CB29. Thailand. Timeline 1900 to the present

25 May CB29. Thailand. Timeline 1900 to the present

Thailand has 70 million people. Thai nationals make up 96% of Thailand’s population; the remaining 4% are Burmese (2%) and others (2%). Around 94% of the country’s population self-identify as Buddhists; and 4% as Muslims. Thai Chinese, those of significant Chinese heritage are 14% of the population, while Thais with partial Chinese ancestry comprise 40% of the population. Two famous past kings modernised Siam (Thailand) – they were King Mongkut (reigning from 1851 to 1868) who embraced Western innovations and initiated Siam’s modernisation; and his son King Chulalongkorn (reigning from 1868 to 1910) who employed Western advisers to modernise Siam’s administration and commerce, and developed a railway network. Throughout the era of Western imperialism in Asia, Siam (Thailand) remained the only nation in the region to avoid being colonised by foreign powers, although it was often forced to cede both territory and trade concessions. Thailand is a middle power in global affairs, and a founding member of ASEAN. Thailand had one of the world’s fastest growing economies from the 1960s to the late 1990s. It currently has the 2nd largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, and the 20th largest in the world. Thailand is classified as a newly industrialised economy; manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism are leading sectors of the economy. Thailand ranks midway in the wealth spread in Southeast Asia as it is the 4th richest nation according to GDP per capita, after Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia. Thailand has periodically alternated between democracy and military rule. In 2016, the beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej died after being on the throne for 70 years. His son and heir, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is deeply unpopular among the Thai public. Thailand’s kings are protected by lese-majeste laws which allow critics of the king to be jailed for 3 to 15 years. Thai cuisine is one of the most popular in the world. In 2017, 7 Thai dishes appeared on a list of the “World’s 50 Best Foods”— an online worldwide poll by CNN Travel. Thailand had more dishes on the list than any other country, including ton yam goong, pad Thai, green curry and Thai fried rice.

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected Thailand from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1902 – Siam (Thailand) annexes Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat from the former Malay Muslim sultanate, the Kingdom of Pattani.
  3. 1909 – Anglo-Siamese Treaty outlines Siam’s land boundaries. Siam relinquished its claims to sovereignty over the Malay sultanates of Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis.
  4. 1910 – King Chulalongkorn (born 1853) dies. The 42-year reign of King Chulalongkorn was known for a modernization drive and abolition of slavery. He ceded territories to Western powers, including Laos and Cambodia to France. Chulalongkorn was the first Siamese king to send royal princes to study overseas. King Vajiravudh (born 1881) succeeded his father. He visited Europe twice; and introduced state corporations as a way to modernize Siam.
  5. 1913 – King Vajiravudh requires all citizens to adopt surnames.
  6. 1916 – The first Thai university, Chulalongkorn University, is established.
  7. 1917 – Siam becomes an ally of Britain in World War One. Siam sends troops to join the Allies.
  8. 1925 – King Vajiravudh dies. His reign is characterized by the creation and promotion of Siamese nationalism. He modernized the military. He quashed an attempted coup in 1912 by disgruntled military officers who accused the king of financial extravagances and sought to establish democratic rule. King Prajadhipok takes over.
  9. 1932 – Bloodless coup ends absolute monarchy. King Prajadhipok becomes the only Thai king to abdicate. He had no children and left for England. Constitutional monarchy is introduced with parliamentary government.
  10. 1935 – The government chooses King Prajadhipok’s nephew, Prince Ananda Mahidol (born 1925) to replace him.
  11. 1939 – The country’s English name is officially changed from Siam to Thailand (“Land of the Free”).
  12. 1941 – Japanese forces land in Thailand during World War Two. After negotiations, Thailand allows Japanese to advance towards British-controlled Malay Peninsula, Singapore and Burma.
  13. 1942 – Siding with Japan, Thailand declares war on Britain and USA, but the Thai ambassador in Washington refuses to deliver the war declaration to the USA government.
