Thai people

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Thai people at cremation ceremony
Regions with significant populations
 Thailand approx. 50,600,0001
 United States 237,5832 (2010)
 Laos 180,0003
 Malaysia 70,0004 (2014)
 Australia 53,4035 (2011)
 Japan 41,2796 (2010)
 United Kingdom 35,0107 (2010)
 South Korea 30,7608 (2009)
 Hong Kong 30,0009
 Saudi Arabia 23,00010
 Canada 10,50011 (2006)
 Denmark 8 58012 (2012)
Thai, Southern Thai (Predominant),
Lanna for Lanna people and
Isan for Isan people
Predominantly Dharma Wheel.svg Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Lao, Shan, Zhuang people, Ahom, other Tai peoples, Thai Chinese

The Thai people, formerly known as Siamese, or the Tai Siam1314151617 people (Thai: ไทยสยาม) are the main ethnic group of Thailand and are part of the larger Tai ethnolinguistic peoples found in Thailand and adjacent countries in Southeast Asia as well as southern China. Their language is the Thai language, which exists in different regional variants,18 and is classified as part of the Tai–Kadai family of languages, and the majority of Thai are followers of Theravada Buddhism.

In striction "Thai people" term is mean Tai peoples in Central Thai and Southern Thai for 26 million only (Siamese proper), But during downplay between Lanna people and Isan people this term also call these people as Thai.1920

In modern day "Thai people" will include other ethnics such as Thai Chinese and Thai Khmer from assimilation (except Malays), or also refers to the population of Thailand or Thai nationality in general.


There have been many theories proposing the origin of the Tai people, of which the Thai are a subgroup. Especially the association of the Tai people with the Kingdom of Nanzhao that has been proved to be invalid. Linguistic studies suggested21 that the origin of the Tai people lies around the Chinese Province of Guangxi, where the Zhuang people are still a majority. The ancient Tai people should be the part of Chinese Nanyue, referred to by Han leaders as "foreign servant" (Chinese: ), synecdoche for a vassal state. The Qin dynasty founded Guangdong in 214 BC, initiating the successive waves of Chinese migrations from the north for hundred years to come.

With the political and cultural pressures from the north, some Tai people migrated south22 where they met the classical Indianized civilizations of Southeast Asia.

The Tais from the north gradually settled in the Chao Phraya valley from the tenth century onwards, in lands of the Dvaravati culture, assimilating the earlier Austroasiatic Mon and Khmer people, as well as coming into contact with the Khmer Empire. The Tais who came to the area of present-day Thailand were engulfed into the Theravada Buddhism of the Mon and the Hindu-Khmer culture and statecraft. Therefore, the Thai culture is a mixture of Tai traditions with Indic, Mon and Khmer influcences.23 Thai ethnicity is therefore rather a question Early Thai chiefdoms included the Sukhothai Kingdom and Suphanburi. The Lavo Kingdom, which was the center of Khmer culture in Chao Phraya valley, was also the rallying point for the Thais. The Thai were called “Siam” by the Angkorians and they appeared on the bas relief at Angkor Wat as a part of the army of Lavo kingdom. Sometimes the Thai chiefdoms in the Chao Phraya valley were put under the Angkorian control under strong monarchs (including Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII) but they were mostly independent.

A new city-state known as Ayutthaya, named after the Indian city of Ayodhya, was founded by Ramathibodi (a descendant of Chiang Mai) and emerged as the center of the growing Thai Empire starting in 1350. Inspired by the then Hindu-based Khmer Empire (Cambodia), the Ayutthaya Empire's continued conquests led to more Thai settlements as the Khmer Empire weakened after their defeat at Angkor in 1431. During this period, the Thai developed a feudal system as various vassal states paid homage to the Thai kings. Even as Thai power expanded at the expense of the Mon and Khmer, the Thai Ayutthaya faced setbacks at the hands of the Malays at Malacca and were checked by the Toungoo of Burma.

Other peoples living under Thai rule, mainly Mon, Khmer and Lao, as well as Chinese, Indian or Muslim immigrants continued to be assimilated by Thais, but at the same time they influenced Thai culture, philosophy, economy and politics. Most of today's Thais are of mixed descent. Therefore, Thai ethnicity is rather a question of cultural identity than of genetic origin.24 The biggest and most influential group are Thais of Chinese origin. The share of Thais who are of full or partly Chinese descent is at about 40 percent.25

Though sporadic wars continued with the Burmese and other neighbors, Chinese wars with Burma and European intervention elsewhere in Southeast Asia allowed the Thai to develop an independent course by trading with the Europeans as well as playing the major powers against each other in order to remain independent. The Chakkri dynasty under Rama I held the Burmese at bay, while Rama II and Rama III helped to shape much of Thai society, but also led to Thai setbacks as the Europeans moved into areas surrounding modern Thailand and curtailed any claims the Thai had over Cambodia, in dispute with Burma and Vietnam. The Thai learned from European traders and diplomats, while maintaining an independent course. Chinese, Malay, and British influences helped to further shape the Thai people who often assimilated foreign ideas, but managed to preserve much of their culture and resisted the European colonization that engulfed their neighbors. Thailand is also the only country in Southeast Asia that was not colonized by European powers in modern history.

