—apparently a Thai King took the elephant off when he realised it could be flown upside down in a disrespectful way. In World War One
the middle red stripe was then changed to blue to more resemble the British and French flags, Siam's allies at the time.
Southern Thailand has an Islamist separatist insurgency. The terrorists recently announced a ceasefire, and of course promptly broke it. The Thai Army is surprisingly competent when it finally decides to do something. They are very
good at staging coups.
Also, Bangkok has the longest city name on Earth
. Translated, it reads: "The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukam."
It's sort of complicated in that the Thai name uses archaic words
few would be able to define, and the translation actually comes from Pali and Sanskrit.
- In Thai, the name reads Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Many Thai people know the full name primarily because of a popular song a few years back, which included the whole thing. Evidently any farang (white foreigner) rattling off the full thing will get some very strange (but appreciative) looks.
In terms of development, Thailand currently suffers from the central area around Bangkok being much more economically developed than any other part of country. This results in many agricultural workers (especially from the northern provinces, leaving the countryside and pouring into the city, looking for jobs they can do. Unfortunately for them, such work is scarce. This results in serious divisions in society (north against center, agricultural vs industrial, country vs urban and so on) which were the root cause behind the disturbances in Bangkok during 2010.
Thailand in fiction
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Anime and Manga
Live Action TV
In Thailand, television series are called "lakhorns" and usually follow several broad categories. The biggest is revenge lakhorns, also known as "slap-slap-kiss", where the main male lead kidnaps, emotionally tortures, or destroys the corporation of the female love interest, only to find love in the end. A series is normally fifteen two-hour long episodes. Like many Asian dramas, they rarely, if ever, have a second season or extension. They are also strangely conservative; they frequently have rape scenes but never show any type of kissing.
Thailand is looked as a tropical backwater outside the country in many television productions.
- LOST's infamous Bai Ling episode, "Stranger in a Strange Land".
Thailand have traditional music and "Luuk Tung" which is what you could say Country genre. Most modern Thai artist are Pop genre but there's a surge of more varied music genre coming up too.
- Chess: One of the more well-known songs is "One Night in Bangkok". No points for guessing what gets described note
- Bangkok Hilton- the real prison that is usually associated with that title is Bangkwang- a male-only prison.
As stated above, video games tend to be looked down upon by older generations in Thailand. Their ratings are monitored, usually not more than rate M. This doesn't stop young children buying and playing violent/inappropriate games as most parents don't have a firm understanding. Currently, free-to-play online games take most of the audience in Thailand, usually young kids playing MMOs who doesn't even bother trying to understand storyline or read the manual, thus playing the game in a bad manner. This has resulted in the slang term "Grean", which refers to mandatory hairstyle of male primary school students, because of their young age.
Foreign video games usually reference Thailand by misspelled Thai billboards or signs.
- Sonic Unleashed - The continent of Adabat is partially based on Thailand.
- The Street Fighter series features two prominent Thai characters, both muay thai fighters — the giant Sagat (whose name means "intercept" in Thai, though "guardian" is probably a better, more lyrical translation) and the more disreputable Adon (whose name isn't actually Thai). Both fighters have been a part of the series from the very beginning. Their stages depict Thailand as being very beautiful, featuring ancient temples, exotic jungles and giant reclining Buddha statues.
The Thai flag
The flag's red, white and blue stripes symbolize the people, Buddhism and the monarchy, respectively (the latter being the favorite color of its designer, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI)). Members of the House of Chakri, Thailand's royal family, have their own flags, with field colors usually based on the lucky color of their birth weekday (from Sunday to Saturday: red, yellow, pink, green, orange, light blue and violet) — the current King, Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), is born on a Monday, thus his color is yellow, as does his second child, only son and Crown Prince, Vajiralongkorn, while his wife, Queen Sirikit, is light blue (Friday).