Little Bits of History

Bangkok’s Beginning

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 21, 2015
Map of Siam/Thailand

Map of Siam/Thailand

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.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 11, 2014


May 11, 1949: Siam becomes Thailand – again. Thailand is located at the center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia.  It is bordered by Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. The Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea are to the south and west, respectively. It is a constitutional monarchy, making the official name the Kingdom of Thailand. King Rama IX is the king and has served since 1946, the longest reigning Thai monarch. Yingluck Shinawatra is the current Prime Minister. Bangkok is both the largest city and the capital and the official language is Thai using the Thai alphabet. The National Assembly has both an upper and lower house, the Senate and House of Representatives.

The country has always been called Mueang Thai by those living there, but others called it Siam, meaning “dark” or “brown”.  The King from 1851-1868 signed his name Mongkut King of Siam and gave it official status. It remained Siam until 1939 when the name was officially changed to Thailand. Then, from 1945 to this date, it was again called Siam. Thai is the name for an ethnic group in the central plains region and a Thai scholar claimed the word simply meant “people” or “human beings”. The Thai people use the phrase “land of the free” as an expression of pride in the fact that they are the sole Southeast Asian country never colonized by Europeans.

There is evidence that humans have been in-country for around 40,000 years. The entire region, Thailand included, was heavily influenced by Indian culture and religions. Archeology gives testimony to the many different states that thrived in the area. The current era of Thai history, Rattanakosin, began in 1782 with the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I who moved the capital to Bangkok. A long succession of capable rulers from the dynasty kept the country from European rule, but did not keep all the people free for as many as a quarter to a third of the population were slaves from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

Thailand today is the 51st largest country and covers nearly 200,000 square miles. It is 20th in population with almost 67 million people living there. The country is smaller than the state of Texas and larger than California or about twice the size of Colorado. There are as many people living there as in California and Texas together (the 1st and 2ndmost populous states).  Thailand is an emerging economy or a newly industrialized country. They had an huge economic growth rate from 1985 to 1996 but in 1997 suffered an economic crisis. They have substantial exports including electric appliances, components, computer parts, and cars. They are the number one exporter of rice in the world. Tourism also plays a role in the economy including prostitution and the sex trade being a de facto portion of the economy.

Many other countries in this world are in a difficult situation, and all the Thai people are probably worried about the fate of Thailand: whether the country would survive or not. – King Rama IX

The attainment of the present status of Thailand has to depend on the ability or the actions of all the inhabitants of the country. – King Rama IX

It could be argued that, in Thailand, many foreigners have come and gone, and the number of people who are considered to be Thai have traveled abroad in a great number. – King Rama IX

One of the causes close to me is human trafficking, and I was first aware of it when I was modeling in Thailand. I came home to Canada and did more research and found out how big the problem was. – Shay Mitchell

Also on this day: Man Against Machine – In 1997 IBM’s Deep Blue became a chess champion.
Beagle – In 1820, the HMS Beagle was launched.
Pullman – In 1894, a wildcat strike against Pullman Palace Car Co. began.
The Pill – In 1960, the first contraceptive pill was approved by the FDA.

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