April 21, 1782: Krung Thep Maha Nakhon becomes the capital of what is today Thailand. The area was first settled in the 15th century under the rule of Ayutthaya at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River as a small trading post. After the fall of the regime, the new leader, King Taksin moved his capital to the western bank of the river. After Taksin’s rule fell, King Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I) moved his capital to the eastern bank of the river on this date and called it Rattanakosin. The traditional Thai name for the city is not what the rest of the world calls it. For outsiders, the city is called Bangkok.
Originally, Bangkok was a customs outpost with forts on both sides of the river. It was under siege in 1688 and the French were evicted from Siam and Ayutthaya was in control. His rule fell to the Burmese Empire and Taksin made the town his base of operations during the Thonburi Kingdom era. When the city fell again, the Rattanakosin Kingdom moved across the river and erected the City Pillar on this day, marking it as the foundation date. With a more stable government, the economy grew and international trade brought first Chinese and then Western merchants to the city. Bangkok was the center for Siam’s modernization efforts.
Absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932. World War II found the city under attack and occupied by the Japanese; she suffered great damage by bombing runs from US forces. After the war, Bangkok became a destination for military deployed in the region and it helped to boost the economy and the modernization efforts. The Kingdom of Thailand has not only shifted its economy, but as rule of the regions shifted, the very name of the country changed as well. Outsiders called it Siam, but with self rule, the name was once again returned to the locally preferred Thailand.
Thailand covers almost 200,000 square miles and has a population of slightly more than 67 million. The city of Bangkok covers 600 square miles and has a population of 8.3 million people with the metro region covering 3,000 square miles and 14.5 million people or nearly a quarter of the population living there. The city is governed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). Unlike the other 76 provinces, Bangkok is a special administrative area where the governor and four appointed deputies form the executive body and serve for four years. Bangkok is subdivided into fifty districts and then again into 169 subdistricts, each with a director appointed by the governor. Bangkok is the center of Thailand’s economy. The city remains one of the world’s top tourist destination cities with nearly 16 million people visiting a year.
Bangkok, like Las Vegas, sounds like a place where you make bad decisions. – Todd Phillips
One of my favorite vacation memories was the Thai foot massage and Internet access salons in Bangkok, followed up by my testing cellphone coverage while wading in Provincetown Harbor on Cape Cod. – Kara Swisher
We all want to buy sneakers at bargain prices at WalMart. Children have to be exploited in factories in Thailand to produce them. If we want to stop that over in Thailand, we’ve got to be able to pay a price here in the United States. – Andrew Greeley
In a recent worldwide algebra test we ranked 14th out of 15 nations tested. If it makes you feel any better, we beat Thailand. – Ross Perot
Also on this day: Snoopy v. The Red Baron – In 1918, The Red Baron loses a dogfight.
Rome – In 753 BC, Romulus and Remus founded Rome.
Henry VIII – In 1509, Henry became King of England.
Seattle’s Best – In 1962, the Century 21 Exposition opened in Seattle.
First Veep – In 1789, John Adams became the first US Vice President.