Thai American
A Thai American is an American
The people of the United States, also known as simply Americans or American people, are the inhabitants or citizens of the United States. The United States is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds...

 of whose parents or grandparents came from Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

. Many of them may in fact be of Thai Chinese
Thai Chinese
The Thai Chinese are an overseas Chinese community who live in Thailand. Thailand is home to the largest, oldest, most prominent, and most integrated overseas Chinese community in the world with a population of approximately 9.5 million people...

  or at least part Chinese ancestry, but they are still considered to be Thais.

History in U.S.

The first Thais known to have come to the United States were Chang and Eng Bunker
Chang and Eng Bunker
Chang and Eng Bunker were the conjoined twin brothers whose condition and birthplace became the basis for the term "Siamese twins".-Life:...

, 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
White Plains, North Carolina
White Plains is a census-designated place in Surry County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 1,049 at the 2000 census.- Geography :White Plains is located at ....

, North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

. 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
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

. He Thien graduated from a New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 medical college in 1871. He then returned to Siam, eventually adopting a Thai name. He was the father of Pote Sarasin
Pote Sarasin
Pote Sarasin was a Thai diplomat and politician. He served as foreign minister from 1949 to 1951 and then served as ambassador to the United States. In September 1957 when Sarit Thanarat seized power in a military coup, he appointed Pote to be the acting prime minister. He resigned in December 1957...

, a former Prime minister of Thailand
Prime Minister of Thailand
The Prime Minister of Thailand is the head of government of Thailand. The Prime Minister is also the chairman of the Cabinet of Thailand. The post has existed since the Revolution of 1932, when the country became a constitutional monarchy....


Thai immigration to the United States proceeded very slowly. It began in earnest during and after the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, 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, 154,160 U.S. residents listed themselves as Thais.


Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 has the largest Thai population outside of Asia. It is home to the world's first Thai Town
Thai Town, Los Angeles, California
Thai Town is a neighborhood of Los Angeles centered along Hollywood Boulevard between Normandie Avenue and Western Avenue in East Hollywood....

. 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
Clark County
Clark County is the name of twelve counties in the United States of America. Most, though not all, are named after two brothers: military hero George Rogers Clark in the Midwest, and explorer William Clark in the West.* Clark County, Arkansas...

, Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

; Cook County
Cook County
- Counties :*Cook County, Georgia, US*Cook County, Illinois*Cook County, Minnesota, US*Cook County, New South Wales, Australia*Cook County, New Zealand, one of the former counties of New Zealand on the North Island...

, Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

; Orange County, California
Orange County, California
Orange County is a county in the U.S. state of California. Its county seat is Santa Ana. As of the 2010 census, its population was 3,010,232, up from 2,846,293 at the 2000 census, making it the third most populous county in California, behind Los Angeles County and San Diego County...

; San Bernadino County, California; San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

; and Fairfax County, Virginia
Fairfax County, Virginia
Fairfax County is a county in Virginia, in the United States. Per the 2010 Census, the population of the county is 1,081,726, making it the most populous jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with 13.5% of Virginia's population...


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
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 exposed the GIs to Thai culture and cuisine, and many of them came home with Thai wives.

Political involvement

Formerly, the Thai American community took no part in politics. However, with the recent controversy over former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra
Thaksin Shinawatra
Thaksin Shinawatra is a Thai businessman and politician, who was Prime Minister of Thailand from 2001 to 2006, when he was overthrown in a military coup....

, 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
Anaheim, California
Anaheim is a city in Orange County, California. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was about 365,463, making it the most populated city in Orange County, the 10th most-populated city in California, and ranked 54th in the United States...

, the other in Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...

. 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
La Palma, California
La Palma is a city located in northern Orange County, California. Incorporated on October 26, 1955, the population was 15,408 at the 2000 census...

 City Council in California. On December 18, 2007, he became the first Thai American mayor of a U.S. city.

Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth
Ladda Tammy Duckworth was formerly Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and formerly the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran and former U.S...

, a Thai American Iraq War veteran, ran for Congress as a Democrat
Democrat may refer to:*A proponent of democracy,*A member of a Democratic Party; including:**Democratic Party **Democratic Party of Japan**List of Democratic Parties-See also:...

 in Illinois's 6th district in the 2006 mid-term election. She was narrowly defeated, and is currently is the 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
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 to fill the vacancy caused by Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

's election to the Presidency of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

; however, Roland Burris
Roland Burris
Roland Wallace Burris is a former United States Senator from the state of Illinois and a member of the Democratic Party....

 was appointed instead.

Bhumibol Adulyadej
Bhumibol Adulyadej
Bhumibol Adulyadej is the current King of Thailand. He is known as Rama IX...