  14. 1943 – Japanese forces held an official opening ceremony for the 415-km Thailand-Burma railroad. Between 180,000 and 250,000 civilian labourers and over 60,000 Allied prisoners of war were subjected to forced labour during its construction. Around 90,000 Southeast Asian civilian forced labourers died, along with more than 12,000 Allied prisoners. Forced labour were chiefly brought in from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar). At the end of World War Two, 111 Japanese military officials were tried for war crimes for their brutality during the construction of the railway; 32 of them were sentenced to death.
  15. 1944 – The first Allied air bombing raid struck the Japanese railway line in Bangkok, Thailand.
  16. 1945 – World War Two ends. Thailand is compelled to return territory it had seized from Laos, Cambodia and Malaya. The exiled King Ananda Mahidol returns to Thailand from Europe. 
  17. 1946 – King Ananda Mahidol (aged 20) dies in a mysterious shooting incident. He was found dead in his bedroom, 4 days before his planned return to school in Switzerland. King Ananda Mahidol’s younger brother Bhumibol Adulyadej (born 1927) (aged 18) ascends the throne. Thailand joins the United Nations.
  18. 1947 – Military coup by the wartime, pro-Japanese leader Phibun Songkhram. The military retain power for the next 26 years until 1973.
  19. 1950 – King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aged 22) is crowned.
  20. 1957 – Sarit Thanarat of the Thai army leads a coup and seized power in Bangkok.
  21. 1959 – The first tourism authority is created.
  22. 1962 – USA promised Thailand assistance against “communist” aggression. USA sent troops to Thailand.
  23. 1965 – Thailand permits USA to use bases there during the Vietnam War. Thai troops fight in South Vietnam.
  24. 1967 – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is established in Bangkok by the five original Member Countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
  25. 1973 – Student riots in Bangkok bring about the fall of the military government. King Bhumibol Adulyadej sheltered pro-democracy demonstrators from the military dictators they were seeking to overthrow. 3 military figures who had ruled Thailand for much of the 1960s and early 1970s were ousted. Free elections are held but the resulting government lacks stability.
  26. 1976 – Military takes over again. A coup installed a new military-guided, right-wing government. King Bhumibol Adulyadej showed sympathy to the forces of the establishment who believed that students and other liberal forces were leading the country into chaos. At least 46 protesters were killed and hundreds wounded by the police and army.
  27. 1977 – A bloodless military coup is staged – Thailand’s 15th since it became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.
  28. 1978 – New constitution promulgated.
  29. 1980 – Prem Tinsulanonda becomes prime minister and continued to 1988. Prem Tinsulanonda’s government works to undermine the communist insurgency movement and eventually ends it with a political solution.
  30. 1985 – (1996) Thailand experiences the world’s highest economic growth rate for 11 years – averaging 12.4% annually. Becomes an Asian Tiger.
  31. 1988 – Chatichai Choonhavan becomes the first elected prime minister since 1976. His government of 3 years has rampant corruption.
  32. 1991 – (1992) Military coup, the 17th since 1932. A civilian, Anand Panyarachun, is installed as prime minister.
  33. 1992 – (1995) Elections see Chuan Leekpai, leader of the Democratic Party, chosen as prime minister. He served as prime minister until a land scandal split his coalition and the government collapsed.
  34. 1995 – Banharn Silpa-archa of the Thai Nation party is elected prime minister.
  35. 1996 – Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa resigns after 14 months in office under charges of corruption and ineptitude. Chavalit Yongchaiyudh of the New Aspiration party wins elections.
  36. 1997 – The Thai constitution guarantees citizens 12 years of free education. This effectively reduced the number of Thai girls sold into the sex industry.
  37. 1997 – Asian financial crisis. Thailand’s banking system and economy in freefall as the baht loses half of its value. Layoffs, salary cuts and downsizing spread across the economy. The International Monetary Fund steps in. The parliament passed a “good governance” constitution intended to fight government corruption and rejected a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Chavilit Yongchaiyudh. It called for the old-guard politicians to be replaced by a new, 200-member elected body. A National Counter-Corruption Commission is formed. Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh announced that he would step down – stock and currency markets rallied on this news. Former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai formed a new government with a coalition of 8 parties.
