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Map of Thailand, Burma, China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Gulf of Thailand

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The Kingdom of Thailand, formerly known as Siam, has been inhabited since 40,000 years ago. Thai history begins with the Kingdom of Funan, part of the Khmer Empire, whose culture spread from India. As the Khmer Empire began to decline in the 13th century CE, King Ayutthaya began to expand his kingdom, absorbing Angkor Wat. Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia not to have been colonized by Europeans, but well into the 16th century, Siam traded with the Portuguese, British, and French. By the 17th century, a fourth of the population was enslaved; by the 19th, the number had reached a third. Slavery in Thailand was abolished in 1905.

Due to the country's refusal to be colonized, Siam became a 'buffer zone' between British and French territories in Southeast Asia until it lost Mekong to the French and the Malay Peninsula to the British in a series of battles. After a bloodless revolution in 1932, the constitution was rewritten, the monarchy abolished, and the name changed to Thailand. Buddhism is practiced by over 95% of the population.

When WWII broke out, Thailand refused to acquiesce to Japan's demand to move troops through the country. After six days of war, Japan had intimidated Thailand into aiding it throughout the war. While Japan ignored growing anti-Japanese sentiment in Seri Thai, Japan declared war on Britain and France and agreed to help Thailand regain stolen territory. Japanese put many to work on the Thailand-Burma 'Death' Railroad under such hard conditions that 200,000 laborers and 60,000 POWS were worked to death. Thailand immediately allied with the US after the defeat of Japan at the end of the war. Renewed independence was marred with coups, political instability due to Cold War communist influences, and protests against the latter. Protests and violence died down in the 80's, but have returned in 2012 and 2014, causing a suspension of the constitution.

Thailand enjoys a tropical climate throughout the country, with seasons dictated by monsoons. It is the 25th richest nation, ranking by GDP, but the 120th by GDP per capita. It is the origin of Muay Thai boxing, which can be more dangerous than modern boxing, in America and Europe.

Area: 513,120 square kilometers
Population: 67,741,401 (2014)


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