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Thai people ( th, ชาวไทย; ''
endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 milli ...
''), Central/Southern Thai people ( th, คนภาคกลาง, sou, คนใต้; '' Thai of Chinese origin's exonym and also domestically'') or Siamese ( th, ชาวสยาม; ''historically and sometimes domestically''), in a narrow sense, are a Tai
ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousn ...
dominant in
Central Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center (disambiguation), center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions and generalised locations * Central Africa, a region in the centre of Africa ...
and
Southern Thailand Southern Thailand is a southernmost cultural region of Thailand ) , royal_anthem = '' Sansoen Phra Barami''( en, "Glorify His prestige") , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Bangkok , coordinates = , large ...
(Siam proper). Part of the larger Tai ethno-linguistic group native to
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Southeast Asia
as well as Southern
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

China
and
Northeast India Northeast India (officially North Eastern Region, NER) is the easternmost region of India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-large ...

Northeast India
, Thais speak the , which is classified as part of the Kra–Dai family of languages. The majority of Thais are followers of
Theravada Theravāda (; , lit. "School of the ", borrowed from Sanskrit स्थविरवाद (sthaviravāda, literally “doctrine of the elders”) is the most commonly accepted name of 's oldest existing school. The school's adherents, termed Th ...
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
. As a result of
government policy Public policy is a course of action created and/or enacted, typically by a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associa ...
during the 1930s and 1940s resulting in successful
forced assimilation Forced assimilation is an involuntary process of cultural assimilation of religious or ethnic minority groups during which they are forced to adopt language, Identity (social science), identity, Social norm, norms, mores, Convention (norm), customs, ...
of many the various ethno-linguistic groups in the country into the dominant Thai language and culture, the term ''Thai people'' has come to refer to the population of Thailand in general. This includes other subgroups of the Tai ethno-linguistic group, such as the Yuan people and the
Isan people The Isan people ( th, คนอีสาน, , ; lo, ຄົນອີສານ, Burmese: အီသန်လူမျိုး) or Northeastern Thai people are an ethno-regional In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physi ...
, as well as non-Tai groups, the largest of which is that of the ethnic
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
.


Etymology

According to
Michel Ferlus Michel Ferlus (born 1935) is a French linguist whose special study is in the historical phonology of languages of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern su ...
, the ethnonyms Thai/Tai (or Thay/Tay) would have evolved from the etymon *k(ə)ri: 'human being' through the following chain: *kəri: > *kəli: > *kədi:/*kədaj > *di:/*daj > *dajA (Proto-Southwestern Tai) > tʰajA2 (in and
Lao__NOTOC__ Lao may refer to: Laos * Something of, from, or related to Laos, a country in Southeast Asia * Lao people (people from Laos, or of Lao descent) * The Lao language * Lao script, the writing system used to write the Lao language ** Lao (Un ...

