The Siamese Tai People
- The word ‘’Thai ‘’ is not to be confused with the word ‘’Tai ‘’ which refers to the Tai ethnic race. We see in the North the Tai race includes, the Tai Yuan [ Khon Muang ], the Tai Lue , the Tai Yai [ the Shan of Burma ], the Ahom [ of Assam ] and the Tai Lao of Laos and Isan [ and others elsewhere in Asia ]. With the exception of Assam, the Tai tribes after being pushed out of China by the Mongols moved South to organize and rule the non-Tai populations.
Little recorded history is available about the early settlements of the Siamese Tai . However by the 13 th century the Siamese had substantial populations in the Chao Phrya Basin [ the Lop Buri region ] and in the lower North of Thailand in the Dvaravati Empire. Both of these were Mon communities controlled by the Khmer and the Khmer Angkor Empire.
The early chronicles tell us how the Tai established Dynasties by intermarriage with the indigenous elite in these Mon communities. The Siamese emerged from a web of political and kinship relations with the Mon to form new power connections in the west of the Khmer Empire and as far South as Nakhon Si Thammarat on the Malay Peninsula. This appears to have started from the old towns of Phetburi and Suphanburi. These communities were further mixed by the introduction of captives of war, slaves and forced migration of people or whole communities.
These Tai mixed in communities shaped by hundreds of years of Khmer rule, with its Brahman traditions and political and administrative concepts so that over time these Tai developed distinctive characteristics. The contemporary Cham, Khmer, Pagan and Chinese referred to them as ‘’Syam’’, ‘’Siem’’, etc. These Tai have Mon and Khmer origins as well as Tai but they had different physical features, their language and script was dissimilar and they accepted a considerable amount of Indian Brahman beliefs and practices which was passed on by the Khmer. This process of infusion of ethnic groups has continued ever since.
Tai Groups In Central Thailand
Of the 30 Tai tribes or Groups to be found in modern Thailand, 9 can be identified in Central Thailand. These are:
- Siamese Tai or Thai
- Thai Khom
- Thai Klang
- Tai Noi or Central Thai ] [ over 20 million ]
- The Phuan [ over 200,000 ]
- The Tai Bueng [ over 6,000 ]
- The Lao Ngaew [ 30,000 ]
- The Lao Song [ 50,000 ]
- The Lao Wieng [ 50,000 ]
- The Lao Krang [ 50,000 ] and
- The Yoy [ 10,000 ]