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0.17% of the US population
|Regions with significant populations|
|Northeast, Northern Virginia, Texas, West Coast|
|American English, Isan, Thai, Lao|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Thai people, Laotian Americans, Asian Americans|
History in the US
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 US 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 US residents listed themselves as Thais.
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; Tarrant County, Texas; Orange County, California; San Bernardino County, California; San Diego County, California; San Francisco, California; Fresno, California; Sacramento, California; King County, Washington; Fairfax County, Virginia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Montgomery County, Maryland.
- Data from Migration Policy Institute
|Year||Number||Margin of error|
New legal permanent residents:
Thais who acquire US citizenship:
Cultural influence on America
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.
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 US 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 US 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 US 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. At the time, his father was studying at Harvard University. He is the only American-born monarch in history.
Notable Thai Americans
- Anthony Ampaipitakwong, soccer player
- Todd Angkasuwan, music video and documentary film director
- Chang and Eng Bunker, Siamese twins
- Anthony Burch, writer of video game Borderlands 2
- Amanda Mildred Carr, BMX racer
- Michael Chaturantabut, actor and martial artist
- Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, producer and story editor on Family Guy
- Johnny Damon, MLB player
- Charles Djou, politician
- Tammy Duckworth, politician and military officer
- Lada Engchawadechasilp, beauty pageant queen
- Kevin Kaesviharn, football player
- Sanit Khewhok, artist
- Eric Koston, professional skater
- Lynn Kriengkrairut, ice dancer
- Nichkhun, singer. Born in the US to ethnic Chinese parents from Thailand with ancestral roots in Hainan,China.
- Thakoon Panichgul, fashion designer
- Utt Panichkul, actor, model and VJ
- Tera Patrick, pornographic actress
- John Pippy, politician
- Stacy Prammanasudh, golfer
- Jocelyn Seagrave, television actress
- Alex Sink, former Chief Financial Officer for the state of Florida
- Prim Siripipat, sportscaster
- Brenda Song, actress
- Tamarine Tanasugarn, professional tennis player
- Kevin Tancharoen, dancer, choreographer, television producer and film director
- Maurissa Tancharoen, actress, singer, dancer, television producer/writer and lyricist
- Traphik or Timothy DeLaGhetto, rapper, comedian, and videographer on YouTube
- Tiger Woods, professional golfer
- Tata Young, singer, actress and former model who lives in Bangkok
- We the People Asians in the United States Census 2000 Special Reports
- Vong, Pueng. Unrest in the Homeland Awakens the Thai Community IMDiversity March 29, 2006
- Asian American Action Fund 2006 endorsed candidates
- United States Census Bureau. "US demographic census". Retrieved 2008-10-26.
- American Community Survey 2009