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First Kingdoms

About 1000 years ago, Thais (called “Dais” in China) who were living in South China in Yunnan Province, began migrating. Obviously, they had difficulties with their Chinese rulers and therefore  moved southwards in small groups, along the Mekhong, Chao Praya and Irrawaddy rivers.

At that time there were three political powers in the geographical area of Thailand:

Srivijaya (7th - 13th century)
The southern part with its capital Grahi (now Chaiya), situated north of Surat Thani, was ruled by the Srivijaya Empire established in Sumatra.
It was under the control of the Sailendra dynasty in Central Java who ruled over the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula. The Sailendras were firm followers of Mahayana Buddhism.
The remains of the Javanese style temples show influences from India and the Champa kingdom (Vietnam).

      Wat Kaeo in Chaiya
Other early kingdoms in southern Thailand only left few cultural testimonies and therefore  nearly forgotten in history:

Pan Pan (in Kelantan, North-Malaya, later also in Pattani in southern Thailand, 6th-7th),
Raktamaritika (in Chinese "Chitu" [red earth], in Songkhla/ Phattalung, 7th century),
Tambralinga (also called "Ligor", in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 7th-14th century),
Langkasuka (predominantly in Kedah, Malaya, 12th-14th century).

Wall of Tambralinga

Dvaravati (6th - 11th century)

The area between the Burmese mainland and central Thailand had already been settled during this time by the Mon people, a tribe originating in India, which quickly mixed with the aboriginals who lived here.
From many independent principalities, the Dvaravati Empire has been developed and in the height of its cultural and political power, it even expanded its influence to northern Thailand. Mon people were practicing Theravada Buddhism and they took good care that it could be spread out over the whole empire.
They founded the first significant Buddhist culture in Thailand. However, it quickly lost its importance due to the invading Khmer people and only very few testimonies are left today.
Khmer (11th century - 1436)

Eastern Thailand with its fertile land along the Mekong valley was the main region of Khmer. In the 11th century, they started to extend their empire with its capital Angkor further to the west.
King Jayavaram VII (1181-1219) pushed the Mon back, he conquered the biggest part of the Dvaravati Empire and made Lopburi and Phimai the political and religious centers of the new empire. Gradually, the political dominance of the Khmer started to crumble during the reign of King Jayavaram VII's successors.
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