The THAI people or THAIS (Thai : ไทยสยาม), formerly
known also as SIAMESE, are a nation and Tai ethnic group native to
Southeast Asia, primarily
Thailand . As a part of the larger Tai
ethnolinguistic group native to
Southeast Asia as well as southern
China and Northeast
India , Thais speak the
Thai language , which
exists in different regional variants, and is classified as part of
the Tai–Kadai family of languages . Majority of Thais are followers
"Thai people" usually includes central and southern Thai (Siamese
proper, or Tai Siam), northern Thai (Lanna) and
Isan people .
Thai people has a loose meaning and sometimes also refers to
the population of
Thailand in general, and not only to ethnic Thais.
* 1 History
* 2 Geography and demographics
* 3 Culture and society
* 4 Religion
* 5 Data tables
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 References
* 9 External links
There have been many theories proposing the origin of the Tai peoples
— of which the Thai are a subgroup — including an association of
the Tai people with the
Kingdom of Nanzhao that has been proven to be
invalid. Linguistic studies suggested that the origin of the Tai
people lies around the Chinese Province of
Guangxi , where the Zhuang
people are still a majority. The ancient Tai people are theorized to
have founded the kingdom of
Nanyue , referred to by Han leaders as a
"foreign servant" (Chinese : 外臣), synecdoche for a vassal state .
Qin dynasty founded
Guangdong in 214 BC, initiating the successive
waves of Chinese migrations from the north for hundreds of years to
With the political and cultural pressures from the north, some Tai
peoples migrated south where they met the classical Indianized
Southeast Asia . According to linguistic and other
historical evidence, the southwestward migration of Tai-speaking
Guangxi took place sometime between the 8th-10th
The Tais from the north gradually settled in the Chao Phraya valley
from the tenth century onwards, in lands of the
assimilating the earlier
Austroasiatic Mon and
Khmer people , as well
as coming into contact with the
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.
Thai culture is a mixture of Tai traditions with Indic,
Mon, and Khmer influcences.
Early Thai chiefdoms included the
Sukhothai Kingdom and Suphan Buri
Province . The
Lavo Kingdom , 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
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 and
Jayavarman VII ) but they were mostly independent.
A new city-state known as Ayutthaya , named after the Indian city of
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 (
Cambodia ), the Ayutthayan empire's continued conquests
led to more Thai settlements as the Khmer empire weakened after their
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 and were checked by the
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. 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 Thais of
Chinese origin. In her paper the positions of non-Thai languages in
Theraphan Luangthongkum , who is a Thai linguist of
Chinese extraction, states that 40% of the Thai population are
descendants of former Chinese immigrants.
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
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
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
20th century under King Rama VI (Vajiravudh). Before this era, Thai
did not even have a word for 'nation'. He 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 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 " of
Thailand which was
intensified after the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 and especially
under the rule of Field Marshal
Plaek Phibunsongkhram (1938–1944).
Minorities were forced to assimilate and regional peculiarities 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 the race of
GEOGRAPHY AND DEMOGRAPHICS
Thai People Abroad.
The vast majority of the
Thai people live in Thailand, although some
Thais can also be found in other parts of
Southeast Asia . About 60
million live in
Thailand alone, while thousands can also be found in
United States ,
South Korea ,
Germany , the
United Kingdom , Canada
Libya , and the
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates .
CULTURE AND SOCIETY
Main article: Culture of
The Thais can be broken down into various regional groups with their
own regional varieties of Thai . These groups include central Thai
(also the standard variety of the language), the Isan (more closely
related to the standard Lao of
Laos than to standard Thai), Lanna Thai
and southern Thai . 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 people and the people from Laos.
Indigenous arts include muay Thai (kick boxing),
Thai dance , makruk
(Thai Chess), and nang yai (shadow play ).
Thai folklore § Folk belief
The modern Thai are predominantly
Theravada 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
Sukhothai and again since the "orthodox reformation" of King Mongkut
in the 19th century, it is modeled on the "original" Sri Lankan
Buddhism . The Thais' folk belief however is a syncretic
blend of the official Buddhist teachings, animistic elements that
trace back to the original beliefs of Tai peoples, and
elements from India, partly inherited from the
Khmer Empire of
The belief in local, nature and household spirits, that influence
secular issues like health or prosperity, as well as ghosts (Thai :
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 genre of Thai cinema .
Hinduism has left substantial and present marks on Thai culture. Some
Hindu gods like
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 mythological figures like Devas , Yakshas , 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
A characteristic feature of Thai
Buddhism is the practice of tham bun
(ทำบุญ) ("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 (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 Malays , there are an
additional two million ethnic Thais who profess Islam , especially in
the south, but also in greater Bangkok. As a result of missionary work
, there is also a minority of approximately 500,000 Christian Thais :
Catholics and various Protestant denominations.
DIVERSITY INDICES OF MTDNA IN SEVEN EAST ASIAN POPULATIONS
SEQUENCE DATA (HVS-I/IIA)
0.9239 ± 0.0132
0.9988 ± 0.0007
10.07 ± 4.62
0.039 ± 0.020
0.9357 ± 0.0219
0.9992 ± 0.0041
10.21 ± 4.74
0.039 ± 0.020
0.9454 ± 0.0172
0.9991 ± 0.0046
10.80 ± 5.00
0.042 ± 0.021
0.9462 ± 0.0221
0.9974 ± 0.0063
10.88 ± 5.05
0.042 ± 0.022
0.9526 ± 0.0135
1.0000 ± 0.0056
11.38 ± 5.27
0.044 ± 0.022
0.9152 ± 0.0290
0.9919 ± 0.0079
9.66 ± 4.52
0.037 ± 0.020
0.9269 ± 0.0214
1.0000 ± 0.0056
11.53 ± 5.33
0.045 ± 0.023
aHVS-I (hypervariable segment I): np 16024-16365; HVS-II
(hypervariable segment II): np 73-340.
Source: Table 3, Page 6, Jin, Tyler-Smith ">
* ^ The total figure is merely an estimation; sum of all the
referenced populations below.
Thai people make up approximately 75–85% population of the
country (68 million). Includes Northern Thai and
Southern Thai .
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