  38. 1998 – Thailand follows guidelines established by the International Monetary Fund to resuscitate its economy. The government announced that it will liquidate 56 of 58 insolvent finance companies shut down by the Central Bank. The move was part of the conditions of the $17.2 billion International Monetary Fund bailout.
  39. 2001 – New ‘Thai Love Thai’ party wins elections. Telecommunications tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra forms coalition government, and is elected prime minister.
  40. 2004 – Martial law is imposed in largely-Muslim south after more than 100 killed in a wave of attacks blamed on ethnic-Malay separatists.
  41. 2004 – Indian Ocean tsunami kills over 5,000 people in Thailand and damages tourism and fishing industries. The massive tsunami was triggered by an undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.
  42. 2005 – King Bhumibol Adulyadej publicly rebukes Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for pursuing lawsuits against media outlets that oppose his policies.
  43. 2006 – The family of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sold their controlling stake in the telecom Shin Corporation for US$1.87 billion to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. Legal loopholes were used to avoid taxes on the sale.
  44. 2006 – Tens of thousands of people filled a plaza near the Thai parliament, chanting slogans demanding that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra step down amid allegations of official corruption. Facing growing calls for his resignation, Thaksin agreed to hold a national referendum on amending the country’s constitution. Military leaders stage a bloodless coup while Thaksin is at a UN General Assembly. Retired General Surayud Chulanont is appointed interim prime minister. He received a ringing endorsement from the country’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thaksin, accused of evading taxes, is forced into exile. Thai coup leaders agreed to talk with southern Muslim rebels reversing Thaksin’s confrontational approach to the insurgency.
  45. 2007 – The Islamic insurgency that flared in January 2004, killed more than 1,900 people. Two senior officials with Thai Rak Thai party were found guilty of election fraud. A court disbanded the political party of Thaksin Shinawatra, barring him and 110 party executives from politics for 5 years due to election law violations. Police charged ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife with concealing assets and ordered the exiled leader to return to Thailand. Thai prosecutors also filed corruption charges against Thaksin in the Supreme Court. A new constitution for Thailand, that is to usher in the December 2007 general elections and end military rule, was approved by millions of voters in the country’s first ever nationwide referendum. This was the 18th constitution since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. Allies of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra appeared to emerge as victors in the post-coup election but failed to secure an absolute majority in parliament. Thaksinites won 233 seats, 8 short of a majority in the 480-seat lower house. General Surayud Chulanond is appointed interim prime minister by the military while a new Constitution is drafted. The Thai political party allied with deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that it has recruited enough other parties to form a coalition government following its win in the country’s first election since the 2006 coup. Thailand’s parliament chose Samak Sundaravej (allied to Thaksin) as prime minister easily beating the Democratic party candidate 310-163.
  46. 2008 – 3 legal advisers of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra are jailed after giving court officials a bag holding US$60,000.
  47. 2008 – Thaksin Shinawatra returns to Thailand with his wife, but jumps bail before being found guilty of corruption and is sentenced to two years in jail in absentia. His wife Pojaman (51) is acquitted. Thaksin flees to Britain with his family. Yellow Shirt, pro-royalist activists seize Bangkok’s international airports, causing weeklong shutdown. Forbes magazine reported that King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aged 80) is the world’s richest royal sovereign with a fortune estimated at US$35 billion. In December 2008, the Constitutional Court found the ruling party, led by Samak Sundaravej guilty of electoral fraud and banned it. Abhisit Vejjajiva, a 44-year-old patrician, educated at University of Oxford England, was elected the prime minister in a parliamentary vote.
  48. 2010 – Thailand’s highest court ruled to seize US$1.4 billion from ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s US$2.29 billion in frozen assets, saying he had abused his political power for personal gain.
