Royal Thai Army History

Royal Thai Army was first recognized at the same time of the “sovereign of Tai” since the historically recorded of first Tai’s settlement in the Indochinese peninsular prior to the first ruler of Sukhothai dynasty. Undoubtedly, colonization during those periods was acceptable, battles with neighboring territories had repeatedly taken places, resulting in conquers could expand their sovereignties. Having been participating in challenging battles, armed forces needed to be present and guaranteed for defeating the invaders in order to maintain the survival of nation’s sovereignty. The developments of Royal Thai Army have been evolving since it’s first formed from the eras of Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Thon Buri, and up to the present period of Ratthanagosin, accordingly. This can be chronologically epitomized as the followings;

Sukhothai Era

Tai’s territories during this period had been tremendous expanded, particularly, while being under the ruler of the famous warrior, Ramkhamhaeng Rama the Great. King Ramkhamhaeng had reined the country by adopting family hood legitimacy so-called “father looks after his children”. During peace time, citizens were free for their livelihoods; nonetheless, all masculine fighters were to serve as combatants while war time. Simple concept of forming up military units was that head of the family in each of village was to be a unit leader of his family’s doughty members. This unit led by head of family was considered as the smallest unit at that period. Once the nation was confronting on war, the king would assume direct commands over military units and lead the troops to fight with adversary forces.

Ayutthaya Era


The enlistment systems had been carefully readjusted and fighting tactics were also refined. This period, military affairs and civilian affairs were separately carried out, as that the military Department for Personnel (Pra Suruswadee) was first established with responsibilities for taking control of armed forces registrations so that it would enable quicker conscription when the country was going to war. With this new system, all Thai masculine were to report for military duties for 6 months annually. In this era, the Arts of War or War Strategy was originally published, which was a master of military doctrines, containing maneuver formations and tactics to defeat opponent forces.

Thon Buri Era


After abandoning the ruined Ayutthaya and founding a new capital at Thon Buri in 1757, King Taksin had eventually provided manifold developments for military, particularly military personnel registrations; therefore, accuracy of roaster could be performed much better, and it allowed effectively command and control during war time. Other extraordinary accomplishments on military developments were that in-country cannons casting was apparently found in this era, as well as, numbers of fire arms had been procured and introduced into military units.

Early Ratthanagosin Era


Shape of army organization was mainly similar  to what were formed in Ayutthaya era and Thon Buri era; nevertheless, later on during the periods of 1833 – 1853 when there were increasingly invasions of the great powers from the West into this region, Thailand, without elusive, had to rush in holding weapons, casting cannons, building fortresses, excavating moats, constructing fortress towns, and building warships.

Early Modernization Period


Facing threat from colonism during mid-Rattanagosin era, Thailand was forced to modernize itself in all aspects, especially its defense forces.  In fact, modernization was carried out so effectively that Thailand is the only country in the Southeast Asia region that has not been colonized by western countries.  The most prosperities of the the Royal Thai Army developments was during the King Rama V’s reign, the great regime when armed forces were dramatically modernized after the European’s military in order to bring Thai Armed Forces to international standard.  Preparations on weapons and equipments were considerably increased which procurements of howitzers from foreign countries have started thereafter. Moreover, military reform and Military Acts 2430 B.E. were originated as for a foundation of the Royal Thai Army development nowadays. Other significant development was that two military institutes for officer cadets were established during the regime of in the King Rama V, the great; one was the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy (Army), and the other was the Royal Thai Naval Academy.

The Royal Thai Army in Wars

The Royal Thai Army had participated in numerous of significant wars, for instance, contributing troops to European Continent as Allied Forces during World War I in 1918; combating as coalition forces during the Great East Asia War, Korean War and Vietnam War.  In all these wars, the Thai troops have bravely demonstrated their efforts such that it promoted more recognition to Thailand’s reputations internationally.

Back to Present

At present, primary role and mission of the Royal Thai Army is to defend the country against aggression by foreign ground forces, as stated in the National Constitution which reads “The State shall arrange for the maintenance of the armed forces for safeguarding its independence, security of the State and national interest…The Arm Forces shall be employed in a battle or a war, for the protection of the institution of kingship and the democratic regime of government with the King as the Head of State…and for national development”. As playing major roles in national defense, the Royal Thai Army has to maintain and develop its capabilities in all aspects namely; land forces preparation and Employment of forces for national development which will enable the Royal Thai Army to assure survival of sovereignty; to successfully assist government in country developments; and to promote democratic regime of government with the King as the Head of State; as well as, to support peace and stability in the region.

The Sukhothai Era (1257 – 1438)

  The Tai territories during the Sukhothai period stretched far and wide in all directions, particularly during the reign of the renowned King Ramkhamhaeng the Great. Though a formidable warrior, the great king introduced the paternalistic system, maintaining a father-son relationship with his subjects and seeing to their problems and needs. In peacetime, soldiers became …

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The Ayutthaya Era (1350 – 1767)

During the Ayutthaya period, improvements were made on military organizations with the introduction of more efficient enlistment systems and more effective fighting tactics. For the first time, the military and civilian affairs became two distinct entities, marking the birth of the military Personnel Department (“Pra Suraswadee”), tasked with armed forces registrations for a more efficient …

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The Thon Buri Era (1767 – 1782)

    In 1767, King Taksin established Thon Buri as the new capital replacing the war-ravaged Ayutthaya in a move to restore Thai sovereignty following a victorious do-or-die battle for independence. The valiant king further developed different aspects of the Thai military, particularly launching a systematic registration for military service. While the long-standing conscription of …

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The Early Ratthanagosin Era (1782 – 1868)

During this period, the armed forces organization was comparable with those of the Ayutthaya and Thon Buri periods. For nearly two decades (1833-1853), Thai sovereignty was increasingly threatened by Western powers launching colonization campaigns. Thailand thus resorted to stockpiling arms and ammunition, producing a large number of cannons, building warships, fortifying the capital and towns …

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Royal Thai Army Involvement in Wars

The RTA had made a name for its involvement in the theaters of World War I and World War II. Just as World War II was raging on in Europe, the RTA was dragged into the Thai-Indochina Conflict which escalated into confrontation, and then into an all-out war along the Indochina border. The RTA had …

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