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Thailand is one of our world's many great countries, full of tradition and power. Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is just west of Laos and Cambodia, and north of Malaysia. Thailand's capital is Bangkok, which also happens to be its largest city. This page explores the ins and outs of Thailand, including the country's Etymology, History, Government, Religion, and Culture.
Until May 11, 1949, the country's former official name was Siam. In the Thai language the word Thai is translated meaning freedom. However, the country was not given this name to be translated into “the Land of the Free,” but instead, was taken from an ethnic group that was located in the central plains of Thailand. Area Studies Tradition, one of the Four Traditions of Geography, lets us know that the Thai people chose a name that would best represent its people because of its location and the majority of its population.
Thailand began, about 500,000 to 10,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic period, to be inhabited by people. This was discovered using Earth Science Tradition. Archaeologists discovered many artifacts from this time period and dated them back. The first Thai people happened to find ways to remain healthy and lived longer than many others in separate countries around the world. Man Land Tradition tells us that this was because their water supply was plentiful as was the vegetation. The first Thai state is considered to be the Buddhist kingdom of Sukhothai. Sukhothai was founded in 1238, directly following the fall of the Khmer Empire in 13th to 15th century A.D. After about a century, Sukhothai was overtaken by the kingdom of Ayutthaya, a larger, much more powerful kingdom, which had been established in the mid-14th century A.D. During the 16th century, European powers began to come into Thailand. Thailand, however, is the only Southeastern Asian country not to be considered by a European country, even with the European influence being pressured upon them. The reasons for this were: 1) Thailand had a very long and healthy succession and very qualified, able rulers in the 1800’s and 2) because Thailand found it easy to exploit the rivalry between the British and the French. As a result of Thailand’s opposition to the Europeans, the country became a “buffer state” amongst the other Southeast Asia countries that became colonized by the Europeans. Although spatial analysis was not yet recognized, the Thai people still had a strong belief that there should be separation in the happenings of things from their position. This is now known as Spatial Tradition, one of the Four Traditions of Geography. In the 19th century, Western influence began to flood into Thailand, causing many reforms and major concessions. The largest of these was the loss to the French of a very large territory, located on the eastern part of the Mekong, and the loss of three Malay southern provinces, which are now Malaysia’s three northern states. During World War II, Thailand was allied with Japan. However, Thailand had an extremely active anti-Japanese resistance, which was known as the Seri Thai. As a result, when the war was over, Thailand became an ally of the United States. Eventually, in the 1980s, after many decades of political transgression, Thailand began to become a stable democracy.
Until 1932, Thailand had an absolute monarchy. Since then, Thailand has had 17 constitutions and charters. The government has gone from military dictatorship to electoral democracy. However, all of the governments of Thailand have set a hereditary monarch as the Head of State.
As in most Asian cultures, Thai spiritual practice revolves mainly around respect and honor shown towards ancestors. Seniority plays a major role in the Thai culture. Elders of the family always play the biggest part in decision making and traditional ceremonies. Buddhism has always been the most common form of religion in Thailand. Today, in modern Thai belief, the most common form of Buddhism is Theravada Buddhism. Roughly 95% of the Thai people practice Theravada Buddhism. About 4.6% of the Thai community is Muslim, making it the second largest practiced religion in Thailand. There are also Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Catholic, and Jewish communities that are very small, but influential in Thailand. Because of their successful integration into Thai society, Chinese traditions have always held positions of respect in politics and the economy in Thailand.
Thai culture consists of many “traditional taboos”. For instance, in Thailand, a person’s head is considered sacred, while a person’s foot is considered the dirtiest part of the body. It is considered extremely disrespectful to touch someone’s head, and very insulting to step over someone’s food, or over any part of their body. Books, and any other document, are very important, revered secular objects. It is dishonorable to slide these items across a surface, and more disrespectful to place one of these items on the floor or ground. These traditional taboos, while still practiced in some parts of Thailand, have somewhat given way to westernization, and are slipping away as time goes on.
1.What is Thailand’s capital?
2.What was Thailand’s former official name? When was
the name changed?
3.What is Thailand’s main religion with what percentage of its people practicing it?
4.What is Thailand’s first state considered to be?
5.Name 2 things considered disrespectful of dishonorable in Thailand.