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Thai Baht

The Thai baht is the official currency of the South East Asian Kingdom of Thailand. Like the British pound, its original value was determined by its equivalence to a standard weight of a precious metal. The British pound was valued at 1 pound (lb) of silver, whereas the baht was valued at a much lower equivalent weight (around 15 grams in modern terms). The original Thai baht dates from medieval times.
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Thailand was never a part of any foreign empire, despite the presence of the French in nearby Laos and Vietnam, and the British in Malaysia and Burma. Thailand was originally known to the rest of the world as “Siam”, as can be seen in the famous Rogers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I” (1956), where the iconic actor Yul Brynner plays the role of the King of Siam. The nation’s name was officially changed to Thailand in 1939. Sadly, the proud independence of the newly re-named country did not last long after the re-naming. Shortly after notorious the attack on American held Pearl Harbour, the Japanese invaded Thailand. This occupation lasted for the duration of World War Two, ending in the defeat of the Japanese in 1945. In September, American and British forces arrived to liberate the country and disarm the vanquished Japanese forces. Independence was restored to the Kingdom of Thailand shortly after.

Post war Thailand maintained a close relationship to the United States, which was active in the region in preventing the expansion of the Communist regimes which existed in Vietnam and Laos. This was, of course, very much in the interests of the established monarchy in Thailand. Although in theory, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, for much of the post-war period it has been under the control of a military government. Since the 1970, several attempts at re-introducing parliamentary democracy have been interspersed with periods of restored military rule, as power has see-sawed back and forth. At the time of writing, the military are back in control.

The modern baht continued to be fixed to the value of silver, which caused wild fluctuations with most of the world’s other currencies, which were fixed to the price of gold (the Gold Standard). In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, various attempts were made to alleviate this problem by fixing the value of the baht to the value of other currencies, such as the British pound. During World War Two’s period of occupation, the baht was effectively replaced by the Japanese yen.

The post war influence of the Americans saw the baht pegged in value to the US dollar, at the rate of around $1 = 20 baht. The strength of the burgeoning American economy caused the equivalent value of the baht to re-adjusted downward in 1984, and the Asian financial crash of 1997 saw the baht float free, causing a rapid and massive devaluation. Within a year, the baht had halved in value relative to the dollar. At the time of writing, the rate of exchange is approximately $1 = 35 baht.

Thailand continues to be a popular destination for UK tourists, and any such visitors whom remain long enough to consider opening a local bank account should be able to use their local currency on many UK registered online bingo and casino sites.

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