Kings of Siam & Thailand

The only country in Southeast Asia to remain independent during the colonial period, and until 1939 officially known as “Siam” (now Muang Tai, “Land of the Free,” or Pratet Tai, “Free Kingdom”), Thailand has been strongly influenced by both China and India but is fundamentally a sub-Indian civilization, based on Buddhism and using a version of the Devanagari (Sanskrit) alphabet, adapted from Cambodian. A Buddhist historical Era is still used in Thailand. In fighting with Vietnam for influence over Cambodia and Laos, the Vietnamese were not even regarded as properly Buddhist, because of the more Confucian basis of Vietnamese government.

Nevertheless, Siam was more closely in contact with China than with India, has long been the home of a large Chinese community, and in 1575 even requested a new royal seal from China, to replace the one lost to the Burmese in 1569. So we really have a phenomenon of Indian and Chinese cultural spheres overlapping. It is noteworthy that both Laos and Cambodia were vassals of the original Bangkok kingdom but were lost to the French colonial empire in Vietnam.

The flag of Siam was originally a white elephant on a red background. However, in 1916 King Vajravudh was touring a flooded region and saw the flag flying upside down as a distress signal. Since he didn’t like the idea of the national flag being used in that way, he designed a new flag that was symmetrical and would not look different if turned from top to bottom. The new flag was adopted 28 September 1917.

Siam was an ally of Japan in World War II, with the Japanese building a infamous railway overland into Burma, using mistreated Allied prisoner-of-war labor. No one, however, believed that this “alliance” was at all voluntary on the part of the Thais, and the Kingdom, freed from Japanese occupation, was unmolested by the Allies after the War.

By the 1990’s, Thailand economically was looking rather like one of the Asian Tigers. It stumbled in the Asian recession but now seems back on track. By 2003, according to The Economist, Thailand was the 31st largest economy in the world, but 22nd in “purchasing power parity” (adjusting for local prices, etc.). Thailand’s gross domestic product per capita was $2,010, but this translated into $6,320 in purchasing power parity, 18.5% of the United States, making it the 66th richest economy in the world, about the level of Romania, Columbia, and Tunisia. This is not quite in the league of the Four Tigers (Hong Kong, 12th; Singapore, 16th; Taiwan, 24th; and South Korea, 34th), but the Thais do seem to have the kind of restlessness and enterprise that bodes well. On the other hand, Thailand is infamous for its prostitution and sex trade. This can be disturbing enough, especially where children are concerned, but the problem is now compounded by the spread of AIDS. This not only threatens the sex business, as a large source of foreign tourism, but it also threatens the future of the country as large numbers of people only peripheral to the sex trade become infected. How the Thais cope with this is one of the most important national questions as the new century begins.

Kings of Sukhothai
Sri Indraditya c.1240-c.1270
Ban Müang c.1270-c.1279
Ramkhamhaeng c.1279-1298
institution of Thai alphabet, by 1283
Lö Thai 1298-1346/7
Ngua Nam Thom 1346-1347
Mahathammaracha I
Mahathammaracha II 1368/74?-1398?
Mahathammaracha III
Sai Lüthai
Mahathammaracha IV 1419-1438
Conquered by Adudhya, 1438