Lao
) or > tajA2 (in the other
Southwestern The points of the compass are the vectors Vector may refer to: Biology *Vector (epidemiology), an agent that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism; a disease vector *Vector (molecular biology), a DNA mole ...
and
Central Tai languages The Central Tai languages include southern dialects of Zhuang, and various Nung and Tày dialects of northern Vietnam. Central Tai languages differ from Northern Tai languages The Northern Tai languages are an established branch of the Tai ...
classified by Li Fangkuei).Ferlus, Michel (2009). Formation of Ethnonyms in Southeast Asia
''42nd International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics, Nov 2009, Chiang Mai, Thailand. 2009'', p.3.
Michel Ferlus Michel Ferlus (born 1935) is a French linguist whose special study is in the historical phonology of languages of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern su ...
' work is based on some simple rules of phonetic change observable in the Sinosphere and studied for the most part by William H. Baxter (1992).Pain, Frédéric (2008). An Introduction to Thai Ethnonymy: Examples from Shan and Northern Thai
''Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 128, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 2008)'', p.646.
Michel Ferlus Michel Ferlus (born 1935) is a French linguist whose special study is in the historical phonology of languages of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern su ...
notes that a deeply rooted belief in Thailand has it that the term ‘Thai’ derives from the last syllables -daya in Sukhodaya/ Sukhothay (สุโขทัย), the name of the first Thai Kingdom. The spelling emphasizes this prestigious etymology by writing ไทย (transliterated ai-d-y) to designate the Thai/ Siamese people, while the form ไท (transliterated ai-d) is occasionally used to refer to Tai speaking ethnic groups. Lao writes ໄທ (transliterated ai-d) in both cases. The French diplomat
Simon de la Loubère Simon may refer to: People * Simon (given name), including a list of people and fictional characters with the given name Simon * Simon (surname), including a list of people with the surname Simon * Eugène Simon, the genus authority ''Simon'' ...
, mentioned that, “The Siamese give to themselves the Name of Tai, or Free, and those that understand the Language of Pegu, affirm that Siam in that Tongue signifies Free. 'Tis from thence perhaps that the Portugues have derived this word, having probably known the Siamese by the Peguan. Nevertheless Navarete in his Historical Treatises of the Kingdom of China, relates that the Name of Siam, which he writes Sian, comes from these two words Sien lo, without adding their signification, or of what Language they are; altho' it may be presumed he gives them for Chinese, Meuang Tai is therefore the Siamese Name of the Kingdom of Siam (for Meuang signifies Kingdom) and this word wrote simply Muantay, is found in Vincent le Blanc, and in several Geographical Maps, as the Name of a Kingdom adjoining to
Pegu Bago (formerly spelt Pegu; , ), formerly known as Hanthawaddy, is a city and the capital of the Bago Region in Myanmar. It is located north-east of Yangon. Etymology The Burmese name Bago (ပဲခူး) is likely derived from the Mon langua ...

Pegu
: But Vincent le Blanc apprehended not that this was the Kingdom of Siam, not imagining perhaps that Siam and Tai were two different Names of the same People. In a word, the Siamese, of whom I treat, do call themselves Tai Noe,*little Siams. There are others, as I was informed, altogether savage, which are called
Tai yai File:Flag of the Shan State.svg, 208x208px, Shan flag The Shan people ( shn, တႆး; , my, ရှမ်းလူမျိုး; ), also known as the Dai or Tai Yai, are a Tai peoples, Tai ethnic group of Southeast Asia. The Shan are the bi ...
, great Siams, and which do live in the Northern Mountains.” Based on Chinese source,
Ming Shilu The ''Ming Shilu'' () contains the imperial annals of the Ming Dynasty, Ming emperors (1368–1644). It is the single largest historical source for the dynasty. According to modern historians, it "plays an extremely important role in the histori ...
, in 1375 Zhao Bo-luo-ju "the heir to the old Ming-tai prince of the country of Xian-luo-hu" () sent envoy to China. Geoff Wade suggested that Ming Tai ( zh, t=明台) might represent the word “
Muang Mueang ( th, เมือง ''mɯ̄ang'', ), Muang ( lo, ເມືອງ ''mɯ́ang'', ; Tai Nuea Tai Nuea or Tai Nüa (Tai Nüa: ; also called Tai Le, Dehong Dai or Chinese Shan; own name: ''Tai2 Lə6'', which means "Upper Tai" or "Northern Ta ...
Tai” while the word Jiu () means old.


History

There have been many theories proposing the origin of the
Tai peoples Tai people refers to the population of descendants of speakers of a common Tai language, including sub-populations that no longer speak a Tai language. There are a total of about 93 million people of Tai ancestry worldwide, with the largest eth ...
— of which the Thai are a subgroup — including an association of the Tai people with the
Kingdom of Nanzhao Nanzhao, also spelled Nanchao or Nan Chao (literally 'Southern Zhao'), was a dynastic kingdom that flourished in what is now southern China Northern China () and Southern China () are two approximate mega-regions within China China ...
that has been proven to be invalid. A linguistic study has suggested that the origin of the Tai people may lie around
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Guangxi (; alternately romanized as Kwanghsi; ; za, Gvangjsih), officially the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR), is an autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, uni ...

