Thailand History and Politics
The realm of Thai
The Thai ethnic group immigrated to the area of today’s Thailand in the 12th century. The Thai founded the Sukhothai Kingdom here. It happened in the year 1238 by the king Khun Bang Klang Thao. The title of the Thai kings is Rama. Under King Ramkhamhaeng, the empire was greatly enlarged from 1279 onwards. Buddhism as the state religion also goes back to this king.
The empire fell apart after the king’s death. Later empires were Ayutthaya until 1767, Thonburi until 1782 and then Rattanakosin. From 1851 the kingdom was called Siam.
Colonialism could not gain a foothold
In the modern age from the 16th century, when many European seafarers were on the move and looking for new countries for the movement of goods, the Portuguese found interest in Siam. But the Spaniards, the Dutch, the English and the French also cast their eyes on Siam.
They would have liked to make Siam, like many other countries in Asia, their own colony, but Siam was not so easily captured.
Copper engravings by Siamese around 1693
Siam remains largely independent
Trade with European cities and countries, such as Great Britain, began to increase in the 19th century. A free exchange of goods was made possible. Siam also concluded treaties with other countries. The state was further expanded, but remained independent.
Even if the core area remained independent, parts of the country came to France. They belonged to the French Indochina colony. The colony later became the states of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These areas had also once belonged to the Kingdom of Siam.
Siam becomes Thailand
From 1914 to 1918, at the time of the First World War, Siam sided with the Allies. In the 20th century, military governments often alternated with civil governments.
In 1932 the king’s power was restricted. An absolute monarchy became a constitutional one. In 1939 the country was renamed. Siam became Thailand, which translated means “land of the free”.
From Rama VIII to Rama X.
King Rama VIII, Ananda Mahidol, ruled from 1939 to 1946. In 1942, as a country located in Asia according to businesscarriers, Thailand sided with Japan and Germany during World War II. But in 1944, the then military government was overthrown and replaced by a civilian government.
From 1946 Rama IX., Bhumibol Adulyadej was king in Thailand. He died in 2016, making him the longest ruling king in the whole world. He was also the religious head of the country. The Thais held this king in high esteem and admiration.
Corruption and Change of Government
The governments in Thailand changed again and again, but the king stayed. The elections were not always right. Again and again, people who were being tried for corruption were elected to the government. Then there was another military coup and the government was ousted.
He was followed in 2016 by Maha Vajiralongkorn, the second child of the late king. He was crowned on May 5, 2019. The date was not a coincidence because his father was crowned on May 5th. The celebrations extended over several days. He is now Rama X.
Thailand’s proximity to the USA
Even in the period after the Second World War, Thailand oriented itself strongly towards the United States. So it came about that the USA could count on Thailand’s support during the Vietnam War. American planes took off from Thai soil in the direction of Vietnam to fight the communist rebels there.
With us you usually shake hands when you greet or say goodbye to someone. In Thailand, the type of greeting says a lot about the relationship between the two people. People of higher rank are greeted differently than those of equal status.
The traditional greeting in Thailand is the wai. Here you put the palms of the hands together with outstretched fingers, with the thumbs pointing towards the body and the remaining fingers pointing in the other direction. The elbows should not be turned outwards. A slight bow is usually included. But the height of the set palms is different. In principle, you can say that the higher the palm, the higher the person you are greeting.
If the thumbs are even at the level of the eyebrows, you will meet a member of the royal family or a monk. You may not come across the former that often on a trip to Thailand, the latter already. Monks do not return the greeting like this.
You should definitely reply to this form of greeting. However, if the person you are greeting is much higher up, then there may be no reaction from the other side. Equals keep the fingertips at chest level and not higher than the chin, the head is usually kept straight. If you don’t know yourself yet and don’t know exactly whether you are higher or lower, at least you are not doing anything wrong.
More than just “Hello”
You not only greet each other in this way, but also apologize or say goodbye or say thank you in this way. However, those who know each other well do not necessarily adhere to this traditional custom.
By the way, if you should ever go to McDonalds in Thailand, the famous clown Ronald McDonald will also greet you there with the Wai.
Widespread in Asia
A similar form of greeting is also known in other Asian countries, for example in India or in China and Japan. This is how people in India greet each other with Nameste.
It is believed that this gesture was a sign of submission, especially in war. With this gesture, the loser showed his respect for the winner. This gesture has been adopted in everyday life.
In the big cities today people also greet each other with a handshake. In the country, this traditional form of greeting of clasping hands is even more prevalent.