We are called Siam Garden. We serve Thai food and tout the cuisine of Thailand. Confused? Don’t be. Many Americans don’t realize that Siam and Thailand are simply two names for the same place. Siam is an older name for Thailand, a name the people there abandoned many decades ago for the name we now associate with this fine cuisine.
Here is how it happened.
People have lived in what is now known as Thailand for at least 40,000 years. Many great kingdoms came and went, existing under a series of different names. The country’s rich history is worth exploring. By the 1600s, however, westerners began to call the country “Siam.” The name stuck.
Then came the Siamese Revolution of 1932. Through a series of political actions too complex to go into here, this military coup led to the country’s entry into World War II with the invasion of French Indochina, putting them in the Axis camp. Japan gave its assistance to Siam, and vice versa, but the alliance was an uneasy one. Neither side trusted the other. In fact, there was a strong anti-Japan movement within the country at the time, despite the military dictatorship Siam was then under, and later even the United States admitted that Siam was at least partially coerced into siding with the Japanese.
As early as 1939, the then dictatorship tried to change the country’s name to Thailand, which means “land of the free,” but the Allies of World War II refused to recognize the change.
It was not until Siam made peace with the Allies and renounced their ties with Japan that the Allies agreed to recognize the name. Finally, in 1948, the Siamese assembly voted to officially change the country’s name to Thailand – this time with no objection from the Allied powers.
And that is how Siam became Thailand.
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