Thailand History

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Perhaps the first Theravada Buddhists in Southeast Asia, and the founders in the seventh century of the kingdom of Haripunjaya near present-day Chiang Mai, the Mon greatly influenced the development of Thai culture. Mon architecture dotted the North, where a number of temples were still inhabited by Mon monks in the 1980s. The Mon, also known as Raman or Tailaing, migrated from Burma during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. They were welcomed by the Chakkri rulers, and their religious discipline helped inspire the reforms made by King Mongkut (Rama IV, reigned 1851-68). The Mon who settled chiefly in the North and the central plain, e.g., at Nonthaburi, Ayutthaya, Lop Buri, Uthai Thani, and Ratchaburi, generally were wet-rice farmers who also had specialized skills such as pottery-making. They maintained a social organization similar to that of the Thai and other lowland cultures. Their villages were governed by Mon headmen, who in turn were responsible to district and provincial officers of Mon ancestry. Although their language was related to Khmer, the Mon incorporated a large number of Thai words into their vocabulary. Moreover, language differences became less important as Mon children, educated in Thai schools, learned Central Thai. In the 1980s, some Mon still used their own language in certain contexts, but few did not know Thai. In general, the Mon were more integrated into Thai society than any other non-Thai group.

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