Thai people or the Thais (Thai: ชาวไทย), also known as
Siamese (Thai: ไทยสยาม), are a nation and Tai ethnic
group native to Southeast Asia, primarily living mainly Central
Thailand (Siamese proper). As a part of the
larger Tai ethnolinguistic group native to
Southeast Asia as well as
China and Northeast India, Thais speak the Central Thai
language,  and is classified as part of the Tai–Kadai family of
languages. Majority of Thais are followers of
After Thai cultural mandates, assimilation process cause the term Thai
people has a loose meaning refers to the population of Thailand,
essentially the citizenry of Thailand, which includes the geographical
areas of northern Thai (Lanna),
Isan people which more closely related
to Laotian, southern Thai, and Thai of Chinese origin etc. also refer
as Thai, and not only to ethnic Siamese.
3 Geography and demographics
4 Culture and society
7 See also
11 External links
Main article: Tai languages
According to Michel Ferlus, 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 Siamese
and Lao) or > tajA2 (in the other Southwestern and Central Tai
languages classified by Li Fangkuei). Michel Ferlus' 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).
Michel Ferlus 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.
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
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[which?] from the north, some
Tai peoples migrated south where they met the classical Indianized
civilizations of 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
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
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
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
Khmer Empire (Cambodia), the Ayutthayan empire's continued
conquests led to more Thai settlements as the Khmer empire weakened
after their defeat at
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
Thailand (2007), 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
51–57 million live in
Thailand alone, while large communities
can also be found in the United States, China, Laos, Taiwan, Malaysia,
Singapore, Cambodia, Burma, South Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom,
Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Libya, and the United Arab
Culture and society
Main article: Culture of Thailand
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, southern Thai, and Yawi/Malay-speaking 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
non-Standard-Thai-speaking people and their communities.
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
Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai
and again since the "orthodox reformation" of King
Mongkut in the 19th
century, it is modeled on the "original" Sri Lankan Theravada
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 Brahmin-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 (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
Thais worship Hindu gods like Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu, or
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 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 well.
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.
Stephen Pheasant (1986), who taught anatomy, biomechanics and
ergonomics at the
Royal Free Hospital
Royal Free Hospital and the University College,
London, said that Far Eastern people have proportionately shorter
lower limbs than European and black African people. Pheasant said that
the proportionately short lower limbs of Far Eastern people is a
difference that is most characterized in Japanese people, less
characterized in Korean and Chinese people, and least characterized in
Vietnamese and Thai people.
Supakit Rooppakhun et al. (2010) said that there was a statistically
significant difference in the craniometric data between Thai skulls
from the northeast region of
Thailand when compared to Thai skulls
from the central region of Thailand. The study said that the skull
dimensions of Thai male craniometric data are larger than those of
Thai female craniometric data, and the study said that there was a
statistically significant difference in the craniometric data between
the skulls of Thai males when compared to the skulls of Thai
Peopling of Thailand
Thais in Hong Kong
List of Thai actresses
List of Thai actors
List of Thai people
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