Sukhothai is a historically significant city in northwestern Thailand.

By the thirteenth century AD a kingdom was flourishing around the city of Sukhothai, and it is from here that the story of Thailand proper usually unfolds. Today the site of spectacular, if reconstructed, ruins and a major domestic and foreign tourist destination, Sukhothai has earned a pivotal role in the imagining of the modern nation-state because of the discovery, in the last century, of a stone inscription and seat there. The seat is now in the Thai capital, Bangkok; it was transported there in the last century by the king who discovered it, Mongkut.

The inscription, which is still in Sukhothai, was written by or by order of the ruler, Ramkhamhaeng, and is the oldest example of Thai writing in existence. (Some scholars have called the inscription a hoax, and claim someone, possibly even Mongkkut himself, actually wrote it. Though they cling tenaciously to their story, most people believe the inscription and seat to be authentic.)

The inscription tells of a peaceful and prosperous Buddhist kingdom ("There is fish in the water and rice in the fields", runs one famous phrase) ruled by a just and accessible monarch who, among other things, vastly expanded his empire and devised the proto-Thai characters which were used for writing the inscription itself. The seat was used by monks for preaching the dhamma, or Buddhist universal truth; when not occupied for that purpose, Ramkhamhaeng himself sat on it so that "the officials, lords, and princes could discuss affairs of state with him". A commoner who had "a grievance which sickens his belly and gripes his heart" could ring a bell hung at the city gate and the king would "examine the case and decide it justly for him".

Mongkut hoped to project a similarly rosy picture of his own reign, and indeed this idyllic vision of benevolent paternalism has an important place in the modern Thai imaginary.

These quotations are taken from an English translation of the inscription by David Wyatt, which can be found in his book Studies in Thai History.

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