, 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
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. He is the only American-born monarch in history.

Notable Thai Americans

  • Bundit Ungrangsee
    Bundit Ungrangsee
    Bundit Ungrangsee is an international symphonic conductor.Thai-born and of Chinese descent, Bundit Ungrangsee was named one of two co-winners and Laureates of the inaugural Maazel-Vilar International Conductors' Competition held at Carnegie Hall in New York City, USA in September 2002...

  • Chang and Eng Bunker
    Chang and Eng Bunker
    Chang and Eng Bunker were the conjoined twin brothers whose condition and birthplace became the basis for the term "Siamese twins".-Life:...

    , Siamese twins
  • Mike Chat
  • Tammy Duckworth
    Tammy Duckworth
    Ladda Tammy Duckworth was formerly Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and formerly the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran and former U.S...

  • Cherry Chevapravatdumrong
    Cherry Chevapravatdumrong
    Cherry Chevapravatdumrong is a Thai American author, and an executive story editor/co-producer on Family Guy....

  • Porntip Nakhirunkanok
    Porntip Nakhirunkanok
    Porntip Bui Nakhirunkanok aka Porntip Bui Simon is a Thai beauty queen who has held the title Miss Universe 1988. She became the second woman from Thailand to win the Miss Universe crown, the first being Apasra Hongsakula in 1965.-Biography:Nakhirunkanok was born in Chacheonsao, Thailand...

    , Miss Universe
  • Brenda Song
    Brenda Song
    Brenda Song is an American actress, film producer, and model. Song started in show business as a child fashion model. Her early television work included roles in the shows Fudge and 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd...

    , actress
  • Tiger Woods
    Tiger Woods
    Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods is an American professional golfer whose achievements to date rank him among the most successful golfers of all time. Formerly the World No...

    , part-Thai professional golfer
  • Lada Engchawadechasilp
    Lada Engchawadechasilp
    Lada Engchawadechasilp is a Thai American who won the Miss Thailand World pageant in 2001. She represented Thailand in the Miss World 2001 pageant, where she was named Miss Photogenic...

  • Johnny Damon
    Johnny Damon
    Johnny David Damon is an American professional baseball outfielder and designated hitter. From 2000–2008, he was third among active players in runs and seventh in hits and stolen bases . He is currently second among active leaders in triples , five behind Carl Crawford...

    , MLB Player
  • Nichkhun Horvejkul, member of South Korea
    South Korea
    The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

    n boy band
    Boy band
    A boy band is loosely defined as a popular music act consisting of only male singers. The members are expected to dance as well as sing, usually giving highly choreographed performances. More often than not, boy band members do not play musical instruments, either in recording sessions or on...

    , 2PM
    2PM is a South Korean boy band, originally a seven-member group, but currently consisting of six members due to the sudden contract termination of leader Jaebeom following an Internet controversy in September 2009. They are managed by JYP Entertainment...

  • S.P. Somtow, writer
  • Stacy Prammanasudh
    Stacy Prammanasudh
    Stacy Prammanasudh is a Thai American golfer who plays on the LPGA Tour.-Amateur career:Stacy was born in Enid, Oklahoma to an American mother and a native Thai father who immigrated to the United States from Thailand...

  • Kevin Kaesviharn
    Kevin Kaesviharn
    Kevin Robert Kaesviharn is an American football safety who is currently a free agent. He was signed by the Iowa Barnstormers as a street free agent in 1998...

  • Eric Koston
    Eric Koston
    Eric Koston is a Thai American professional skater who grew up in San Bernardino, California.He began skating in 1986 and remains active. He was first sponsored in 1991 and turned pro in 1993. He has been featured in the "Tony Hawk" video game series and "EA" Skate 2 and Skate 3...

  • Thakoon Panichgul, fashion designer
  • Tera Patrick
    Tera Patrick
    Linda Ann Hopkins, better known as Tera Patrick is a former American pornographic actress.-Early life:Tera Patrick was born Linda Ann Hopkins in Great Falls, Montana. While at Boise State, Patrick earned an AAS degree in nursing and a BS in Biology.-Career:Patrick moved to New York City and her...

    , half-Thai porn actress
  • Utt Panichkul
    Utt Panichkul
    Utt , born Greg Uttsada Panichkul , on September 3, 1973, in California, is a Thai-American Actor/Host and Model.Utt was born and raised in California. His father is a professor in social science. He speaks both Thai and English...

    , actor, model and VJ
  • Tata Young
    Tata Young
    Amita Marie Young , better known under her stage name Tata Young, is a Thai singer, model actress and dancer....

    , half-Thai singer, actress and former model who lives in Bangkok


  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

External links

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