Thai Americans

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Thai Americans
Total population
329,342 (2020 US Census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Illinois (Chicago), Virginia (Alexandria), California (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Beach), Nevada (Las Vegas), Wisconsin (Madison), Washington (Seattle), Oregon (Portland), Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh), Alaska (Anchorage)
American English, Thai, Lanna, Isan, Karen, Burmese, Rohingya
Theravada Buddhism, Tai folk religion, Christianity, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Thai people, Asian Americans

Thai Americans (Thai: ชาวอเมริกันเชื้อสายไทย; formerly referred to as Siamese Americans) are Americans of Thai ancestry.[2] The Thai American population is racially and ethnically diverse, consisting of many Thais who identify as mixed race and as Thai Chinese.[3]

History in the US[edit]

Siamese people were named as one of the many Asian groups excluded from immigrating to the United States by the Immigration Act of 1917. The law was one of many provisions restricting Asian immigration to the United States in the early 20th century.[4]

The 1930 Census recorded just 18 Siamese Americans. According to the MPI Data Hub, there have been a total of 253,585 Thai people who have immigrated to the United States as of 2016. That year, they were 0.0057% of all immigrants. In comparing data from the MPI Data Hub to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are significant inconsistencies of total current population. According to the U.S. Census, there are currently 300,319 Thai people living in the United States today, with an error margin of +/- 14,326.

Data Compiled from MPI Data Hub

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.

The general trend of Thai immigration can be stated at a relatively steady rising pace save for the peak in 2006, which marks the dissolution of the Thai Parliament in February and a subsequent coup in the following September. From 2007 to 2008, numbers dip back down to regular rate until 2009, which proceeded a year of military and political turmoil due to the disconnect between the monarchic Royal Army and the relatively newly established democratic government in 2006.

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

In 2009, 304,160 US residents listed themselves as Thais.[5]


Los Angeles, California, has the largest Thai population outside of Asia.[6] 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.[citation needed] Other large or sizeable 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; Albuquerque, NM; Queens, New York; Madison, Wisconsin; Seattle, Washington; and Montgomery County, Maryland.[citation needed] The 2010 U.S. census counted 237,629 Thai Americans in the country, of whom 67,707 live in California.[7]


Data from Migration Policy Institute[8]
Data from Pew Research Center[9]

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
2015 295,000 -
2019 343,000 -

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
2012 9,459
2013 7,583
2014 6,197
2015 7,502
2016 7,039

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
2012 6,585
2013 5,544
2014 4,805
2015 5,213
2016 5,211

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 like Pad Thai and Thai tea.

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]

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.

In 2010, Charles Djou became the first Thai-American elected to Congress; he had previously served in the Hawaii State House and Honolulu City Council.

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. On November 8, 2016, she was elected as the junior Senator from Illinois, the seat previously held by Barack Obama.

Bhumibol Adulyadej, the previous King and Head of the State of Thailand, was born at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 5, 1927.[10] At the time, his father was studying at Harvard University. He is the only American-born monarch in history.

In 2017, Ekamon "Ek" Venin was appointed and later elected to the Borough Council in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.[11] In 2020, he served as Council President and was re-elected to another 3-year term.[12]

Notable Thai Buddhist temples[edit]

Songkran festival at Wat Thai, Los Angeles, 2008

Notable people[edit]

Thai Americans in popular culture[edit]

See also[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


  1. ^ "ASIAN ALONE OR IN ANY COMBINATION BY SELECTED GROUPS". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on April 11, 2019. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  2. ^ Megan Ratner, "Thai Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 4, Gale, 2014), pp. 357-368. Online Archived March 26, 2021, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Danico, Mary (2014), "Thai Americans", Asian American Society: An Encyclopedia, Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 894–897, retrieved February 5, 2023
  4. ^ Sohi, Seema (2014). Asian Americans: an encyclopedia of social, cultural, economic, and political history. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood. pp. 534–535. ISBN 978-1-59884-240-1.
  5. ^ American Community Survey 2009
  6. ^ "LOS ANGELES CITYWIDE HISTORIC CONTEXT STATEMENT: Context: Thai Americans in Los Angeles, 1950-1980" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on October 17, 2019. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  7. ^ America's Only Thai Town Celebrates 15 Years in Los Angeles Archived November 11, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, June 12, 2014.
  8. ^ "Migration Data Hub". Archived from the original on October 31, 2013. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  9. ^ Budiman, Abby (September 8, 2017). "Thai in the U.S. Fact Sheet". Pew Research Center. Archived from the original on April 14, 2021. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  10. ^ Times, Barbara Crossette and Special To the New York (December 15, 1987). "Bangkok Journal; Once Upon a Time a Good King Had 4 Children . . ". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 5, 2018. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  11. ^ "New Pompton Lakes councilman sworn in".
  12. ^ "2020 Passaic County Election Results".

Further reading[edit]

  • Ratner, Megan. "Thai Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 4, Gale, 2014), pp. 357–368. Online

External links[edit]