Early History of Thailand
The known early history of Thailand begins with the earliest major archaeological site at Ban Chiang; dating of artefacts from this site is controversial, but there is a consensus that at least by 3600 BC, the inhabitants had developed bronze tools and had begun to cultivate wet rice, providing the impetus for social and political organization.
Later, Malay, Mon, and Khmer civilizations flourished in the region prior to the domination of the Thais, most notably the kingdom of Srivijaya in the south, the Dvaravati kingdom in central Thailand and the Khmer empire based at Angkor.
The Thai are part of a larger ethno-linguistic group known as the Tai, a group which includes the Lao, the people of the Shan region of north-eastern Burma, the Zhuang people of Guangxi Province in China and the Tho and Nung people of northern Vietnam. Migrations from southern China to Southeast Asia took place primarily during the first millennium AD, most likely via northern Laos.
During the first millennium AD the Tai peoples were loosely organised in small entities known as muang. They were heavily influenced by the more advanced cultures around them: the Khmer to the east, and the Hindu cultures of India to the west. Most of the Tai were converted to a form of Hinduism, traces of which can still be seen in Thai religious practice today. Between the 6th and 9th centuries AD Buddhism was introduced into the Tai-speaking lands, probably via Burma, and became the dominant religion. The Theravada Buddhism now practised in Thailand was introduced by missionaries from Sri Lanka in the 13th century.