Thailand in Perspective – Excerpt (3)

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Thailand in Perspective is the Third Volume of my Thailand Diaries and is now almost complete. But before I publish it as an e-book I have decided to post a selection of excerpts which I hope will encourage you to download and enjoy the whole book.

 Excerpt 3 – The Tai arrival

My story starts a very long time ago. Although records are somewhat fuzzy, it appears that the first entry of Tai people into Burma took place in the 1st century BC. Rebellions in Central China drove many people from that area to seek refuge elsewhere. Much later in the sixth century AD, the Tai peoples, who lived in several parts of China, migrated to Yunnan province and from there, over many centuries, south into, what is now known as, South East Asia. The motherland of the Tai people is believed to be Guangxi province in China rather than, as was originally thought, Yunnan province. Both highland regions, Guangxi borders Yunnan to the east so the route the migrants took makes sense as Yunnan lying in the far south-west borders Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Vietnam thereby making the migration via those countries easier. Many Tai people still live in Guangxi today and are known as the Zhuang in that province. The southerly migration was hastened during the 12th and 13th centuries as the Mongol armies of Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan expanded their empire southwards.

In 545 AD after advancing through Laos into northern Thailand the Tais built the city of Chiang Saen in the far north of Thailand’s Chiang Rai province on the Thai – Laos border. Around 700 AD the Tai march south found them settling in Dien Bien Phu in north-west Vietnam near the border with Laos and from there, they began to migrate into the northern highlands of Laos where the Tai prince Khun Lo captured and founded the city of Luang Prabang . By now they had established themselves in the north of Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand as the migration from China continued.

Little is known about Thailand before the 13th century from literary and concrete sources, which are scarce, although the Tais existence in South-East Asia is mentioned in a 12th-century A.D. inscription at the temple complex of Angkor Wat in northern Cambodia. Most of the knowledge about this period has been gleaned from archaeological evidence.

Fight for Democracy

Thailand has struggled since 1973 to define the political contours of the state and the years have seen a difficult and sometimes bloody transition from military to civilian rule, with several reversals along the way. The populist Thai Rak party, led by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, came to power in 2001. The urban, suburban and rural poor loved him for his populist social programs but his rule came under attack from the elite who saw danger in his parliamentary dictatorship. A bloodless coup in September 2006 led to the restoration of a civilian government, under the People’s Power Party, as a successor to Thai Rak.

In 2008 the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) led large protests against the government and Prime Minister whom they criticized for his ties to former Prime Minister Thaksin. On 26 August 2008, the protesters illegally occupied several government ministries, including the Government House which they ransacked, to force the government to give in to demands.  Beginning 29 August, protesters disrupted air and rail infrastructure, including Suvarnabhumi airport. They have never been prosecuted. The chaos ended in December when three of the parties that formed the government were dissolved by the Constitutional Court for election fraud. After this decision, many previous coalition partners of the government then defected and joined the main opposition party, the Democrat party, and refusing elections to immediately form a new government in favour of the old guard elites. On 3 July 2011, the opposition Pheu Thai Party won a general election in a landslide making Thaksin’s sister Yingluk Shinawatra, Prime Minister.

However, the period of governance was short due to unrest and continuing protests which became increasingly difficult to control and sometimes violent. In May 2014 the Army stepped in and declared Martial Law. At the time of writing the Country is still under military rule.

 (Main source of background information: Wikipedia)

Read Thailand in Perspective (Excerpt 1) 

Thailand in Perspective (excerpt 4) – To be posted next week.



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