The concept of a Thai nation was not developed until the beginning 20th century under King Rama VI (Vajiravudh). Before this era, Thai did not even have a word for 'nation'. He also imposed the idea of "Thai-ness" (khwam-pen-thai) on his subjects and strictly defined what was "Thai" and "un-Thai". Authors of this period re-wrote the Thai history from an ethno-nationalist viewpoint, disregarding the fact that the concept of ethnicity had not played an important role in South East Asia until the 19th century.2627 This newly developed nationalism was the base of the policy of "Thaification" of Thailand which was intensified after the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 and especially under the rule of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram (1938–1944). Minorities were forced to assimilate and regional peculiarities of Northern, Northeastern and Southern Thailand were repressed in favour of one homogenous "Thai" culture.28

Geography and demographics

Thai People Abroad

The vast majority of the Thai people live in Thailand, although some Thais can also be found in other parts of Southeast Asia. About 60 million live in Thailand alone,1 while thousands can also be found in the United States, Laos, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Burma, the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Libya and the United Arab Emirates.

Culture and society

The Thais can be broken down into various regional groups with their own regional varieties of Thai. These groups include Central Thai (also the standard variety of the language), the Isan (more closely related to the Standard Lao of Laos than to Standard Thai), Lanna Thai and Southern Thai. Modern Central Thai has become more dominant due to official government policy, which was designed to assimilate and unify the disparate Thai in spite of ethnolinguistic and cultural ties between the northeastern Thai people and the people from Laos for example.

The modern Thai are predominantly Theravada Buddhist and strongly identify their ethnic identity with their religious practices that include aspects of ancestor worship, among other beliefs of the ancient folklore of Thailand. Indigenous arts include muay Thai (kick boxing), Thai dance, makruk (Thai Chess), and nang yai (shadow play).

See also



  1. ^ a b "CIA - The World Factbook". Retrieved 2012-08-29. "75% of 67,497,151 (July 2013 est.)" 
  2. ^ Elizabeth M. Hoeffel, Sonya Rastogi, Myoung Ouk Kim, and Hasan Shahid, "The Asian Population: 2010", 2010 Census Briefs, United States Census Bureau, March 2012, p. 14.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Nop Nai Samrong (8 January 2014). "SIAMESE MALAYSIANS: They are part of our society". New Straits Times. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  5. ^ [1]. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2011. Last accessed 9 October 2011.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Table 1.3: Estimated population resident in the United Kingdom, by foreign country of birth, January 2010 to December 2010". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  8. ^ [2] 財団法人自治体国際化協会
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Cheesman, P. (1988). Lao textiles: ancient symbols-living art. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus Co., Thailand.
  14. ^ Fox, M. (1997). A history of Laos. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
  15. ^ Fox, M. (2008). Historical Dictionary of Laos (3rd ed.). Lanham: Scarecrow Press.
  16. ^ Goodden, C. (1999). Around Lan-na: a guide to Thailand's northern border region from Chiang Mai to Nan. Halesworth, Suffolk: Jungle Books.
  17. ^ Wijeyewardene, G. (1990). Ethnic groups across national boundaries in mainland Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
  18. ^ Antonio L. Rappa; Lionel Wee (2006), Language Policy and Modernity in Southeast Asia: Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, Springer, pp. 114–115 
  19. ^ David Levinson (1998), Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook, Oryx Pres, p. 287, ISBN 1573560197 
  20. ^ Barbara A. West (2009), Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania, Facts on File, p. 794, ISBN 1438119135 
  21. ^ Luo, Wei; Hartmann, John; Li, Jinfang; Sysamouth, Vinya (December 2000). "GIS Mapping and Analysis of Tai Linguistic and Settlement Patterns in Southern China". Geographic Information Sciences (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University) 6 (2): 129–136. Retrieved May 28, 2013. "Abstract. By integrating linguistic information and physical geographic features in a GIS environment, this paper maps the spatial variation of terms connected with wet-rice farming of Tai minority groups in southern China and shows that the primary candidate of origin for proto-Tai is in the region of Guangxi-Guizhou, not Yunnan or the middle Yangtze River region as others have proposed...." 
  22. ^ Du Yuting; Chen Lufan (1989). "Did Kublai Khan's Conquest of the Dali Kingdom Give Rise to the Mass Migration of the Thai People to the South?" (PDF). Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Heritage Trust). JSS Vol. 77.1c (digital). image 7 of p. 39. Retrieved March 17, 2013. "The Thai people in the north as well as in the south did not in any sense "migrate en masse to the south" after Kublai Khan's conquest of the Dali Kingdom." 
  23. ^ Charles F. Keyes (1997), "Cultural Diversity and National Identity in Thailand", Government policies and ethnic relations in Asia and the Pacific (MIT Press): 203 
  24. ^ Thak Chaloemtiarana (2007), Thailand: The Politics of Despotic Paternalism, Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, pp. 245–246, ISBN 978-0-8772-7742-2 
  25. ^ Theraphan Luangthomkun (2007), "The Position of Non-Thai Languages in Thailand", Language, Nation and Development in Southeast Asia (ISEAS Publishing): 191 
  26. ^ Tejapira, Kasian (2003), "De-Othering Jek Communists: Rewriting Thai History from the Viewpoint of the Ethno-Ideological Order", Southeast Asia Over Three Generations: Essays Presented to Benedict R. O'G. Anderson (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program): 247 
  27. ^ Thanet Aphornsuvan (1998), "Slavery and Modernity: Freedom in the Making of Modern Siam", Asian Freedoms: The Idea of Freedom in East and Southeast Asia (Cambridge University Press): 181 
  28. ^ Chris Baker; Pasuk Phongpaichit (2009), A History of Thailand (Second ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 172–175 
  • Girsling, John L.S., Thailand: Society and Politics (Cornell University Press, 1981).
  • Terwiel, B.J., A History of Modern Thailand (Univ. of Queensland Press, 1984).
  • Wyatt, D.K., Thailand: A Short History (Yale University Press, 1986).

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