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
of
southern China Northern China () and Southern China () are two approximate regions within China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is ...
, where the
Zhuang people The Zhuang () (; za, Bouxcuengh, italic=yes) are a Tai-speaking ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain ...
currently account for approximately one third of the total population. The
Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of ever ...

Qin dynasty
founded
Guangdong Guangdong (, ), alternately romanized as Canton Province or Kwangtung, is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admin ...

Guangdong
in 214 BC, initiating the successive waves of Chinese migrations from the north for hundreds of years to come. With the political and cultural pressures from the north, some
Tai peoples Tai people refers to the population of descendants of speakers of a common Tai language, including sub-populations that no longer speak a Tai language. There are a total of about 93 million people of Tai ancestry worldwide, with the largest eth ...
migrated south where they met the classical Indianized civilizations of Southeast Asia. According to linguistic and other historical evidence, the southwestward migration of Southwestern Tai-speaking tribes, in particular, from Guangxi took place sometime between the 8th-10th centuries.Pittayaporn, Pittayawat (2014). Layers of Chinese Loanwords in Proto-Southwestern Tai as Evidence for the Dating of the Spread of Southwestern Tai
''MANUSYA: Journal of Humanities,'' Special Issue No 20: 47-64.
The Tais from the north gradually settled in the Chao Phraya valley from the tenth century onwards, in lands of the
Dvaravati The Dvaravati ( th, ทวารวดี ) period lasted from around the 6th to the 11th century. Dvaravati refers to a culture, an art style, and a disparate conglomeration of principalities of Mon people. Archaeological research over the past t ...
culture, assimilating the earlier
Austroasiatic The Austroasiatic languages , also known as Mon–Khmer , are a large language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken lan ...

Austroasiatic
Mon and
Khmer people Khmer people ( km, ជនជាតិខ្មែរ, ) are a Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for ...
, as well as coming into contact with the
Khmer Empire The Khmer Empire ( km, ចក្រភពខ្មែរ), or the Angkorian Empire ( km, ចក្រភពអង្គរ, link=no), are the terms that historians use to refer to Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ព ...

Khmer Empire
. The Tais who came to the area of present-day Thailand were engulfed into the Theravada Buddhism of the Mon and the Hindu-Khmer culture and statecraft. Therefore, the Thai culture is a mixture of Tai traditions with Indic, Mon, and Khmer influences. Early Thai chiefdoms included the
Sukhothai Kingdom The Sukhothai Kingdom ( th, สุโขทัย, , : , ) was a Thai kingdom () in surrounding the ancient capital city of in present-day north-central . The kingdom was founded by in 1238 and existed as an independent polity until 1438, ...
and
Suphan Buri Province Suphan Buri ( th, สุพรรณบุรี, ) located in the central region of Thailand, is one of the country's 76 Provinces of Thailand, provinces (จังหวัด, changwat), the first-level administrative divisions. Neighbouring ...
. The
Lavo Kingdom The Kingdom of Lavo was a political entity (Mandala (Southeast Asian political model), mandala) on the left bank of the Chao Phraya River in the Upper Chao Phraya valley from the end of Dvaravati civilization, around the 7th century, until 1388. T ...
, which was the center of Khmer culture in Chao Phraya valley, was also the rallying point for the Thais. The Thai were called "Siam" by the Angkorians and they appeared on the bas relief at
Angkor Wat Angkor Wat (; km, អង្គរវត្ត "Temple city/city of temples") is the largest religious structure (temple complex) in the world by land area, measuring , located in Cambodia. Originally constructed as a personal mausoleum for ...

