|Unique unit||Naresuan's elephant (replaces Knight)|
|Unique building||Wat (replaces University)|
|Ability||Father Governs Children:
Food, Faith, and Culture gifts from friendly city-states are increased by 50%
Musical Theme: taken from a melody in The Garland Handbook of Southeast Asian Music (edited by Terry E. Miller, Sean Williams) composed by Michael Curran
Architecture: Asian Music Set: Asian
Located in Southeast Asia between Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar), Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia, Siam – now Thailand – has a long and storied history. A beautiful and mysterious land of dark forests and ancient mountains, Siam has seen occupation and revolution, flood and famine, and the rise and fall of empires.
Terrain and ClimateEdit
Siam is a semi-tropical country located in a monsoon zone. From May to October warm northwestern winds bring huge amounts of rainfall to the country, the west coast receiving an astonishing 160 inches of rain annually (the hilly north much less so). The wind reverses course from November to February, bringing cooler, drier weather to the country. The countryside is covered with forests, swamps and wetlands. The Siamese people have traditionally used water buffalo, horses, and even elephants as draft animals (though the late 20th century has seen the introduction of farm machinery across much of the country).
The earliest known settlers of Siam spoke Mon-Khmer languages. There were several different groups on the southeast Asia peninsula. One, the Mon, were known to have accepted Buddhism as far back as the sixth century CE. Another group, the Khmer, were primarily located in Cambodia, their capital at Angkor (home of Angkor Wat); in the 12th century they possessed an empire stretching over half of modern Thailand. The Khmer tended to follow Hinduism rather than Buddhism. Around 1,000 CE the area saw an influx of Tai-speaking people called the "Tai." Modern historians generally believe that the Tai originated in northern Vietnam. In a few centuries the Tai had spread across much of Southeast Asia, as far west as northeastern India and as far south as the Malay Peninsula. By the 13th century the Tai were numerous enough to threaten the Mon and Khmer primacy in Siam.
Sukhothai and RamkhamhaengEdit
In the mid-thirteenth century a Tai ruler successfully revolted against the Khmer Empire, founding the Sukhothai kingdom. It remained a small, unimportant power until the ascension of its third ruler, Ramkhamhaeng, in 1279. In twenty short years this extraordinary leader would transform the small kingdom of Sukhothai into a major regional power. During his reign Ramkhamhaeng expanded his kingdom's dominance west into Burma, east into Laos, and south down the Malay Peninsula. The king was a shrewd diplomat as well as a warlord; many territories joined his confederation voluntarily. Towards the end of his rule Ramkhamhaeng had a stone inscribed detailing his triumphs. It portrays a wealthy, contented kingdom ruled by a loving and benevolent monarch. Ramkhamhaeng died in 1298. Sukhothai would last a century past its greatest leader's death before being consumed by Ayutthaya, a new Tai power rising in the south.
The kingdom of Ayutthaya was founded by Ramathibodi I in 1351 on the Chao Phraya River Basin, a fertile plain just north of modern Bangkok. The kingdom was formed on the remains of an earlier kingdom, Lavo. In 1352 King Ramathibodi attacked the Khmer, driving them east out of Siam. By 1387 Ayutthaya was strong enough to attack north, conquering Sukhothai. And in 1431 the kingdom attacked the Khmer once more, this time capturing and sacking the capital city of Angkor after a seven-month siege.
By all accounts the city of Ayutthaya was beautiful and wealthy. It was traversed by a series of north-south canals which brought water to all sections of the city. The remains of magnificent palaces and temples can be seen in the city today. The Tai of Ayutthaya were the first people in the area to be called "Siamese," and this of course eventually became the name of the entire country. From the Khmer, the Ayutthayans adopted the belief in the divinity of the king. The king was above all people. None could gaze upon his face, except for members of the royal family. In addition to the king's increased religious/ceremonial power, King Trailok (1448-1488) reorganized the state to concentrate political power in the hands of the monarchy as well.
Socially, the Ayutthayans lived under a rigid caste system that assigned a numerical value to each person according to his or her rank. A slave was worth five units (called "sakdi na"), a freeman 25 or so, and the heir to the throne perhaps 100,000 units. (The king himself was probably worth a gazillion – or even more!) Both Buddhism and Hinduism were followed in the country.
Having dealt with Sukhothai to the north and Khmer to the southeast, the greatest threat to Ayutthaya lay in Burma, to the west. In 1569 Ayutthaya was overrun and conquered by Burma. It regained its independence at the end of the 15th century. Burmese troops once again sacked the city in 1767. This time they deported the royal family, burned the city to the ground, and destroyed all of the Ayutthayan works of art and historical records. The Kingdom never recovered from this attack. However a new Siamese kingdom would rapidly rise to power in Ayutthaya's ashes.
