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Thai American
Chang and Eng BunkerTiger WoodsTamarine Tanasugarn
Tammy DuckworthBrenda Song
Chang and Eng BunkerTiger WoodsTamarine Tanasugarn
Tammy DuckworthBrenda Song
Total population
.05 % of the US population
[1 ]
Regions with significant populations
Northeast, West Coast

American English, Isan, Thai


Dharma Wheel.svg Theravada Buddhism

Related ethnic groups

Thai people, Laotian American , Asian Americans

A Thai American is an American of Thai descent.


History in U.S.

The first people from Thailand who immigrated to the United States were Chang and Eng Bunker the famous Siamese twins, who came to the United States in 1830. They settled in White Plains, North Carolina, and used "Bunker" as their last name. Their descendants have continued to use "Bunker" as their last name until recently.

The first student to emigrate from Thailand was Mr. He Thien (original name "Thien Hee"), who came with an American missionary, and graduated from a New York medical college in 1871. He was the father of former Prime minister of Thailand Pote Sarasin.

  • From 1961-1970, about 5,000 Thai immigrated to the United States.
  • From 1971-1980, about 44,000 Thai immigrated to United States.
  • From 1981-1990, about 64,400 Thai immigrated to United States.

In 1993, there were an estimated 120,000 persons of Thai descent living in the United States. Many Thai Americans resided in the Northeastern Region of Thailand.


Los Angeles, California has the largest Thai population outside of Thailand. Roughly 66% percent of all Thai Americans live in Los Angeles. It is also home to the world's first and only Thai Town. In 2002, there was an estimated 80,000+ Thai immigrants living in Los Angeles.

However, there are Thai communities spread throughout the US. Other cities with sizable Thai populations include Chicago, Illinois, the San Francisco Bay Area, Fort Worth, Texas, Providence, Rhode Island and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Cultural influence on America

Thai Americans are well known for bringing the cuisine of their native Thailand to America. Thai cuisine is popular in many American cities. It is currently popular for American restaurants to offer Thai influenced dishes.

Thai culture's prominent popularity in the United States is somewhat disproportionate to the percentage of Thai Americans in the total population. This is largely due to the U.S. presence in Thailand during the Vietnam War, which exposed American soldiers to Thai culture, and to the subsequent influx of Thai Americans. According to the 2000 census there were 150,093 Thai residents in the United States.

Political involvement

Traditionally, political involvement in the Thai American community seldom exists. However, with the recent events in Thailand with the controversy over former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, activity in the Thai community has increased. Prior to his overthrow, there have been protests at the Thai consulate in Los Angeles.

On November 7, 2006, Gorpat Henry Charoen became the first and only US elected official of Thai descent. He was elected to the La Palma City Council in California. Then on December 18, 2007, Gorpat Henry Charoen became the first Mayor of Thai descent in the US. In the Asian American mainstream, Chinese Americans, Indian Americans, Japanese Americans, Filipino Americans, Vietnamese Americans, and Korean Americans have been elected to political offices. Two Thai Americans ran in municipal elections in 2003, one in Anaheim, California and the other in Houston, Texas (the candidate who ran in Houston was a native Houstonian); both candidates lost.

Tammy Duckworth, a Thai American Iraq war veteran, ran for election under the Democratic ticket to Congress in Illinois's 6th district in the 2006 mid-term election. Had she not been narrowly defeated, she would have been the first Thai American in Congress. She 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. At one point 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; Roland Burris, however, received the nod.

Bhumibol Adulyadej, is the current King and Head of the State of Thailand. Publicly acclaimed "the Great" (Thai: มหาราช, Maharaja) , he is also known as Rama IX. Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he is the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-serving monarch in the Thai history. Bhumibol was born at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States on December 5, 1927. He was the younger son of HRH Prince Mahidol Adulyadej and Mom Sangwal (later Somdej Phra Sri Nakarindhara Boromaratchachonnani). The current King of Thailand is essentially the richest man from the east coast of the US.

Notable individuals

See also


  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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