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The Khmer Empire in Thailand

  • The Khmer Empire had its beginnings in 790 when King Jayavarman conquered the Kingdom of Kambuja, until then under the Joke of the Javanese. The consecration rites of Jayavarman on Mount Julen (now in Cambodia) in 802 formalised the freeing of Kambuja from Java and the introduction of the Hindu cult of the Devaraja (God King) ariharalaya was the name of the first settlement of the new Angkor Kingdom and by 889 this Khmer Empire held control as far as Ubon in Thailand.
  • By 944 after battles with the Cham people, the Empire expanded to the Annamite chain in the East (now Vietnam), Burma to the west and the Gulf of Siam in the South.
  • In the early 14th century this Empire expanded and levied tribute from South Thailand.
  • During the reign of Jayavarman 7th from 1181 to 1220 the Khmer Empire expanded further to include the Korat Plateau in Isan, the Menan Valley, Southern Malaysia, Northern Laos and  the Kingdom of Champa. It was not until 1430 when the Ayutthayan Empire of the Tai -Siamese sacked Angkor did the decline of the Khmer commence.
  • The Khmer had a presence in Central, East, some parts of the North and the Northeast of Thailand (Isan) since the second half of 6th century. This presence lasted until the mid 13th century. However the influences of Khmer styles, inspiration and iconography continued long after.
  • Where the Khmer were and when can be traced from looking at the many stone inscriptions found throughout Thailand. These are dated by the alphabet used, which was either ancient Khmer, Pallava, Later Pallava, or Khmer and the language used which was either Pali, Sanskrit (both from India) and Khmer.
  • Khmer presence can also be traced by art objects and architecture ruins found in ancient sites. Scholars of art can classify art objects by their subject matter and style such that they can be dated precisely. The principal periods are the Pre-Angkor Period of 547 to 807 which include 5 distinct and consecutive time periods, and the Angkorian Period 827 to 1237 which includes 10 distinct and consecutive periods.
  • Thus monuments and sculptures distributed in these parts of Thailand are dated. A similar process is also available to identify utensils, ceramics, and household articles.



Khmer Architecture


Where to see the major ancient Khmer Cities in Thailand

Phimai Historical Park   , Nakhon Ratchasima Province.  
  • Phimai Historical Park is an ancient Khmer city of the   Khmer Empire in Thailand situated in Phimai District of Nakhon Ratchasima Province and is about 60 kilometers north from Phimai, the Capital. The ancient Khmer city (and earlier in 7 to 8 centuries part of   Chenla Kingdom) is surrounded by a moat adjacent to the Mun River on the east and north boundaries. Phimai is the largest Khmer ruins complex in Thailand and comprises an inner moated city, 565 by 1030 meters, which was built in the 11 to 12 centuries with further additions in the 13 C.
  • The Temple City was surrounded by a laterite wall 3,350 feet by 1,900 feet with the Temple enclosed by two walls, the outer measuring 900 feet by 720 feet and the innermost wall 272 by 243 feet. The complex includes the usual structures, Naga terraces, Gopuras, pavilions, a library. The key feature is the inner court yard which houses three towers. The central and principal tower was built in 11 – 12C and is made of sandstone. The outer walls are decorated with lintels and bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the Ramayana, illustrating battles between Ravana and Rama. The southern side has bas-reliefs of Shiva and its interior has bas-reliefs of Buddha, Bodhisattvas and Mara. The Temple is Buddhist, not Hindu and was part of the Mahayana school which was prevalent in the Mun Valley from the 7C onwards.
Phanom Rung Historical Park  , Buriram Province. 
  • Phanom Rung Historical Park is mounted on a volcanic hill 1,257 feet high in Buri Ram Province and is perhaps the most beautiful and important of the Khmer sites in Thailand.
  • The location was originally a main stopping centre on the ancient Angkor Thom to Phimai laterite road. Built in the 12 C it was dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva, the supreme Hindu Deity.
  • The design of the complex on the hill is intended to symbolise Mount Kailasa, the Indian heavenly residence of Shiva. The main tower is 23 meters tall and 9.5 meters wide and is made of pink sandstone.
  • It is understood that the complex was originally a palace and the buildings were designed to house elephants.
Muang Sing Historical Park, Kanchcnaburi Province
  • Muang Sing Historical Park is in the Sai Yok district,   Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok in Thailand. Here can now be seen the remains of two Khmer temples dated to the 13th and 14th centuries. Muang Sing Historical Park was declared a historical park in 1987.
  • The Khmer ruins at Muang Sing Historical Park are built in the Bayon style. The Temple complex was the far western outpost for the Khmer kingdom in the reign of King Jayavarman VII (1180 to 1219). In a stone inscription of Prince Vira Kumara praising his father, 23 cities are named. One of these cities was named   Srichaiya Singhapura, which some scholars identify with Mueang Sing. The name Muang Sing first showed in the Tai chronicles of the reign of King   Rama I (1782-1809), when it was a fortified town protecting the town Kanchanaburi.
  • Today one can inspect the laterite wall which surrounded a 736,000 square metre enclosure. Inside are four ancient Khmer monuments. The southern wall winds along the Khwae Noi river course, while the other three sides are quadratic. The main monument is in the center of the area, northwest of this is are the foundations of a second temple building. The other two monuments are of much smaller scale.
  • The other Khmer ancient monuments included as Thailand Historical Parks are, Phimai and Phanom Rung in Northeast Thailand.



The Khmer Wat Sam Yod Lop Buri Thailand


  • Lop Buri is located north of Ayutthaya and its tourist relevance today are the Khmer ruins of the 13th century and the buildings of King Narai 's reign. Lop Buri was a major town during the Mon Dvaravati Kingdom (6th to 11th centuries) nd was a provincial capital of the Khmer Empire in Thailand.
  • The major Khmer monuments are the three spire laterite shrine named Phra Prang Sam Yod and Wat Mahatat.
  • Lop Buri was originally a Mon city until conquered by the Khmers in the 11th century as evidenced by Khmer inscriptions.
  • Wat Sam Yod is made of laterite with stucco decorations and comprises three prasats in the Bayon style, based on cross shaped bases connected by ante rooms and vaulted passageways. The central Prasat is dedicated to Buddha seated on the serpent, '' Mucalinda '' . The presence of a linga suggests to some that the shrine was originally Hindu.