Thai American

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Thai American
Chang-eng-bunker-PD.png
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Total population
304,160
0.17% of the US population
[1]
Regions with significant populations
Northeast, Northern Virginia, Texas, West Coast
Languages
American English, Isan, Thai, Lao
Religion
Dharma Wheel.svg Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Thai people, Laotian American, Asian Americans

Thai Americans (formerly referred to as Siamese Americans) are Americans of Thai descent. Many of them may be of Thai Chinese descent.

History in U.S.[edit]

The first Thais known to have come to the United States were Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous Siamese twins. Of mixed Chinese and Thai ancestry, they were brought to the United States in 1830 to become a sideshow attraction. They adopted the family name "Bunker" and later settled in White Plains, North Carolina. Both married and had children, spending alternate nights in each other's home. Their descendants are numerous.

The first Thai to study in the United States was He Thien (original name "Thien Hee"), a Thai Chinese who was brought by a returning American missionary. He Thien graduated from a New York medical college in 1871. He then returned to Siam, eventually adopting a Thai name. An influential businessman and father of Pote Sarasin, a former Prime minister of Thailand, He Thien is the founder of the powerful Sarasin Family.

Thai immigration to the United States proceeded very slowly. It began in earnest during and after the Vietnam War, in which Thailand was an ally of the U.S. and South Vietnam. Records show that in the decade between 1960 and 1970, some 5,000 Thais immigrated to the United States. In the following decade, the number increased to 44,000. From 1981 to 1990, approximately 64,400 Thai citizens moved to the United States.

According to the 2000 census there were 150,093 Thais in the United States.

In 2009, 304,160 U.S. residents listed themselves as Thais.[2]

Demographics[edit]

Los Angeles, California has the largest Thai population outside of Asia. It is home to the world's first Thai Town. In 2002, it was estimated that over 80,000 Thais and Thai Americans live in Los Angeles. Other large Thai communities are in Clark County, Nevada; Cook County, Illinois; Dallas County, Texas; Orange County, California; San Bernardino County, California; San Diego County, California; San Francisco, California; Fairfax County, Virginia; and Montgomery County, Maryland.

Statistics[edit]

Data from Migration Policy Institute[3]
  • Thai-Born Population
Year Number Margin of Error
2000 169,801 -
2006 186,526 +10,506
2007 195,948 +9,668
2008 199,075 +8,633
2009 203,384 +8,921
2010 222,759 +9,960
2011 239,942 +13,087
  • New legal Permanent Residents
Year Number
2000 3,753
2001 4,245
2002 4,144
2003 3,126
2004 4,318
2005 5,505
2006 11,749
2007 8,751
2008 6,637
2009 10,444
2010 9,384
2011 9,962
  • Thais who acquire US citizenship
Year Number
2000 5,197
2001 4,088
2002 4,013
2003 3,636
2004 3,779
2005 4,314
2006 4,583
2007 4,438
2008 6,930
2009 4,962
2010 4,112
2011 5,299

Cultural influence on America[edit]

Thai Americans are famous for bringing Thai cooking to the United States. Thai cuisine is popular across the country. Even non-Thai restaurants may include Thai-influenced dishes on their menu.

Thai culture's prominence in the United States is disproportionate to their numbers. The stationing of American troops in Thailand during the Vietnam War exposed the GIs to Thai culture and cuisine, and many of them came home with Thai wives.

Political involvement[edit]

Formerly, the Thai American community took no part in politics. However, with the recent controversy over former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, activity in the Thai community increased. Prior to his overthrow, there had been protests against him at the Thai consulate in Los Angeles.

In 2003, two Thai Americans ran in municipal elections, one in Anaheim, California, the other in Houston, Texas. Both lost. However, on November 7, 2006, Gorpat Henry Charoen became the first U.S. official of Thai origin, when he was elected to the La Palma City Council in California. On December 18, 2007, he became the first Thai American mayor of a U.S. city.

Tammy Duckworth, a Thai American Iraq War veteran, ran for Congress as a Democrat in Illinois's 6th district in the 2006 mid-term election. She was narrowly defeated, and served for two years as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. She was previously the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. She was considered a likely nominee for appointment to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by Barack Obama's election to the Presidency of the United States; however, Roland Burris was appointed instead. On November 6, 2012 Duckworth was elected to the U.S. Congress to represent the 8th District of Illinois.

Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King and Head of the State of Thailand, was born at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 5, 1927.[4] At the time, his father was studying at Harvard University. He is the only American-born monarch in history.

Notable Thai Americans[edit]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  1. We the People Asians in the United States Census 2000 Special Reports
  2. Vong, Pueng. Unrest in the Homeland Awakens the Thai Community IMDiversity March 29, 2006
  3. Asian American Action Fund 2006 endorsed candidates

References[edit]

  1. ^ United States Census Bureau. "US demographic census". Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  2. ^ American Community Survey 2009
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/15/world/bangkok-journal-once-upon-a-time-a-good-king-had-4-children.html

External links[edit]