543 BC
2000 AD + 543 =
2543 Annô Buddhismi

Kings of Lan Na
Mangrai 1259-1317
Chai Songkhram 1317-1318
Saen Phu 1318-1319,
Khrüa 1319-1322
Nam Thuam 1322-1324
Kham Fu 1328-1337
Pha Yu 1337-1355
Kü Na 1355-1385
Saen Müang Ma 1401-1441
Sam Fang Kaen 1401-1441
Tilokaracha 1441-1487
Yot Chiang Rai 1487-1495
Müang Kaeo 1495-1526
Ket Chettharat 1526-1538,
Chai 1538-1543
Queen Chiraprapha 1545-1546
Setthathirat 1546-1551
Queen Thao Mae Ku 1551
Mekuti 1551-1564
Burmese conquer Chiang Mai, 1558
Queen Wisutthithewi Burmese control,
Tharawaddy Prince
[2 sons of previous?] 1607-1613
Thadogyaw 1613-1615
Si Song Müang 1615-1631
Phraya Thipphanet 1631-1659
[ruler of Phrae] 1659-1672
Ingsemang, Burmese 1672-1675
Chephutarai, Burmese 1675-1707
Mangraenara, Burmese 1707-1727
Thep Sing, rebel 1727
Ong Kham 1727-1759
Chan 1759-1761
Khi Hut 1761-1762
Burmese conquer Chiang Mai, 1763
[revolt] 1771-1774
Conquered by Thonburi, 1774, 1776

Kings of Ayudhya
Ramathibodi I 1351-1369
Ramesuan 1369-1370,
Borommaracha I 1370-1388
Thong Chan 1388
Ramaracha 1395-1409
Intharacha 1409-1424
Borommaracha II 1424-1448
Borommatrailokanat 1448-1463
in Phitsanulok
Borommaracha III 1463-1488
Intharacha II 1488-1491
Ramathibodi II 1491-1529
Portuguese arrive, 1511
Borommaracha IV 1529-1533
Ratsada 1533-1534
Chairacha 1534-1547
Yot Fa 1547-1548
Khun Worawongsa 1548
Chakkraphat 1548-1569
Mahin 1569
Burmese capture Ayudhya, 1569
Maha Thammaracha Burmese vassal,
New Royal Seal obtained from China, 1575
Naresuan 1590-1605
Burmese Defeated,
Battle of Nong Sarai, 1593
Ekathotsarot 1605-1610/11
(Si Saowaphak) 1610-1611?
Song Tham, Intharacha 1610/11-1628
Chettha 1628-1629
Athittayawong 1629
Prasat Thong 1629-1656
Chai 1656
Suthammaracha 1656
Narai 1656-1688
Phra Phetracha 1688-1703
Süa 1703-1709
Phumintharacha, Thai Sa 1709-1733
Borommakot 1733-1758
Buddhist missions to Ceylon, 1751, 1755
Uthumphon 1758
Suriyamarin 1758-1767
Burmese capture Ayudhya, 1767
King of Thonburi
Taksin 1767-1782

Chao of Chiang Mai,
Vassals of Thonburi & Bangkok
Kavila 1781-1813
Thammalangka 1813-1821
Kham Fan 1821-1825
Phutthawong 1825-1846
Mahawong 1846-1854
Kavilorot 1856-1870
Intanon 1871-1897
Suriyawong 1901-1911
In Kaeo 1911-1939

Kings of Bangkok,
Chakri Dynasty
Phra Phutthayotfa, Rama I 1782-1809
Penang ceded to Britain
by Sultan of Kedah, 1785;
Burmese Invasion Defeated, 1785
Phra Phutthaloethla, Rama II 1809-1824
Phra Nangklao, Rama III 1824-1851
Mongkut, Rama IV 1851-1868
Cambodia ceded to France, 1867
Chulalongkorn, Rama V 1868-1910
Laos east of Mekong ceded to
France, 1893; Laos west of Mekong
ceded to France, 1904; Malay States
ceded to Britain, 1909
Vajravudh, Rama VI 1910-1925
Prajadhipok 1925-1935,
Military takes over, 1932
Ananda Mahidol 1935-1946;
in exile, except
1938 & 1946
Siam becomes Thailand, 1939;
Japanese Invasion, reluctant
alliance, 1941-1945
Bhumibol Adulyadej 1946-present


These lists are from Thailand, A Short History, by David K. Wyatt [Yale University Press, 1984, pp. 309-313]. A descripiton of the Thai language and its alphabet is in The World’s Major Languages, edited by Bernard Comrie [Oxford University Press, 1987, pp.757-775].