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          Thailand, formally the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia. To its east, lie Laos and Cambodia; to its south, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia; and to its west, the Andaman Sea and Myanmar. Its capital and largest city is Bangkok, one of the largest cities in the world.

Different indigenous cultures have existed in Thailand since the time of the Baan Chiang culture. However, due to its geographical location, Thai culture has always been greatly influenced by India and China as well as the neighboring cultures of S.E.Asia. However, the first Siamese/Thai state is traditionally considered to be the Buddhist kingdom of Sukhothai founded in 1238, following the decline and fall of the Khmer Empire in the 13th - 15th century.

A century later, Sukhothai's power was overshadowed by the larger Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya, established in the mid-14th century. After the sack of Angkor by the Siamese armies in 1431, much of the Khmer court and its Hindu customs were brought to Ayuthaya, and Khmer customs and rituals were adopted into the courtly culture of Siam.

After Ayuthaya fell in 1767 to the Burmese, Thonburi was the capital of Thailand for a brief period under King Taksin the Great. The current (Ratthanakosin) era of Thai history began in 1782 following the establishment of Bangkok as capital of the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I the Great.

European powers began traveling to Thailand in the 16th century. Despite European pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been colonized by a European power. The two main reasons for this is that Thailand had a long succession of very able rulers in the 1800s and that it was able to exploit the rivalry and tension between the French and the British. As a result, the country remained as a buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia that were colonised by the two colonial powers. Despite this, Western influence led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions to British trading interests. This included the loss of the three southern provinces, which later became Malaysia's three northern states.

In 1932, a bloodless revolution resulted in a new constitutional monarchy. During the war, Thailand was allied with Japan. Yet after the war, it became an ally of the United States. Thailand then went through a series of coups d'état, but eventually progressed towards democracy in the 1980s

In 1997, Thailand was hit with the Asian financial crisis and the Thai baht was soon worth 56 baht to the U.S. Dollar compared to about 25 baht to the dollar before 1997. Since then the baht has regained some strength and currently trades around 33-35 baht to the dollar.

The official calendar in Thailand is based on Eastern version of the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian (western) calendar. For example, the year 2007 AD is called 2550 BE in Thailand.

More information and latest updates about Thailand please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thailand

 

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