Angkor Wat
as a part of the army of Lavo Kingdom. Sometimes the Thai chiefdoms in the Chao Phraya valley were put under the Angkorian control under strong monarchs (including
Suryavarman II Suryavarman II ( km, សូរ្យវរ្ម័នទី២), posthumously named Paramavishnuloka, was a Khmer king from 1113 AD to 1145/1150 AD and the builder of Angkor Wat Angkor Wat (; km, អង្គរវត្ត "Temple cit ...

Suryavarman II
and
Jayavarman VII Jayavarman VII, posthumous name of Mahaparamasaugata ( km, ជ័យវរ្ម័នទី៧, c. 1122–1218), was king of the Khmer Empire The Khmer Empire (; km, ចក្រភពខ្មែរ, ), or Angkor Empire ( km, ចក្ ...

Jayavarman VII
) but they were mostly independent. A new city-state known as Ayutthaya Covering the areas of central and southern Thailand, named after the
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...

India
n city of
Ayodhya Ayodhya (; IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scienti ...

Ayodhya
, was founded by Ramathibodi and emerged as the center of the growing Thai empire starting in 1350. Inspired by the then Hindu-based
Khmer Empire The Khmer Empire ( km, ចក្រភពខ្មែរ), or the Angkorian Empire ( km, ចក្រភពអង្គរ, link=no), are the terms that historians use to refer to Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ព ...

Khmer Empire
, the Ayutthayan empire's continued conquests led to more Thai settlements as the Khmer empire weakened after their defeat at
Angkor Angkor ( km, អង្គរ , ''capital city''), also known as Yasodharapura ( km, យសោធរបុរៈ; )Headly, Robert K.; Chhor, Kylin; Lim, Lam Kheng; Kheang, Lim Hak; Chun, Chen. 1977. ''Cambodian-English Dictionary''. Bureau of ...

Angkor
in 1431. During this period, the Ayutthayans developed a feudal system as various vassal states paid homage to the Ayutthayans kings. Even as Thai power expanded at the expense of the Mon and Khmer, the Thai Ayutthayans faced setbacks at the hands of the Malays at
Malacca Malacca, officially the State of Malacca, is a Federated state, state in Malaysia located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, next to the Strait of Malacca. Its capital is Malacca City, dubbed the Historic City, which has been liste ...
and were checked by the
Toungoo Taungoo (, ''Tauñngu myoú''; ; also spelled Toungoo) is a district-level city in the Bago Region Bago Region ( my, ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး, ; formerly Pegu Division and Bago Division) is an administrative r ...
of
Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos a ...

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 dynasty under
Rama I Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok Maharaj (, 20 March 1737 – 7 September 1809), personal name Thongduang (), also known as Rama I, was the founder of the Rattanakosin Kingdom and the first Monarchy of Thailand, monarch of the reigning Chakri dynas ...
held the Burmese at bay, while
Rama II Phra Phutthaloetla Naphalai ( th, พระพุทธเลิศหล้านภาลัย; 24 February 1767 – 21 July 1824) or Rama II was the second Monarchy of Thailand, monarch of Rattanakosin Kingdom, Siam under the Chakri dynasty, r ...
and
Rama III Nangklao ( th, พระบาทสมเด็จพระนั่งเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว) or Rama III (31 March 1788 – 2 April 1851) was the third monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri, ruling from 21 J ...
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 Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is in area, bordered by Thailand to Cambodia–T ...

Cambodia
, in dispute with
Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos a ...

Burma
and
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...

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 in Southeast Asia that was not colonized by European powers in modern history. The concept of a Thai nation was not developed until the beginning of the 20th century, under
Prince Damrong Prince Tisavarakumarn, the Prince Damrong Rajanubhab (; Full transcription is "Somdet Phrachao Borommawongthoe Phra-ongchao Ditsawarakuman Kromphraya Damrongrachanuphap" (สมเด็จพระเจ้าบรมวงศ์เธอ พ ...

