This study has provided a regional perspective on Thai economic history. Such a perspective is necessary in order to avoid an undue emphasis on Bangkok.
Of course, the long-term predominance of Bangkok in so many spheres has affected all parts of the country since the early nineteenth century. However, it is necessary to emphasize: (a) the continuous and autonomous development of the regions, even during periods of Bangkok's greatest primacy; (b) the relative lessening of Bangkok's primacy, which took place from the 1980s, and which saw considerable urbanization and economic diversification in the various regions; and (c) a growing integration of Bangkok's economy with that of the regions.
During the nineteenth century several factors influenced Thai regional development. One was the existence of natural resources. This could be seen most clearly in the South, where, for example, tin was mined predominantly by the Chinese — controlled and operated by enterprises, processed in Penang or Singapore, and exported to foreign markets. Later, the South developed rubber and other plantation commodities.
In other regions, too, specialization resulted in centres of commercial activity, sometimes geared towards foreign markets. Already before 1900, textiles from Chiang Mai and Phrae, gems from Kanchanaburi, and a variety of forest products throughout the country, found their way to domestic and foreign markets, including notable land border trades with Burma and Malaya. Later, such border trades expanded and widened.
A notable feature of Thai economic history has always been the unusually large proportion of the population engaged in agriculture (mainly rice farming), with consequent high proportions of Thais living in rural areas. A natural result of this has been very limited urbanization outside Bangkok until very recent decades. Such a pattern was well established before the First World War, and continued until the 1980s. The large agricultural populations that characterized all regions have influenced social and economic development. Only since the 1980s have there been marked changes, with regional urban centres such as Hat Yai, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Thani, Rayong, and many others, exerting a profound local and non-local influence.
Thai regional economic development has been influenced by geographical factors to an extent that cannot be overestimated. Both transport and agricultural productivity have been dominated by geography.