How did Siam (modern-day Thailand) manage to avoid becoming a colony?
There are various theories why Siam, now called Thailand, was never colonized. One theory is that Great Britain wanted a buffer state between the land that Great Britain had controlled in Asia and the land that France had controlled in Asia. The British controlled India and modern-day Myanmar, while the French controlled Indochina. Since Siam was in between these two regions, it was a way to keep separate the territories of both of these countries in Asia. It also would keep both countries from coming into contact with each other, since they had conflicts in many areas of the world as they tried to expand their empires.
Another theory is that the leaders of Siam were very good negotiators. Since the French were not too interested in having a buffer zone between British and French lands, the French wanted to control Siam. However, the Siamese negotiators worked very hard to convince Great Britain that a buffer zone was beneficial to the British. Britain had a great deal of influence in Siam. They controlled most of Siam’s trade, laid most of Siam’s railroad track, controlled the mines, and had control over Siam’s finances, its banking system, and its gold reserves. Thus, the British decided to agree with the Siamese negotiators, and they reached an agreement in 1896 with France to keep Siam independent and to protect Siam from attacks by other countries, namely Germany and Russia.
Of all the countries in Southeast Asia, Siam (or Thailand) was the only one to avoid being colonized by a European power. The British colonized Burma, the French colonized Indochina, but Siam remained independent.
The most commonly cited reason for this is that the Siamese rulers gave concessions to Western countries, particularly Great Britain. By getting these concessions (mostly to do with trade) the British got what they wanted from Siam without having to do to the expense of maintaining colonial rule.
Traditional histories also argue that the Siamese monarchs were skilled diplomats and that they modernized their country in ways that helped avoid colonization.