Thailand Economy and History


With an active population in agriculture of approx. two-fifths of the total (compared to 67.7% of non-urban population), Thailand can no longer be defined as a country with essentially rural connotations: the primary sector contributes just over a tenth of GDP. The main product, literally vital for the Thai economy as it represents both the staple food of the population and the largest item of exports, is rice. Thailand is one of the largest producers in the world. An immense, very fertile paddy field is the alluvial plain of Menam, where the practice of annual double crops has spread, both of rice in the wettest areas, one of rice in the rainy season alternating with other crops (corn, peanuts, tobacco, etc..) in the driest season. maize, which is grown mainly in the northern regions, followed by sorghum; but an even more important crop is that of cassava, from whose roots tapioca is obtained , a starch in great demand also abroad. There are numerous horticultural products, such as beans, tomatoes, cabbage, garlic and onions, and even more fruit products, particularly widespread in the peninsular coastal regions: bananas, pineapples, oranges, watermelons, mangoes and other tropical fruit. Rubber is one of the most profitable industrial crops, of which Thailand remains the largest producer in the world. In 1998, over 3 million tons were produced, mainly from the rich peninsula of Malacca and destined for the foreign market. The rich panorama of industrial crops also includes various oil crops, such as peanuts, sesame, soy and castor, textile plants such as jute, kenaf, sugar cane and coconut palm, present in the South, and finally the coffee, tea and tobacco. The irrational exploitation of the past and the practice of burning the woods to introduce crops have destroyed woods and forests in many areas, which today cover 26.3% of the land area. The forest exploitation concerned the precious woods, teak, ebony, sandalwood and yang, a particularly hard wood, which grows only in northern Thailand. In the northwestern sector, on the borders with Myanmar and Laos, there are opium poppy plantations. Breeding is widely practiced, especially in Khorat; cattle, buffaloes, pigs and above all poultry prevail, while elephants, traditional working animals in the forest, are decreasing. § No less important is fishing, which is widespread mainly in the waters of the Gulf of Siam (herring, anchovies, mackerel, crustaceans), but freshwater fishing is also important; fish products are widely exported. Since the late 1990s, the progressive impoverishment of fishing areas has led to a reduction in fish production.


The first news on the events of the country, very scarce and fragmentary, dates back to the century. Street. C. There were then numerous small states made up of Mon-Khmer and Burmese in continuous struggle with each other. Marriage affairs and alliances favored the spread of Indian civilization and, starting from the century. VII d. C., of Buddhism. But the evolution of these kingdoms (reduced to four in the eighth century) was abruptly halted by the invasion of the Thai peoples who, expelled by the Chinese from their headquarters in Yünnan, migrated in force towards the south in search of new lands (9th century.). The first historically established Thai leader, Pröhm, founded Muang Fang in 857, which rose into an independent kingdom. In the sec. XIII the Mongol invasion of Qubilai Khān pushed to the south a new more powerful Thai migratory wave which, divided into various currents, occupied the Annam, part of Malaysia, Laos and Thailand. Here, around 1250, the strong kingdom of Sukhothai was established which under the great king Rāma K’amheng (1275-1317) extended its dominions from the Mekong to Pechaburi and up to Ligor in the Malacca peninsula. He also adapted the Khmer alphabet to the Thai language. Sukhothai’s reign, however, rapidly declined. In fact, in 1350 a new kingdom was established, that of Ayutthaya, destined to govern the fate of the country for over four centuries. The new dynasty concluded the work of fusion between the Mon-Khmer and Thai peoples and politically defined the borders of the country. Indochina was thus divided into three large areas, the Burmese one in the Irrawaddy basin, the Thai one in the Menam basin and the eastern coastal plain gathered in the kingdom of Annam. Cambodia disappeared, divided between Annam and Thailand, the latter soon found itself facing the warlike Burmese: a struggle that lasted in the sec. XV and XVI. At the beginning of the last century, the first Europeans appeared in Thailand. First the Portuguese (1511), then the Spanish (1598). The Dutch (1604), the English (1612) and finally the French followed.

According to usprivateschoolsfinder, Thailand seemed for a moment to open up to French colonization and convert to Catholicism; but when a French expedition occupied Bangkok, a coup d’etat dismissed the king and the French were forced to surrender (1688). In 1764 a new war broke out with Burma and three years later Ayutthaya was taken and destroyed. With the disappearance of the old capital, a new dynasty was born, with the progenitor Rama I, which brought the capital to Bangkok (1782). In 1844 Cambodia broke away from Thailand and in 1863 it requested and obtained the French protectorate. Under the torment of the French gunboats (1893) Thailand also had to cede Laos to France and shortly after (1909) it was forced to recognize English sovereignty over the Malaysian states of Kelantan, Perlis, Trengganu and Kedah. Squeezed between the colonial possessions of France (Indochina) and Great Britain (Burma), Thailand managed to maintain formal independence thanks to the agreement of the two powers which guaranteed its neutrality (1896). With the turn of the century, enlightened rulers embarked on a series of reforms aimed at modernizing Thailand. Slavery was abolished, education was favored, great public works were begun. A class of liberal intellectuals was quickly formed who in 1932 imposed the Constitution on King Rama VII, thus transforming the country into a constitutional monarchy. However, Thailand was still too fragile and the new democratic institutions could not withstand the undemocratic attack launched by the military forces. A coup (1938) brought the strong man to power, Pibul Songgram, who established an authoritarian and strongly nationalistic regime. Impetus was given to the navy and the army thanks to which, after the outbreak of the Second World War, Thailand, allied to Japan (1942), was able to occupy vast territories of Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia. The foreseeable defeat of Japan, however, forced Pibul Songgram to leave power (1944) which was taken over again by the pro-Western liberals. In 1946 Thailand returned the conquered territories to France and Great Britain and gave itself back, within, democratic institutions. But it was a brief moment.

Thailand Economy and History