Prince Damrong
and then King
Rama VI Vajiravudh ( th, วชิราวุธ, , 1 January 188126 November 1925), was the sixth Monarchy of Thailand, monarch of Rattanakosin Kingdom, Siam (Rama VI) under the Chakri dynasty, ruling from 1910 until his death in 1925. King Vajiravud ...
(Vajiravudh). Before this era, Thai did not even have a word for 'nation'. King
Rama VI Vajiravudh ( th, วชิราวุธ, , 1 January 188126 November 1925), was the sixth Monarchy of Thailand, monarch of Rattanakosin Kingdom, Siam (Rama VI) under the Chakri dynasty, ruling from 1910 until his death in 1925. King Vajiravud ...
also imposed the idea of "Thai-ness" ''(khwam-pen-thai)'' on his subjects and strictly defined what was "Thai" and "un-Thai". Authors of this period re-wrote Thai history from an
ethno-nationalist Ethnic nationalism, also known as ethnonationalism, is a form of nationalism Nationalism is an idea and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common languag ...
viewpoint, disregarding the fact that the concept of ethnicity had not played an important role in Southeast Asia until the 19th century. This newly developed nationalism was the base of the policy of "
Thaification Image:Lanna cm2.jpg, 300px, A name board on a wat in Chiang Mai written in the Tai Tham alphabet ("Lan Na alphabet", ). The use of this script was discouraged and the Northern Thai language is now written with the Thai alphabet. Thaification, or Th ...
" of Thailand which was intensified after the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 and especially under the rule of Field Marshal
Plaek Phibunsongkhram Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram ( th, แปลก พิบูลสงคราม ; alternatively transcribed as ''Pibulsongkram'' or ''Pibulsonggram''; 14 July 1897 – 11 June 1964), locally known as Marshal P. ( th, จอมพล ...
(1938–1944). Minorities were forced to assimilate and the regional differences of northern, northeastern and southern Thailand were repressed in favour of one homogenous "Thai" culture. As a result, many citizens of Thailand cannot differentiate between their nationality ''(san-chat)'' and ethnic origin ''(chuea-chat)''. It is very easy for ''Jek'' เจ๊ก (Chinese) and ''Khaek'' แขก (Indian, Arab, Muslim), after several generations in Thailand, to declare themselves "''chuea-chat Thai''" (ethnic Thai) and to ignore or conveniently set aside their ethnic identity. Other peoples living under Thai rule, mainly Mon, Khmer, and Lao, as well as Chinese, Indian or Muslim immigrants continued to be assimilated by Thais, but at the same time they influenced Thai culture, philosophy, economy and politics. In his paper ''Jek pon Lao'' (1987) (เจ้กปนลาว—Chinese mixed with Lao), Sujit Wongthet, who describes himself in the paper as a Chinese mixed with Lao (''Jek pon Lao''), claims that the present-day Thai are really Chinese mixed with Lao.Thak Chaloemtiarana. Are We Them? Textual and Literary Representations of the Chinese in Twentieth-Century Thailand
''CHINESE SOUTHERN DIASPORA STUDIES, VOLUME SEVEN, 2014–15'', p. 186.
Baker, Chris; Phongpaichit, Pasuk. A History of Thailand
''Cambridge University Press (2009)'', p. 206. .
He insinuates that the Thai are no longer a well-defined race but an ethnicity composed of many races and cultures. The biggest and most influential group are the
Thai Chinese Thai Chinese (also known as Chinese Thais, Sino-Thais or Thais of Chinese origin) are an ethnic Chinese community in Thailand ) , royal_anthem = '' Sansoen Phra Barami''( en, "Glorify His prestige") , image_map ...
.
Theraphan Luangthongkum Professor Theraphan Luangthongkum (also cited variously as L-Thongkum, L. Thongkum or Thongkum in publications) is a Thai linguist, specializing in phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive soun ...
, a Thai linguist of Chinese extraction, claims that 40% of the Thai population are descendants of former Chinese immigrants. A recent study shows that there is a close genetic relationship between central Thai and
Mon people The Mon ( mnw, မန်; my, မွန်လူမျိုး‌, ; th, มอญ, ) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or person ...
in Thailand, who migrated from southern
Myanmar Myanmar, ); UK pronunciations: US pronunciations incl. . Note: Wikipedia's IPA conventions require indicating /r/ even in British English although only some British English speakers pronounce r at the end of syllables. As John C. Wells, John ...