  49. 2010 – Tens of thousands of Thaksin Shinawatra’s supporters – in trademark red shirts – paralyse parts of central Bangkok with months-long protests calling for early elections. Troops eventually storm the protesters’ barricades, leaving 91 dead.
  50. 2011 – Elections held. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva conceded his party lost the national elections to the opposition led by Yingluck Shinawatra (44), the sister of ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra. Her Pheu Thai party won a majority of 265 seats in the 500-seat lower house of parliament outright. The Democrat party won 159 seats.
  51. 2013 – Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra sacked the commerce minister who had come under fire over a rice intervention scheme that resulted in huge losses to the budget and saw the country lose its place as the world’s top rice exporter. She added the defence ministry to her portfolio.
  52. 2014 – Constitutional Court orders Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down with 9 members of her cabinet over her decision in 2011 to remove the country’s head of national security in favour of a relative. Thailand’s anti-graft agency indicts Yingluck Shinawatra for negligence. Thailand’s army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized control of the government in a coup (13th coup since 1932). Thailand’s junta won approval from King Bhumibol Adulyadej for an interim constitution mapping out a year-long political reforms expected to curb the influence of fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thailand’s legislature voted overwhelmingly to name General Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister.
  53. 2015 – Embattled former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra decried the “death of democracy” in Thailand after the junta-stacked parliament impeached her and prosecutors announced corruption charges that could see her jailed. Thailand passed a law banning foreign couples from using Thai women as surrogates after a series of high-profile scandals tainting the image of the hitherto unregulated industry.
  54. 2016 – Voters approve a new constitution giving the military continuing influence over the country’s political life. Thailand’s coup leader and prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha promised to turn Thailand into a developed country by 2036.
  55. 2016 – King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, dies at the age of 88 after 70 years on the throne. He was revered as a demigod, a humble father figure and an anchor of stability through decades of upheaval at home and abroad. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (aged 64), who is unpopular, replaced his father as king.
  56. 2017 – King Maha Vajiralongkorn signs the new, military-drafted constitution that paves the way for a return to democracy.
  57. 2017 – Yingluck Shinawatra, the last democratically elected prime minister of Thailand, flees into exile to avoid appearing in court to hear a judgment on corruption charges. A Thai court sentenced her in absentia to 5 years in prison for alleged negligence in a money-losing rice subsidy program.
  58. 2018 – Rescuers freed the last 4 of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave, ending a mission that gripped the world for 18 days.
  59. 2019 – Thailand Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi (aged 67) shocked the nation when she announced she would be the sole prime ministerial candidate for her party, which is loyal to ousted ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. King Maha Vajiralongkorn called her announcement inappropriate and unconstitutional. Thailand’s Election Commission officially endorsed the results from the country’s March 24 general election, declaring that the Pheu Thai Party associated with fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra topped the field by winning 136 constituencies. Thailand’s junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha was officially proclaimed prime minister after the king endorsed Parliament’s vote for him to serve another term. The Serbian government decided to grant citizenship to Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, citing a legal provision that “a foreign citizen can also be granted Serbian citizenship if that is in line with the country’s interests”.
  60. 2020 – General Motors pulls its car production out of Thailand. Honda’s Thai business said it would suspend car operations at two factories after Thailand declared a state of emergency to curb the spread of COVID-19. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha calls on the country’s 20 richest people to help in addressing the damaging economic fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic. Thai professional chefs started cooking up around 40,000 lunches in Bangkok for communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sex workers in Thailand launched a petition calling for prostitution to be decriminalized and urging authorities to remove all penalties for selling sex (a current law made prostitution illegal in 1960). It was reported that Angela Merkel’s government has warned Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn not to try to rule his country remotely from Germany (the king has been spending a significant portion of his time in Germany).
  61. 2020 – (to 2021) COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 730 deaths in Thailand.
  62. 2021 – Thailand has 70 million people.

© Comasters June 2021.

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