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In 1238 Thai history began with the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. It reached its peak under the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng at the end of the 13th century.

King Ramkhamhaeng led successful battles and surrounding kingdoms and distant city states became tributaries. He also invented the Thai alphabet and established Theravada Buddhism as a state-supporting religion.

The Sukhothai Period

In the beginning of the 13th century, Thai's gradually began to liberate themselves from the control of the Khmer and Mon. They established the first somewhat insignificant city-states in the North such as Phayao and Lanna (near Lamphun).

The Kings of Sukhothai (1238 - 1424/1438)

The Phra Ruang Dynasty:
Pho Khun Sri Intarathitya: 1239 - 1257
Pho Khun Pa Muang: 1257 - 1277
Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng Maharat: 1279 - 1317
Pho Khun Loethai: 1317 - 1347
Thammaracha I: 1347 - 1374
Thammaracha II: 1374 - 1399
Phya Saileuthai: 1399 - 1419
Thammaracha IV: 1419 - 1424 / 1438
Capital Phitsanulok until 1583
The official Thai history started in 1238 when two Thai princes revolted against their Khmer vassals conquering the city Sukhothai and founding the first free Thai kingdom.

The quickly expanding kingdom reached its political, cultural and religious prosperity during its third ruler King Ramkamhaeng (1279-1317).

He took advantage of the decline and fall of the Khmer Empire and the weakness of the Srivijaya rule and so he extended Sukhothai to the east as far as Laos and Cambodia and to the south to Nakhon si Thammarat. His empire comprised almost the same area of present day Thailand with the exception of Lavo (around Lopburi) and U-Thong (around Saraburi), two small independent kingdoms. Despite his urge for expansion he succeeded in creating excellent relations with the neighboring countries, especially  China.

He was also called King Ramkanghaeng “the Great” (Maharat) not only because of his vast conquests but also because of his merits in the cultural area. He worked out a script, which became the basis for the present Thai alphabet and its first testimony is exhibited in the National Museum in Bangkok, the famous “Ramkanghaeng Inscription” of 1296. This inscription signified among others, the striving during his rule for equal rights, equality regarding the law and prosperity for all Thai and non-Thai people.

Theravada Buddhism which was adopted from the Mon reached a period of revival under King Ramkhamhaeng. He brought monks from Ceylon to Thailand, who were instructed to spread the Buddhist doctrine, and thus it became a kind of state religion that remains until today. The cultural influences of the Khmer were pushed away and the religious, typical Khmer-style sanctuaries were rebuilt and adjusted to the flavor of this era. Being a convinced Buddhist, he promoted his belief in all areas, especially in art and architecture.

King Ramkhamhaeng showed much skill in imparting a sense of cultural unity to the region. Sukhothai became Thailand's first large center of power - a glorious and strongly fortified city with many temples and an impressive palace.

From 1378 the Sukhothai kingdom under King Thammaracha II came under the influence of the rising Ayutthaya power and became its tributary.

In 1419 Sailwuthai moved the capital of the kingdom to Phitsanulok.

After his death the brothers Paya Ram and Paya Banmeung fought for the throne. Nagarindrathirat of Ayutthaya settled the dispute and divided the kingdom among both of them in 1424.

Until its end in 1583 the Sukhothai Kingdom with its capital Phitsanulok remained insignificant.

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