Britain has a reputation for being a nation of conquerors, so it’s a refreshing change when you can look at the history of a country and see that Britain didn’t even try to invade it. Thailand has an almost entirely peaceful relationship with Britain and always has done, which may be part of the reason that our relationship is still so strong today. Whether you’re considering a holiday in Thailand, have great friends of Thai heritage, or are just interested in the history of Britain’s relationship with Thailand, this should be an interesting and enlightening read.
Ralph Fitch and the 1500’s
The first officially documented interaction that Britain had with Thailand was in 1586. His name was Ralph Fitch, who you can find out more about here https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ralph-Fitch and he visited Chiang Mai, though at the time Fitch referred to it as Lamahey. It would be fair to say that Fitch was quite enamoured with the city. In his account, he mentioned how he found the town beautiful, with stone houses and wide streets. he envied the beauty of the Thai women, but even more, he envied the great riches that they had in Thailand, thanks to their trade links with China. He mentioned in particular muske, gold and silver, which would have made sense for the industries at the time. Perhaps it was Fitch’s kind words that spurred on the British to visit Thailand en masse next, we may never know, but they did.
17th Century Bilateral Relations
Official relations with Thailand began in the 17th century when an East Indian Company (which still exists today, https://www.theeastindiacompany.com/) ship sailed from Patani to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s capital during this period. Aboard this ship was Lucas Antheunis who was entrusted with a letter from England’s king at the time, King James I. His letter was to be delivered to King Songtham, who was the king of Ayutthaya at the time. Antheunis was accompanied by five other Englishmen, who recorded their journey and experience in Thailand with incredible attention to detail. On arrival, in September of 1612, they were treated to an evening with King Songtham, who gave each of them expensive gifts. The crew stayed for several years and on their departure, King Songtham gave them a letter addressed to King James I.
It wasn’t long after this exchange of letters had taken place that England built their first factory in Thailand. They were the third country to have a factory of their own in the country, only behind Portugal and Holland. The King gave the English workers three houses in his city so that they could work at the factory. As thanks for his generosity, King James promised that Thailand would have England’s friendship. So, when the war against Cambodia began, England fought alongside King Songtham.
The Threat of Colonisation
During the latter part of the 19th century, Britain began to do what it did best, colonise. Along with France, Britain colonised Burma and Malaya, which lay to the West and South of Siam. This put immense pressure on Siam (Thailand) but they did not bow to that pressure. Various treaties were signed, including the Burney Treaty and the Bowring Treaty a little later. These helped to ensure that Siam retained its independence and also its good relations with Britain.
Nowadays, despite still having strong trade links and a great friendship with Thailand, most people think of Thailand as a dream destination for Brits abroad. It makes sense, Thailand has lots of coastline, beautiful white sandy beaches, a great culinary culture and traditional entertainment that British people can enjoy. One form of entertainment that Brits abroad usually enjoy that they can’t in Thailand though, is playing at a casino. The only forms of gambling that are legal in Thailand are betting on horse racing, or entering the lottery. If Brits abroad want to play casino games in Thailand then they can only do some online. AsiaBet have created a helpful guide here https://www.asiabet.org/th/ to both the legalities of casino gaming in Thailand, as well as online casinos were both Thai people and British people holidaying in Thailand can play. The sites are all reviewed by experts and rated accordingly, so you can be sure they’re safe, secure and fun.