Myanmar
.


Geography and demographics

The vast majority of the Thai people live in Thailand, although some Thais can also be found in other parts of
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Southeast Asia
. About 51–57 million live in Thailand alone, while large communities can also be found in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
,
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

China
,
Laos , national_anthem = "Pheng Xat Lao "Pheng Sat Lāo" () is the national anthem A national anthem is a song that officially symbolizes a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often r ...

Laos
,
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
,
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Malaysia
,
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bor ...

Singapore
,
Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is in area, bordered by Thailand to Cambodia–T ...

Cambodia
,
Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos a ...

Burma
,
South Korea South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and sharing a Korean Demilitarized Zone, land border with North Korea. Its western border is for ...

South Korea
,
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
, the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
,
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, ...

Canada
,
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
,
Sweden Sweden ( sv, Sverige ), officially the Kingdom of Sweden ( sv, links=no, Konungariket Sverige ), is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that ...

Sweden
,
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the Norwegian language Norwegian (Norwegian: ''norsk'') is a Nort ...

Norway
,
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to Egypt–Libya border, th ...

Libya
, and the
United Arab Emirates The United Arab Emirates (UAE; ar, الإمارات العربية المتحدة ) or the Emirates ( ar, الإمارات ), is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregio ...

United Arab Emirates
.


Culture and society

The Thais can be broken down into various regional groups with their own regional varieties of
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Thai
. These groups include the
Central Thai Thai,In Thai: ''Phasa Thai'' Central Thai (historically Siamese;Although "Thai" and "Central Thai" has become more common, the older term "Siamese" is still used by linguists, especially to distinguish it from other Tai languages Tai or TAI m ...
(also the standard variety of the language and Culture), the Southern Thai, the
Isan Northeast Thailand or Isan (Isan language, Isan/ th, อีสาน, ; lo, ອີສານ; also written as Isaan, Isarn, Issarn, Issan, Esan, or Esarn; from Pali ''īsānna'' or Sanskrit ईशान्य ''īśānya'' "northeast") consist ...
(more closely related to the standard
Lao__NOTOC__ Lao may refer to: Laos * Something of, from, or related to Laos, a country in Southeast Asia * Lao people (people from Laos, or of Lao descent) * The Lao language * Lao script, the writing system used to write the Lao language ** Lao (Un ...

Lao
of Laos than to standard Thai), the Lanna Thai, and Yawi/Malay-speaking
Thai Malays Thai Malays ( ms, Orang Melayu Thai, th, ไทยเชื้อสายมลายู, JawiJawi may refer to: People and languages *Australia: **Jawi dialect, a nearly extinct Australian aboriginal language **Jawi people, an Australian A ...
. Within each regions exist multiple
ethnic groups An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ances ...
. Modern Central Thai culture 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 non-Standard-Thai-speaking people and their communities. Indigenous arts include ''
muay Thai Muay Thai ( th, มวยไทย, , ), sometimes referred to as "Thai boxing," is a Martial arts, martial art and combat sport that uses stand-up striking along with various clinch fighting, clinching techniques. This discipline is known as t ...

muay Thai
'' (kick boxing),
Thai dance Dance in Thailand ( th, นาฏศิลป์, or th, นาฏกรรม, ) is the main drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, ...
, ''
makruk ''Makruk'' ( th, หมากรุก; )), or Thai chess, is a board game that is descended from the 6th-century India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries ...
'' (Thai Chess), and '' nang yai'' (
shadow play Shadow play, also known as shadow puppetry, is an ancient form of storytelling Storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing narrative, stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatre, theatrics or embellishment. Every cul ...
).


