An Incomplete History of Thai Immigration to the United States

Thai immigration to the United States proceeded very slowly. It began in earnest during and after the Vietnam War, in which Thailand was an ally of the US 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. The general trend of Thai immigration can be stated at a relatively steady rising pace until the peak in 2006, which marks the dissolution of the Thai Parliament in February and a subsequent coup in the following September. From 2007 to 2008, numbers dip back down to regular rate until 2009, which preceded a year of military and political turmoil due to the disconnect between the monarchic Royal Army and the relatively newly established democratic government in 2006.

Thai Community of Lingít Aaní

Some of the first Thai immigrants came to Lingít Aaní (Juneau, Alaska) through the late 80’s. At this point, the Vietnam War had come to an end and many Thai immigrant families had already settled up and down the West Coast, with the largest Thai population outside of Asia residing in Los Angeles, California. At first, there were very few families in the area hailing from Thailand, but with time, Juneau began to see the Thai community expanding. In 1997, Chan’s Thai Kitchen opened before closing briefly in 2018. It has since re-opened, and continues to serve the community of Juneau. In January of 2009, Suwanna Thai opened in Juneau. The restauraunt is named in honor of the family matriarch, Suwanna, and is operated by Porunan and her three children, Sitthida, Sutthida and Krongthum. Suwanna Cafe remains open and continues to feed and connect the community over high-quality meals.


Additional Links and Information

A famous song written by a prince of Siam who was in love with a princess of Lanna (northern kingdom, for which Chiang Mai was the capital).

Story translated by Elizabeth Kilrain:

"Lao Duang Duen" - This is one of those heartachingly beautiful classical songs.

The story goes that Prince Benbadhanabongse of Pichai had travelled to Chiang Mai and fallen in love with Princess Chomchuen of Chiang Mai. The two began a courtship, and the Prince asked the High Commissioner of Phayap / Lao Chiang (a historical subdivision of Thailand) to negotiate a marriage proposal with her father, Prince Sambandhavongse of Chiang Mai. However, his proposal was rejected, so he could not marry the Princess.

Heartbroken, the Prince composed this song in memory of his love and would perform it regularly whenever he thought of Princess Chomchuen.


โอ้ละหนอดวงเดือนเอย พี่มาเว้ารักเจ้าสาวคำดวง

โอ้ดึกแล้วหนอพี่ขอลาล่วง อกพี่เป็นห่วงรักเจ้าดวงเดือนเอย

ขอลาแล้วเจ้าแก้วโกสุม พี่นี้รักเจ้าหนอขวัญตาเรียม

จะหาไหนมาเทียมโอ้เจ้าดวงเดือนเอย จะหาไหนมาเทียมโอ้เจ้าดวงเดือนเอย (ซ้ำ)

หอมกลิ่นเกสร เกสรดอกไม้ หอมกลิ่นคล้ายคล้ายเจ้าสูของเรียมเอย (ซ้ำ)

หอมกลิ่นกรุ่นครันหอมนั้นยังบ่เลย เนื้อหอมทรามเชยเอยเราละเหนอ

โอ้ละหนอนวลตาเอย พี่นี้รักแสนรักดังดวงใจ

โอ้เป็นกรรมต้องจำจากไป อกพี่อาลัยเจ้าดวงเดือนเอย

เห็นเดือนแรมเริศร้างเวหา เฝ้าแต่เบิ่งดูฟ้า(ละหนอ)เห็นมืดมน

พี่ทนทุกข์ทุกข์ทนโอ้เจ้าดวงเดือนเอย พี่ทนทุกข์ทุกข์ทนโอ้เจ้าดวงเดือนเอย

เสียงไก่ขันขานเสียงหวานเจื้อยแจ้ว หวานสุดแล้วหวานแจ้วเจื้อยเอย (ซ้ำ)

ถึงจะหวานเสนาะหวานเพราะกระไรเลย บ่แม้นทรามเชยเราละเหนอ (ซ้ำ)

War drum sounds of Lanna to prepare soldiers for battle with the Burmese army

Dancing in Chiang Mai

Kim Massie was a powerful soul and blues singer and a major fixture in the St. Louis music scene for many decades. Delia and Felix would definitely have heard of her in St. Louis from their love of music.

Spirit houses in Thailand