Thai people

Thai people

ethnic group
group=Thai "ไทย"

caption = Khon dance performance in Frankfurt, Germany
poptime=approx. 68,000,000
region1 = flagcountry|Thailand
pop1 = 64,200,000
ref1 = []
region2 = flagcountry|United States
pop2 = 199,000
ref2 = fact|date=January 2008
region3 = flag|Laos
pop3 = 130,000
ref3 = fact|date=January 2008
region4 = flagcountry|Taiwan
pop4 = 110,000
ref4 = fact|date=January 2008
region5 = flagcountry|Singapore
pop5 = 56,744(2007)
ref5 = []
region6 = flagcountry|Japan
pop6 = 53,221
ref6 = fact|date=January 2008
region7 = flagcountry|Burma
pop7 = 41,000
ref7 = fact dare=January 2008
region8 = flagcountry|Cambodia
pop8 = 39,556
ref8 = []
region9 = flagcountry|United Kingdom
pop9 = 38,000
ref9 = []
region10 = flagcountry|Australia
pop10 = 32,755
ref10 = fact|date=January 2008
region11 = flagcountry|Malaysia
pop11 = 25,000
ref11 = []
region12 = flagcountry|Germany
pop12 = 22,000
region13 = flagcountry|Hong Kong
pop13 = 15,000
ref13 = []
region14 = flagcountry|Sweden
pop14 = 11,244 (2004)
ref14 = []
region15 = flagcountry|Saudi Arabia
pop15 = 16,000
ref15 = []
region16 = flagcountry|New Zealand
pop16 = 12,000
rels= Predominantly Theravada Buddhism
related=Lao, Shan, Ahom, other Tai peoples

The Thai (or Tai) are the main ethnic group of Thailand and are part of the larger Tai ethnolinguistic peoples found in Thailand and adjacent countries in Southeast Asia as well as southern China. They are also known as Thailanders. Their language is the Thai language, which is classified as part of the Tai-Kadai family of languages, and the majority of Thai are followers of Theravada Buddhism. The 'Thai people' living in significant regions can be included as those who come from Thailand, not those who are ethnic 'Thai'.


The earliest mention of the Thai, as a nation in south China called NAN-JOA (Nanzhao or Nanman), comes from Chinese records dating back to the sixth century BCE. These early Thai emanated out of the Yunnan region and dispersed into the general area of what is today Thailand. These Thai peoples arrived in various waves and displaced the earlier native Mon and Khmer populations as they settled the region with a large group settling in Thailand during the Sung period of China roughly around 960 CE. The related Lao people split off from the early Tai-Kadai peoples and moved into Southeast Asia, mainly Laos, while another kindred people, the Shan, made their way into Myanmar.Fact|date=August 2007

The founding of the Sukhothai kingdom culminated in the emergence of the first Thai nation-state founded in 1238. Various conflicts in the Chinese-dominated region of Nanchao facilitated increased migration of the Thai, especially mercenaries fleeing from the Mongol conquest of China, and helped establish the Thai as a regional power. Successful wars with the Mon helped to establish the kingdom of Lan Na as the Thai increased their hold in Southeast Asia. The early Thai brought their Buddhist and Chinese traditions, but also assimilated much of the native Khmer and Mon culture of Southeast Asia. (See Thai Chinese for more details)

A new city-state known as Ayutthaya, named after the Indian city of Ayodhya, was founded by Ramathibodi (a descendant of Chiang Mai) and emerged as the center of the growing Thai Empire starting in 1350. Inspired by the then Hindu-based Khmer Empire (Cambodia), the Ayutthaya Empire's continued conquests led to more Thai settlements as the Khmer Empire weakened after their defeat at Angkor in 1444. During this period, the Thai developed a feudal system as various vassal states paid homage to the Thai kings. Even as Thai power expanded at the expense of the Mon and Khmer, the Thai Ayutthaya faced setbacks at the hands of the Malay at Malacca and were checked by the Toungoo of Burma.

Though sporadic wars continued with the Burmese and other neighbors, Chinese wars with Burma and European intervention elsewhere in Southeast Asia allowed the Thai to develop an independent course by trading with the Europeans as well as playing the major powers against each other in order to remain independent. The Chakkri dynasty under Rama I held the Burmese at bay, while Rama II and Rama III helped to shape much of Thai society, but also led to Thai setbacks as the Europeans moved into areas surrounding modern Thailand and curtailed any claims the Thai had over Cambodia, in dispute with Burma and Vietnam. The Thai learned from European traders and diplomats, while maintaining an independent course. Chinese, Malay, and British influences helped to further shape the Thai people who often assimilated foreign ideas, but managed to preserve much of their culture and resisted the European colonization that engulfed their neighbors.Thailand is also the only country that was not colonized in Southeastern Asia area in the early history.

Geography and demographics

The vast majority of the Thai people live in Thailand, although some Thai can also be found in other parts of Southeast Asia. About 60 million live in Thailand alone [] , while thousands can also be found in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.

Culture and society

The Thai can be broken down into various regional groups including the main Thai, northeastern, northern, and southern Thai with their own regional dialects of their mutually intelligible Thai language. Modern Central Thai has become more dominant due to official government policy which was designed to assimilate and unify the disparate Thai in spite of ethnolinguistic and cultural ties between the northeastern Thai and the Lao for example. The Thai written language or Thai alphabet developed shortly after the conquest at Angkor, suggesting that it was adopted from the Khmer.

The modern Thai are predominantly Theravada Buddhist and strongly identify their ethnic identity with their religious beliefs that include aspects of ancestor worship (see Culture of Thailand). Indigenous arts include Muay Thai (kick boxing), Thai dance, Makruk (Thai Chess), and Nang Yai (shadow play). Thai cuisine tends to be quite eclectic and resembles the foods of neighboring countries of Burma, Laos, and Cambodia.

The Thai have a literacy rate hovering at 90% and a strong predilection towards education and national development.

See also

* Thailand
* List of Thais
* Thai American
* Thai British
* Thais in Hong Kong
* Thai marriage
* List of Thai actresses
* List of Thai actors


*Girsling, John L.S., "Thailand: Society and Politics" (Cornell University Press, 1981).
*Terwiel, B.J., "A History of Modern Thailand" (Univ. of Queensland Press, 1984).
*Wyatt, D.K., "Thailand: A Short History" (Yale University Press, 1986).

Online references

* [] the social network website of thai people.

* [ US Library of Congress Country Studies, Thailand, The Thai and Other Tai-Speaking Peoples]
* [ CIA Factbook Thailand]

* [ Contemporary Thai music radio] (Listen Free, Contemporary Thai Music, internet radio station)
* [ About things Thai.]

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