Edited by Léo-Paul Dana, Mary Han, Vanessa Ratten and Isabell M. Welpe
Chapter 38: Thailand
Scott A. Hipsher Introduction Thailand is located in central Southeast Asia (SEA) and has a land mass approximately equal to that of Spain (Leppart, 1996) while having a population estimated at slightly over 65 million (Thailand Facts and Figures, 2007), which is up from 55.84 million in 1990 (Asian Development Bank, 2007). Life expectancy in the country has risen sharply in recent years; in the 1970s life expectancy was only 58 years while today it is over 70 for men and nearly 75 for women (Somjai, 2003; Thailand Facts and Figures, 2007). There is no concensus amongst historians on the exact origins of the Thai people and their culture, but it is generally assumed the original home of the ancestors of the Thai people was somewhere in present-day China (Jumsai, 2001: 8–15; Syamananda, 1993: 6–7). Apparently, the ancestors of the present-day Thais migrated to Nanchao, which is located in the present-day Yunnan Province of China, and later began to move south and west where they set up various kingdoms in present-day Burma, Laos, and Thailand, beginning over a thousand years ago in locations where the Mons and Khmers were already living and had established political institutions (Syamananda, 1993: 10–14). One of the earliest kingdoms thought of as Thai was the Kingdom of Lannathai, which was located in present-day Northern Thailand. This kingdom came into its own in the thirteenth century under King Mengrai (Jumsai, 2001: 31–41). Shortly afterwards, the kingdom that is considered the forerunner of...
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