Pre Thai Era - Thailand History

Knowledge of the prehistory of the area is still scant, though it appears that the earliest inhabitants were displaced by diverse waves of immigration until, ultimately, the Thais, originally from what is now part of southern China, became dominant.

Prior to their ascendancy, however, various influences were at work.

Fundamental to the development of Southeast Asia was the impact of ancient India. Stimulated by a kind of cultural osmosis effected during the first centuries AD, whereby aspects of Indian civilization were acquired, a number of indigenous independent kingdoms arose.

Three were especially formative on what would later become Thailand.

The first, Dvaravati, was a vaguely united group of Mon people settled in a collection of city states with, most likely, a power base at what is now Nakhon Pathom, west of Bangkok.

The Dvaravati kingdom flourished in the Chao Phraya river basin from the 6th of 7th to the 11th century. It embraced Theravada Buddhism. It is generally assumed the Thais were initially converted to the faith though contact with the Mon.

The second formative kingdom was that of Sriwijaya, an approximate contemporary of Dvaravati which held sway in the Malay peninsula and Indonesian archipelago from the 8th to the late 13th century. Sriwijaya moulded the early culture of southern Thailand.

The third and most influential was the kingdom of Khmer, whose vast empire was centred on Angkor. By the 11th century the Khmer dominated not only what is now Cambodia but also large tracts of eastern and central present-day Thailand.

They were master builders and traces of their achievement are still readily discernible in Lop Buri and various sites in the Northeast.

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