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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 from
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Malaysia is a
federation of thirteen states in Southeast Asia. The country consists of
two geographical regions divided by the South China Sea:
Peninsular Malaysia (or West Malaysia) on the Malay Peninsula
shares a land border on the north with Thailand and is connected by the
Johor-Singapore Causeway and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link to
the south with Singapore. It consists of nine sultanates (Johor, Kedah,
Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu),
two states headed by governors (Malacca and Penang), and two federal
territories (Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur).
Malaysian Borneo (or East Malaysia) occupies the northern
part of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia and surrounding the
Sultanate of Brunei. It consists of the states of Sabah and Sarawak and
the federal territory of Labuan.
The name "Malaysia" was adopted in 1963 when the Federation of
Malaya (Malay: Persekutuan Tanah Melayu), Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak
formed a 14-state federation. Singapore was expelled from the federation
in 1965 and subsequently became an independent country.
Although politically dominated by the Malays, modern Malaysian
society is heterogeneous, with substantial Chinese and Indian minorities.
Malaysian politics have been noted for their allegedly communal nature;
the three major component parties of the Barisan Nasional each restrict
membership to those of one ethnic group. However, the only major
intercommunal violence the country has seen since independence was the May
13 racial riots of 1969 that occurred in the wake of an election campaign
that was dominated by racial issues.
History of Malaysia
The Malay Peninsula has thrived from its central position in the maritime
trade routes between China, India and the Middle East. Ptolemy showed it
on his early map with a label that translates as "Golden Chersonese", the
Straits of Malacca were referred to as "Sinus Sabaricus". From the mid to
the late first millennium, much of the Peninsula as well as the Malay
Archipelago were under the influence of Srivijaya.
It is thought that originally these were Hindu or Buddhist nations. The
first evidence of Islam in the Malay peninsula dates from the 14th century
in Terengganu, but according to the Kedah Annals, the 9th Maharaja Derbar
Raja AD) of Sultanate of Kedah converted to Islam and changed his name to
Sultan Muzaffar Shah. Since then there have been 27 Sultans who ruled
There were numerous Malay kingdoms in the 2nd and 3rd century CE, as many
as 30 according to Chinese sources. Kedah – known as Kedaram or Kataha, in
ancient Pallava or Sanskrit – was in the direct route of invasions of
Indian traders and kings. Rajendra Chola, who is now thought to have laid
Kota Gelanggi to waste, put Kedah to heel in 1025 but his successor, Vir
Rajendra Chola, had to put down a Kedah rebellion to overthrow the
invaders. The coming of the Chola reduced the majesty of Srivijaya which
had exerted influence over Kedah and Pattani and even as far as Ligor.
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