Religion

Thai form the second largest ethno-linguistic group among Buddhists in the world. The modern Thai are predominantly
Theravada Theravāda (; , lit. "School of the ", borrowed from Sanskrit स्थविरवाद (sthaviravāda, literally “doctrine of the elders”) is the most commonly accepted name of 's oldest existing school. The school's adherents, termed Th ...
Buddhist and strongly identify their ethnic identity with their religious practices that include aspects of ancestor worship, among other beliefs of the ancient folklore of Thailand. Thais predominantly (more than 90%) avow themselves Buddhists. Since the rule of King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai and again since the "orthodox reformation" of King Mongkut in the 19th century, it is modeled on the "original" Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism. The Thais' folk belief however is a Syncretism, syncretic blend of the official Buddhist teachings, Animism, animistic elements that trace back to the original beliefs of Tai peoples, and Brahmin-Hinduism, Hindu elements from India, partly inherited from the Hindu Khmer Empire of Angkor. The belief in local, nature and household spirits, that influence secular issues like health or prosperity, as well as ghosts ( th, Ghosts in Thai culture, phi, ผี) is widespread. It is visible, for example, in so-called spirit houses ''(san phra phum)'' that may be found near many homes. ''Phi'' play an important role in local folklore, but also in modern popular culture, like television series and films. "Ghost films" ''(nang phi)'' are a distinct, important Film genre, genre of Cinema of Thailand, Thai cinema. Hinduism has left substantial and present marks on Thai culture. Some Thais worship Hindu gods like Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu, or Brahma (e.g., at Bangkok's well-known Erawan Shrine). They do not see a contradiction between this practice and their primary Buddhist faith. The Thai national epic Ramakien is an adaption of the Hindu Ramayana. Hindu mythological figures like Deva (Hinduism), Devas, Yakshas, Nāga, Nagas, gods and their mounts ''(vahana)'' characterise the mythology of Thais and are often depicted in Thai art, even as decoration of Buddhist temples. Thailand's national symbol Garuda is taken from Hindu mythology as well. A characteristic feature of Thai Buddhism is the practice of ''tham bun'' (ทำบุญ) ("Merit (Buddhism), merit-making"). This can be done mainly by food and in-kind donations to monks, contributions to the renovation and adornment of temples, releasing captive creatures (fish, birds), etc. Moreover, many Thais idolise famous and charismatic monks, who may be credited with thaumaturgy or with the status of a perfected Buddhist saint ''(Arhat, Arahant)''. Other significant features of Thai popular belief are astrology, numerology, talismans and amulets (often images of the revered monks) Besides Thailand's two million Muslim Thai Malays, Malays, there are an additional more than a million Islam in Thailand#Indigenous Thai, ethnic Thais who profess Islam, especially in the south, but also in greater Bangkok. As a result of Mission (Christianity), missionary work, there is also a minority of approximately 500,000 Christianity in Thailand, Christian Thais: Catholics and various Protestant denominations. Buddhist temples in Thailand are characterized by tall golden stupas, and the Buddhist architecture of Thailand is similar to that in other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia and Laos, with which Thailand shares cultural and historical heritage.


See also

* Ethnic groups in Thailand * List of Thai actresses * List of Thai actors * List of Thai people * Overseas Thai * Peopling of Thailand * Thai American * Thai community in the United Kingdom, Thai British * Thai culture * Thai folklore * Thais in Hong Kong * Thai marriage * Thailand


Notes


References


Bibliography

*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).


External links


US Library of Congress Country Studies, Thailand, The Thai and Other Tai-Speaking Peoples
{{Authority control Thai people, Tai peoples Ethnic groups in Thailand