From the very beginning of his reign, King Ramathibodi launched Ayutthaya on a vigorous diplomatic and military campaign, seeking domination of the entire Menam Chao Phya basin including the established Northern kingdoms of Sukhothai and Chiang Mai, the Khmer empire including Angkor to the east, and major principalities to the west and south.
Significantly, Ramathibodi promulgated the first recorded Thai law system. He also established a bureaucracy to administer his kingdom by creating the equivalents of the modem Ministries of the Interior, Royal Household (including Justice), Finance and Agriculture. His administrative system formed the basis of future Thai bureaucracy and survived in its original form until the late 19th century.
Ayutthaya rapidly grew in strength, and at its zenith maintained control over the central and lower Menam Chao Phya basin, parts of Burma and much of the Malay peninsula. Indeed, expansion and consolidation occurred throughout most of the Ayutthaya period, primarily by absorption of Khmer, Burmese and Laotian territory and people.
Throughout the Ayutthaya period, power flowed from the royal palace. The king alone was strong enough to declare war or sue for peace. Wars were fought for territorial as opposed to religious reasons or to repulse invading neighbours. Victory meant greater wealth from plundered treasure and booty. It meant greater prestige, deterring would-be invaders. And it meant greater security through captive male and female prisoners who were seen as invaluable human resources to be quickly assimilated, preferably by marriage, into Ayutthayan society.
In medieval Southeast Asia, for both economic and military reasons, a kingdom’s strength was judged by its manpower. In a rapidly-expanding and developing country, a powerful labour force was essential and, considering the prevalence of hand-to-hand combat, numerically superior armies obviously had distinct advantages.
Because superior numbers could turn the tide of a battle, Ayutthayan women were accorded equal status and many rode into battle with their menfolk. Ayutthayan history is rich in the fabled exploits of Thai heroines such as Queen Suriyothai who, during a 1549 battle with invading Burmese spurred her war elephant between that of her endangered husband and an enemy prince and died to save her husband’s life.
Many of those who were brought into the kingdom as a result of war possessed skills as painters, writers, dancers, sculptors, architects, musicians, potters, silversmiths and goldsmiths who enriched indigenous Thai culture. Ever selective, ever pragmatic, the Thais repeatedly adopted those techniques or fashions which seemed useful and modified them into unmistakably Thai forms of expression.
The centuries-long flow of Laotian, Malayan, Cambodian, Burmese and Vietnamese captives was gently absorbed with little or no social friction, as were subsequent arrivals of Persian, Chinese, Japanese and Indian immigrants. Thus, people inhabiting Thailand today share a rich ethnic diver-sity-mainly Thai, Mon, Khmer, Chinese, Burmese, Malay, Lao, Persian and Indian stock-with the result that there is no typically Thai physiognomy or physique. There are petite Thais, statuesque Thais, round-faced Thais, dark-skinned Thais and fair-skinned Thais.
Ayutthayan economy and lifestyle.
The Ayutthayan economy was based primarily on rice monoculture; the commerce on teak, salt, spices, hides and other basic commodities. As Ayutthaya grew, it became increasingly dependent on village produce, and a merchant class began to flourish.
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Article Added on Thursday, November 26, 2009
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