In 1767 (the same year that saw the final destruction of Ayutthaya), a Tai leader named "Taksin" founded a new capital city at Thon Buri, some forty miles downstream from Ayutthaya (near present-day Bangkok). Built on the western side of the Chao Phraya River, the city was easier to defend from Burmese forces; located closer to the open sea, the city was ideally suited to accommodate international trade as well. In fact Taksin encouraged Chinese merchants to establish businesses in Thon Buri, and tax revenue from this trade was used to rebuild the Siamese economy, devastated from the recent Burmese attack. Taking advantage of his country's wealth, Taksin constructed a powerful army and began expanding its territory. After retaking the territory that had belonged to Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, Taksin's troops conquered additional territory in Laos, and pushed the Burmese forces out of traditional Tai lands to the north. In 1782 Taksin began showing signs of serious mental illness and was overthrown and killed. He was succeeded by a general named "Chao Phraya Chakri" (he later changed his name to Rama I). The Chakri dynasty has remained in power in Thailand until today.
Shortly after assuming the throne, the new king moved his capital to Bangkok, a small village across the Chao Phraya River. Bangkok quickly grew into a bustling trading city, largely due to the many Chinese who immigrated to the metropolis.
King Rama I and his successors continued to expand Siamese power into Laos and south down the Malay Peninsula. They also continued to clash with Burma, who remained a perennial menace until that country in turn was menaced by Great Britain (approaching from India). King Rama I was also a great patron of Siamese culture, religion and the law. He rebuilt Siamese temples and palaces, and he greatly updated the Siamese legal system. His successor, Rama III (ruled 1809-24) was a patron of the arts, and no mean poet himself.
Siam and the WestEdit
Perhaps the greatest triumph of Siamese diplomacy was that it avoided occupation by Western powers, unlike every other country in Southeast Asia. In 1826 Siam signed a treaty with Great Britain, and in 1855 this was expanded to allow the British unrestricted – and untaxed! – trade in Siamese ports. The British also secured the right to set up separate law courts to try cases involving British subjects. This was a humiliating loss of sovereignty and income for Siam, but it kept Britain from invading and occupying the country, and Siam soon signed similar treaties with other European powers and the United States.
King Rama IV (1851-1868) was a keen student of the West. He appointed to his court several Western advisors. He also hired the Englishwoman Anna Harriette Leonowens to tutor his children. Mrs. Leonowens later wrote a book about her adventures, and that book became the basis for the musical "The King and I." Both the book and the musical are highly entertaining and (according to historians) highly inaccurate. In some ways King Rama IV was rather enlightened for that place and time. A former Buddhist monk before assuming the throne, he sought to reform Buddhism in the country, which he believed had become corrupt and filled with superstition. He also began to remake the Siamese monarchy, removing from it the more onerous trappings of godhood. Although he remained largely an absolute ruler, at least his subjects were allowed to look directly at him.
King Rama IV's son, Rama V, reigned from 1868 to 1910. He continued his father's practice of granting concessions to the West to maintain Siam's independence, losing large chunks of Laotian and Cambodian territory to the French and various bits of Malaysia to the British. He further reformed the monarchy and the government in general, including abolishing slavery, introducing a modern school system, constructing railways and telegraph systems, and establishing a new law court and judiciary.
The Twentieth CenturyEdit
King Rama V's two successors, the aptly-named Rama VI (ruled 1910-25) and Rama VII (ruled 1925-1935), continued the modernization of Siam. In 1917 Rama VI opened the first university in Thailand. In that year he also entered World War I on the side of the Allies. He was able after the war to convince the victors to give up their special concessions in Siam, regaining for the first time in seventy-five years full independence for his country. However, Rama VI's reforms and wars were extremely expensive and necessitated reductions in government spending which caused deep resentment from the people. The discontent continued into his successor's reign, and it was exacerbated by the Great Depression.
In 1932 a group of students under a lawyer named "Pridi Phanomyong" and supported by the Siamese military staged a bloodless coup, compelling the king to agree to rule under a constitution and to accept the formation of a National Assembly. In 1933 members of the royal family attempted unsuccessfully to stage a counter-coup, and King Rama VII was forced to leave the country, abdicating in 1935. A regency council was appointed to act until the very young Prince Ananda Mahidol came of age.
In truth, however, the military was now running the country. In 1938 a field marshal (and one of the co-conspirators of the '32 coup that toppled Rama VII) became military dictator. Dictator Phibun Songkhram changed the name of the country to Thailand, encouraged Thai nationalism as well as anti-Chinese and pro-Japanese sentiment. In 1940, following the conquest of France by Germany, he invaded and captured French territory in Laos and Cambodia.
