Thai people

For the ethnicity of Thai (formerly called " Siamese " ) today announced the four main groups of Tai peoples in Thailand are summarized: the Central Thai ( Thai Klaang ) or Tai Siam, the Southern Thai ( Thai Phak Tai ), the Northern Thai ( Tai Yuan, who also have their own ancient writing ) and the Thai Isan ( the northeast, Isan, whose language is rather similar to the Lao ).

Definition and terminology

In ancient Siam, only the Central and Southern Thai refers to the 19th century as the actual Siamese, on the other hand considers the majority populations of North and Northeast Thailand as Lao. According to this classification were only 30-35 % of the population of the former Siam Siamese, 40-45 % were Lao. As a result of national unification and centralization of Siam end of the 19th century, and to distinguish itself from the French protectorate of Laos, this distinction has been pushed back and of King Rama VI. ( Vajiravudh ) instead the idea of ​​a single Thai nation propagated. 1939, said the government of Prime Minister Phibunsongkhram, simultaneously with the renaming of Siam in Thailand to make any regional distinctions and invited to refer generally to only Thai. Often, all Thais ( citizens of Thailand), regardless of their ethnicity, as Thai called. As a result of Thaiisierungspolitik and the assimilation of immigrants and their descendants distinguish many Thais not between citizenship (san -chat ) and ethnicity or origin ( chuea -chat ).


One popular theory, according to the Thai emigrated from southern China in the area of present-day Thailand. The origin of the Thai is controversial in the history of science. The first state founded under Tai leadership in the area of present-day Thailand was probably Ngoen Yang in the far north of the country, and later the Kingdom of Lan Na of the Tai Yuan ( Northern Thai ) originated from.

Not later than the 12th century, the presence of Thai Khmer kingdom of Angkor is documented, which was then also today zentralthailändische Chao Phraya basin dominated. They formed, as is typical for the Tai peoples, small-scale, consisting of several villages community ( Müang ), where each board a tribal prince ( chao ). Their livelihood was the Nassreisfeldbau. In some cases, the Khmer tribal princes of the Thai translated as the governors. 1238 two of these governors of Angkor said go and founded the kingdom of Sukhothai. It gained dominance over large areas of present-day Thailand ( and beyond) under King Ramkhamhaeng the end of the 13th century.

Other peoples who settled in the area of present-day Thailand, were assimilated by the Thai. Here, the original Tai culture mingled with those of the Mon and Khmer. So took the Thai Theravada Buddhism the Mon State and the Khmer art. The Thai script is developed from the Scriptures of the Mon. The Thai language contains a large number of loanwords from the Khmer language. Much of the Thai originates at least in part on Mon, Khmer, Lao, assimilated Chinese, Indian or Muslim immigrants. Belonging to the ethnic group of Thai is therefore dependent rather than of cultural identity by descent.

As a result of emigration live many Thai outside of Thailand. So 550,000 people identified themselves in the census in the United States as a Thai - American.


The Thai profess vast majority (over 90% ) to Buddhism. The practice of Buddhism in Thailand belongs to the Theravada flow. From the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai in the 13th century and again since the " orthodox Reformation " King Mongkut in the 19th century, the Buddhism of the Thai based on the "original" Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka. However, the popular belief of the Thai is a syncretic mixture of the official Buddhist teachings, animist elements, which go back to the original faith of the Tai peoples and Brahman - Hindu elements from India ( adopted from the Hindu Khmer Angkor empire ).

The belief in local, domestic or nature spirits who have influence on secular issues such as health and prosperity, as well as ghosts ( Thai phi, ผี ) is widespread. It manifests itself, for example, visible in the soganannten spirit house (San Phra Phum ), which are found on many plots. Phi play an important role in local folklore, but also in modern popular culture, such as television series and movies. "Ghost Movies " ( nang phi) is a private, important genre of Thai film.

Even Hinduism has left important and prominent traces in Thai culture. Some Thai worship Hindu gods like Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu or Brahma (eg the famous Erawan Shrine ). In it they see no contradiction to their actual Buddhist faith. The Thai national epic Ramakian is an adaptation of the Hindu Ramayana. Figures from Hindu mythology as Devas, Yakshas, Nagas, gods and their mounts ( vahana ) characterize the mythology of the Thai and see the art multiple representation, as a decoration in Buddhist temples. The Thai national symbol is also taken from the Hindu mythology, Garuda.

Specific to the Thai Buddhism is the practice of tham bun ( religious merit acquired). This can be done mainly through food and donations to monks, contributions to the renovation and beautification of temples, releasing of captive creatures ( fish, birds ), etc.. Many Thai also revere particularly well-known and charismatic monks, which partially miracle activity or the status of an accomplished Buddhist saint ( arahant ) is attributed. Other key elements of folk beliefs are astrology, numerology, Kalendaristik ( particularly the belief in predetermined, fortunately or unfortunately this promising data), talismans and amulets (often images of the most revered monks ).

In addition to the approximately 2 million Muslim Malays in Thailand there is also a minority ethnic Thai, professing Islam, especially in the South, but also in the greater Bangkok area. Another minority make due proselytizing Christian Thai dar. include both Catholics as well as members of Protestant denominations.