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"Siam" redirects here. For other uses, see Siam (disambiguation)

Thailand (Thai: ประเทศไทย), known formerly as Siam and officially as the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia. It is located at the centre of the Indochinese Peninsula, spanning 513,120 square kilometres (198,120 sq mi), with a population of almost 70 million people. Thailand is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Myanmar. It also shares maritime borders with Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest. Bangkok is the nation's capital and largest city. Nominally, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy; however, in recent history, its government has experienced multiple coups and periods of military dictatorships.

Tai peoples migrated from southwestern China to mainland Southeast Asia from the 11th century; the oldest known mention of their presence in the region by the exonym Siamese dates to the 12th century. Various Indianised kingdoms such as the Mon kingdoms, Khmer Empire and Malay states ruled the region, competing with Thai states such as the Kingdoms of Ngoenyang, Sukhothai, Lan Na and Ayutthaya, which rivalled each other. Documented European contact began in 1511 with a Portuguese diplomatic mission to Ayutthaya, which became a regional power by the end of the 15th century. Ayutthaya reached its peak during cosmopolitan Narai's reign, gradually declining thereafter until being ultimately destroyed in the 1767 Burmese–Siamese War. Taksin quickly reunified the fragmented territory and established the short-lived Thonburi Kingdom. He was succeeded in 1782 by Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, the first monarch of the current Chakri dynasty.

Throughout the era of Western imperialism in Asia, Siam remained the only nation in the region to avoid being colonized by foreign powers, although it was often forced to cede both territory and trade concessions in unequal treaties. The Siamese system of government was centralized and transformed into a modern unitary absolute monarchy in the reign of Chulalongkorn. In World War I, Siam sided with the allies, a political decision to amend the unequal treaties. Following a bloodless revolution in 1932, it became a constitutional monarchy and changed its official name to Thailand, which was a satellite of Japan in World War II. In the late 1950s, a military coup under Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat revived the monarchy's historically influential role in politics. Thailand became a major ally of the United States, and played an anti-communist role in the region as a member of the failed SEATO, but since 1975, had sought to improve relations with Communist China and Thailand's neighbors. Apart from a brief period of parliamentary democracy in the mid-1970s, Thailand has periodically alternated between democracy and military rule. Since the 2000s, it has been caught in a series of bitter political conflict between supporters and opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra, which culminated in two coups, most recently in 2014 and the establishment of its current and 20th constitution and faces the ongoing pro-democracy protests.

Thailand is a middle power in global affairs, and a founding member of ASEAN; ranking high in the Human Development Index. It has the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, and the 20th-largest in the world by PPP. Thailand is classified as a newly industrialized economy; manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism are leading sectors of the economy


Etymology

Thailand (/ˈtaɪlænd/ TY-land or /ˈtaɪlənd/ TY-lənd; Thai: ประเทศไทย, RTGS: Prathet Thai, pronounced [pratʰêːt tʰaj] (listen)), officially the Kingdom of Thailand (Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย, RTGS: Ratcha-anachak Thai [râːtt͡ɕʰaʔaːnaːt͡ɕàk tʰaj] (listen)), formerly known as Siam (Thai: สยาม, RTGS: Sayam [sajǎːm]), is a country at the centre of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia.

Etymology of Siam

The country has always been called Mueang Thai by its citizens.[citation needed] By outsiders, prior to 1949, it was usually known by the exonym Siam (Thai: สยาม RTGS: sayam, pronounced [sajǎːm], also spelled Siem, Syâm, or Syâma). The word Siam may have originated from Pali (suvaṇṇabhūmi, 'land of gold') or Sanskrit श्याम (śyāma, 'dark') or Mon ရာမည(rhmañña, 'stranger'). The names Shan and A-hom seem to be variants of the same word. The word Śyâma is possibly not its origin, but a learned and artificial distortion.[clarification needed] Another theory is the name derives from Chinese: "Ayutthaya emerged as a dominant centre in the late 14th century. The Chinese called this region Xian, which the Portuguese converted into Siam." A further possibility is that Mon-speaking peoples migrating south called themselves syem as do the autochthonous Mon-Khmer-speaking inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula.

The signature of King Mongkut (r. 1851–1868) reads SPPM (Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha) Mongkut Rex Siamensium (Mongkut, King of the Siamese), and the usage of the name in the first international Bowring Treaty giving the name Siam official status until 24 June 1939 when it was changed to "Thailand". Thailand was renamed Siam from 1946 to 1948, after which it again reverted to "Thailand".

Etymology of "Thailand"

According to George Cœdès, the word Thai (ไทย) means 'free man' in the Thai language, "differentiating the Thai from the natives encompassed in Thai society as serfs". A famous Thai scholar argued that Thai (ไท) simply means 'people' or 'human being', since his investigation shows that in some rural areas the word "Thai" was used instead of the usual Thai word khon (คน) for people. According to Michel Ferlus, the ethnonyms Thai-Tai (or Thay-Tay) would have evolved from the etymon *k(ə)ri: 'human being' through the following chain: *kəri: > *kəli: > *kədi:/*kədaj > *di:/*daj > *dajA (Proto-Southwestern Tai) > tʰajA2 (in Siamese and Lao) or > tajA2 (in the other Southwestern and Central Tai languages classified by Li Fangkuei). Michel Ferlus's work is based on some simple rules of phonetic change observable in the Sinosphere and studied for the most part by William H. Baxter (1992).

While Thai people will often refer to their country using the polite form prathet Thai (Thai: ประเทศไทย), they most commonly use the more colloquial term mueang Thai (Thai: เมืองไทย) or simply Thai; the word mueang, archaically referring to a city-state, is commonly used to refer to a city or town as the centre of a region. Ratcha Anachak Thai (Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย) means 'kingdom of Thailand' or 'kingdom of Thai'. Etymologically, its components are: ratcha (Sanskrit: राजन्, rājan, 'king, royal, realm'); -ana- (Pali āṇā 'authority, command, power', itself from the Sanskrit आज्ञा, ājñā, of the same meaning) -chak (from Sanskrit चक्र cakra- 'wheel', a symbol of power and rule). The Thai National Anthem (Thai: เพลงชาติ), written by Luang Saranupraphan during the patriotic 1930s, refers to the Thai nation as prathet Thai (Thai: ประเทศไทย). The first line of the national anthem is: prathet thai ruam lueat nuea chat chuea thai (Thai: ประเทศไทยรวมเลือดเนื้อชาติเชื้อไทย), 'Thailand is the unity of Thai flesh and blood'.

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