Late in 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese troops marched into Thailand and requested right of passage through the country to facilitate their attack on Singapore, which was held by Great Britain. The Thai forces put up minimal symbolic resistance and then were ordered to lay down their arms. In 1942 Thailand signed an Alliance with Japan and declared war on Britain and the US. Resistance groups formed in the country and overseas, attacking the Japanese and the collaborating Thai government. In July 1944 Phibun was forced to resign, and the dictatorship collapsed following Japan's surrender in 1945.
Postwar Thailand – "You Say You Want a Revolution?"Edit
Thailand got off relatively lightly following World War II. It had to return the territories it had snarfed up from the French, but generally it suffered no other penalties. It did suffer from a great deal of internal strife, however. In 1946 the king was found dead of a gunshot wound. The current leader of the government was blamed for the king's death and forced into exile, the proto-fascist Dictator Phibun Songkhram returning to power.
In the Cold War years the United States funneled huge sums of money into Thailand, most of which was taken by the military and the dictatorship. A majority of the country's industry was owned by the dictator and his cronies, and in 1957 the military staged another coup, placing yet another field marshal, Sarit Thanarat, in charge. Thanarat ruled for five years. While maintaining total control over the government and military, he implemented economic reforms that spread the wealth among the growing Thai middle class, earning a good deal of popular support for doing so. The US gave him even more money, which he used to support the military, but also to improve the Thai infrastructure. Thanarat also gave support to the monarchy, which by then had no political power, but which once again became a powerful symbol of Thai nationalism. A popular leader during his life, after his death Thanarat's popularity waned a good deal when it was discovered how much of Thailand's money he had stolen and hidden away.
Thanarat's successors continued to receive huge amounts of American money, and in return they supported the American adventure in Vietnam. By the end of the 1960s more than 10,000 Thai troops were serving in Vietnam, and thousands of American soldiers were stationed in Thailand, which provided an important base for the US Air Force. Popular discontent for the war and the government grew, and in 1973 a student-led revolt drove the current leaders into exile.
Thailand enjoyed a brief period of parliamentary democracy, but in 1976 the military staged yet another coup, this time with the support of the monarchy. This in turn drove many disaffected Thais into the jungles, swelling the ranks of the insurgent Communist Party of Thailand. In 1980 the military ousted the right-wing government they had just installed and replaced it with a dictator with more democratic leanings. For the next eight years the military shared power with parliament, mediated by the king, and in 1988 an elected Prime Minister was put in power…for three years, when he was toppled by the military.
In 1992 the military "junta" held elections, which one of its own members won, much to nobody's surprise. The public were dissatisfied with this outcome, staging massive protests, which were put down with bloody force. Eventually the king intervened, the current dictator resigned and a more democratic government was put into place. This lasted for eight glorious years, until in 2006 increasing public dissatisfaction and government excesses led to… another military coup.
With the elderly king's backing, another caretaker government was formed with a retired general put in charge. Another new constitution was drafted and ratified by popular vote in August of 2007. In September 2008 another prime minister was found guilty of a conflict of interest by the Constitutional Court. In October his replacement was unable to enter his office, which was occupied by protestors, so he was forced out of office. The latest prime minister (as of this writing) took office in December of 2008.
Who can tell? Thailand is a great country with a great history, beset by a seemingly never-ending series of political troubles. Things are especially uncertain because the current King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, arguably the only man capable of holding the country together, is over 80 years old. It is greatly to be hoped that the country can survive his passing without further chaos. Given the battered country's recent history, the odds do not seem to be in its favor.
- It is often nicknamed as the "Land Of Smiles," because of the perceived gentleness of its people
- Pornthip “Bui” Nakhirunkanok became the second Thai to win the Miss Universe title after Apasra Hongsakula in 1965. The year was 1988.
- The King of Thailand is regarded with great reverence and even a passing joke can result in a term in prison.
- The Lang Rongrien rock shelter in the southwest of Thailand was inhabited around forty thousand years ago.
- The Siamese cat was brought to Britain from Thailand in 1884 by the British Consul General of Bangkok.
- Most young Thai men are Buddhist monks for a short time and shaven-headed monks go out and ask for alms each morning.
- Tea grows wild in Siam but is not used in a beverage. Traditionally, it is pickled, rolled into balls called ‘mieng’, and chewed.
List of City Names:Edit
Vientiane [Capital city of Laos in presents.Vieng Chan in Thai Language ]
Nakhon Si Thammarat
Luang Prabang [Ancient capital city of Laos]
Hongsawadee [A part of Burmese empire, never belong to Siamese before]
Ayutthuya [Another Siamese empire, They later has conquered Sukhothai empire.]
Taphan Hin [Just a small district of Pichit province. Founded in 1940]
Ban Phai [A small district of Khon Khaen , Not an inportant city]