Archive for March, 2008

South Thailand

March 27, 2008

Over the last few years we expect in our daily local news to hear something of the troubles in the south. There has been an insurrection of sorts going on in the southernmost three Thai provinces, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. The reasons for the escalation of the problem I do not know, but the last two Thai governments haven’t been able to get on top of it. Maybe the new one has the answer.

 What we do know is these three provinces have a Muslim Malay majority. Overall Thailand has about 3% of its population from the Malay ethnic group according to Wikipedia although many are assimilated into Thai culture and language.

 The Malays are the only major ethnic group in Thailand that entered into what is present day Thailand from the south. The thinking at the moment is that they were an Austronesian group out of Taiwan, via the Philippines and Borneo, and into Malay peninsula.

The ancient Kingdom of Pattani controlled the three southern provinces until conquered by the Thais in the 14th. Century. Up until the 11th. century it had either a Hindu or a Buddhist culture, but after that the king converted to Islam as did his Malay subjects. It can be seen that the Malays were a fairly early group into Thailand.


Khmer Style Prang

March 25, 2008

I just found on the internet a picture of that prang I saw as per the previous post. Compare it with the Wat Arun picture.

Khmer Style Prang

The Size of the Khmer Empire

March 25, 2008

On Saturday we were driving to the southwest, just outside Bangkok and came upon a temple at the end of a road. Although most of the temple was fairly recent, there was an ancient prang or stupa very much in the Khmer style as you see at Wat Arun in Bangkok. Although it doesn’t mean it was built while under Khmer control it did make me look up how far their empire stretched. It made it as far south as the Kra Peninsula and west as far as the town of Lopburi so at one time this area would have been theirs.

Below is a picture of Wat Arun from Wikipedia showing the Khmer style prangs.

Wat Arun

Preah Vihear dispute nears settlement

March 20, 2008

This news is a bit old but shows that the dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple site might be nearing a settlement.

 The temple called Prasat Preah Vihear is on the border with Cambodia, inside Cambodian territory, although easy access is from the Thai side. According to Wikipedia the earliest temple use of the site dates to the early 9th. Century although the earliest remaining buildings are 100 years later.

 This dates to a pre-Tai settlement period when Khmer and Mon ethnic groups would have controlled present day Thailand.

More on Taiwan

March 18, 2008

A friend sent a link to an article in the National Geographic about jade earrings found in burial sites throughout SE Asia dating from 500 BC to 500 AD. Their source could be pin-pointed to a single site in Taiwan which hints again at the importance of Taiwan aboriginal culture to the the early development of ethnic groups in the region.


March 13, 2008

I’ve been surprised by seeing Taiwan popping up frequently since I started this blog. This is because it was the original home of the Austronesian languages and the ethnic groups who use them. Not only the Malays and the Polynesians can trace their roots back there but there is a possibility that the Tai-Kadai languages also have a connection which could mean that the Tai tribes also originated from this island.

 Now only 2% of population are classified as Taiwanese aboriginals, but up until fairly recent history they were the main inhabitants of the island and it didn’t come under Chinese control for the first time until the Qing Dynasty in the 1660s after removing a Dutch settlement that had been started there. Later it was to come under Japanese rule and finally became the Republic of China when Chiang Kai-shek led the retreating Kuomintang forces there in 1949.

Suvarnabhumi Airport

March 13, 2008

The King of Thailand chose Suvarnabhumi as the name of the new Bangkok airport to the east of the city.  This was an interesting choice. Suvarnabhumi or sometimes Suwannaphum refers to an ancient land, literally “Golden Land” or “Land of Gold”, mentioned in some ancient Indian chronicles.

Whether it was in Southern India or some part of SE Asia is open to question, but there is a possibility it was centered in what is now the Thai Cambodian border region. Where ever it was it must have pre dated the migration of the Tai peoples south into what is now Thailand and the rise of the Mon and Khmer kingdoms.

The Tai People

March 11, 2008

The majority ethnic group in Thailand is the Tai. This group includes many sub-groups and also is the majority in Laos.

I had thought that they were a tribal people coming down from the Tibet region via Yunnan in the north and pushing into what is now Thailand, the Burmese Shan States, Laos and even parts of India. New studies seem to be pointing towards an original migration from the island of Taiwan to the Chinese mainland and then to Yunnan.

 I think I will organize this blog by adding pages for ethnic group as I have time.

The Ethnic Groups of Thailand

March 6, 2008

This is the first post on this blog. I would like to use this blog to carry information on the history of the people who now live in Thailand. As an expat living in the country I didn’t find that much information available when I first came. Because of the nationalism in Thailand in the 1930s through to the 1960s I suspect many Thai people also wouldn’t really know their own origins.