Top 20 Famous Thai People
*Originally published by Lilian on May 2021 and Updated by Vanessa R on May 2023
There is a lot to learn and know about the history of Thailand most of which reads like a dystopian novel.
Historians believe that the Thai people originated from the Guangxi Zhuang region of southern China. It was after the Qin dynasty took over in 214 BC that they migrated to the south in dozens for centuries.
This group make for a third of the total population in Thailand. The culture in Thailand is a mix of Indian and Chinese.
The Thai people have risen above all their country has been through to be able to build a brand. They have shaped the kingdom’s political, economic and social landscapes.
To learn more about the Thai people, here is a list of the top 20 famous people.
1. Aliza ‘Alice’ Napartivaumnuay – Social Entrepreneur
Aliza is the co-founder of the award-winning social enterprise, Social giver.
This is a lifestyle charity concept that sells GiveCards which are redeemable vouchers at some of Thailand’s well-known brands.
Through her organization, they can raise funds for social projects by creating shared value between consumers and businesses.
Her business plan takes advantage of the spare capacity of businesses such as unsold hotel rooms or event tickets.
This way, customers receive vouchers for making different levels of contributions to social projects of their choice while enjoying quality products and services for a fraction of their retail value.
She has impacted more than 45,000 people in need through projects that focus on education, healthcare, and bridging inequality.
2. Yingluck Shinawatra – Former Prime Minister
Yingluck was born into an affluent business and political family of Thailand. Through her privilege, she went to elite schools.
She became the first female prime minister in Thailand in 2011. However, she ran away after allegations of corruption. In 2017, Yingluck failed to appear in court and an arrest warrant was issued.
This was after the Constitutional Court decided to remove her from office. Shinawatra sought exile in London where she lives to date.
3. Bajrakitiyabha – Diplomat
Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendira Debyavati, is a Thai diplomat and princess of Thailand. She is the first grandchild of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand.
After graduate school, Princess Bajrakitiyabha worked temporarily at the Thai Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in New York.
As a diplomat, she has been influential in advocating for separate prisons for women who were detained in male prisons. Bajrakitiyabha efforts were to influence the UN to adopt the Bangkok Rules.
These were the first set of universal guidelines focusing on the treatment of women in the justice system.
In 2006, Bajrakitiyabha was appointed Attorney in the Office of the Attorney General in Bangkok. She is currently working under the Office of the Attorney General of Udon Thani Province.
4. Sirikit – Queen
Sirikit is the Queen mother of Thailand. She was the queen consort of King Rama IX and is the mother of King Rama X.
She met the King, Bhumibol, in Paris where her father was the Thai ambassador. The two got married in 1950 before her husband’s coronation.
Sirikit was the King’s proxy when he undertook the traditional period as a Buddhist monk in 1956.
The people were impressed by the Queen’s performance that she was made the official Regent of Thailand.
During the King’s birthday in 1956, she was given the title Somdet Phra Nang Chao Sirikit Phra Borommarachininat. She became the second Siamese queen regent in Thai history.
Her birthday, just like the King’s, is a national holiday and is celebrated as Mother’s Day in Thailand.
5. Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya -Athlete
Princess Sirivannavari is the only daughter of King Vajiralongkorn. She is in the line of succession to become Queen.
Other than her royal duties, Princess Sirivannavari is also a fashion designer, an athlete and an equestrian.
In 2005, she represented Thailand in badminton in the South East Asian Games in the Philippines. Her team won a gold medal.
Her dress design for the Miss Universe Thailand 2018 pageant was voted the best.
The princess is considered to be one of the royal family members who are active in social work.
6. Suthida – Queen
Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana, is the fourth wife of King Vajiralongkorn. Before becoming Queen, she worked as a flight attendant.
Her relationship with the King came to the limelight in 2010 while he was still married to his third wife.
The Queen was appointed commander of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s household guard in August 2014.
Three years later, the Queen was named a Dame Grand Cross of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao. She was the first woman to receive the honour since 2004.
In 2019, she became the consort of King Vajiralongkorn during his coronation.
7. King Bhumibol Adulyadej – King
The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is another famous Thai person worth knowing. He was the longest-serving King who died in 2016 aged 70.
May Thai people regard him as a demigod and his reign was revered throughout the kingdom.
The King travelled to every corner of Thailand where he commissioned rural development projects. His main goal was to alleviate poverty and have a sufficient economy.
It was during his reign that Thailand experienced the longest period of democracy. He also enabled mediation during crises.
Political activists and Thai citizens that openly criticized him were forced into exile or got imprisoned.
8. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk – Activist
Somyot is an activist and magazine editor who is currently serving 11-year in prison.
He was convicted for publishing two articles with fictional characters that criticized King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
According to the court ruling, the published work violated Thailand’s controversial lèse-majesté law. This law prohibits any defamation of the Thai monarchy or government.
The government had him under their watch long before he was arrested and jailed.
Through his activism, Somyot was attempting to reform the stringent censorship laws. There have been efforts by international organizations to get him out of jail stating human rights violations.
9. Moo Natavudh Pungcharoenpong – Entrepreneur
Moo is a Thai tech entrepreneur who was named Businessman of the Year in 2016.
Through his company, he provides a digital public platform for mobile devices, and FavStay, a platform similar to Airbnb.
Natavudh’s well know success is the ownership of 500 Tuk Tuks which is active venture capital. He has invested in start-ups in Thailand.
Moo has been able to engage new entrepreneurs by creating a positive impact on the economy.
He also founded the Disrupt University in 2012 that offers courses that allow young creatives to be innovative with their start-ups.
Through his innovations, he has created an e-book platform that has seen the creation of thousands of e-books, e-magazines and e-newspapers.
10. Somboon Lertsuwannaroj – Electrical Engineer
Somboon is an electrical engineer and the managing director of Impact Solar Limited.
It is a renewable power start-up that received the Asian Development Bank’s New Energy Leader award in 2017. This was the first Thai start-up to receive the award.
His goal is to reduce the over-reliance on government in the power sector which led to monopoly in the industry.
Impact Solar Limited strives to develop and implement the use of clean energy.
11. Korn Chatikavanij-Finance Minister
Mr Chatikavanij, who was named “Global Finance Minister of the Year” by The Financial Times in 2010, spearheaded Thailand’s economic reform during a particularly trying period for the nation, which included violently escalating political unrest, the rise of the military junta, and anti-government protests.
His leadership also helped Thailand in making progress towards a society that is more environmentally conscious and sustainable by supporting reforms to the laws that would reduce the country’s reliance on manufacturing.
12. Thaksin Shinawatra-Prime Minister
One of the most controversial figures in Thai society today is Thaksin Shinawatra. From 2001 to 2006, he was Thailand’s prime minister. At that time, his government-led initiatives to fight poverty, improve infrastructure, enact universal healthcare, and support small businesses. As a result, he gained huge popularity in rural areas of the country.
He was also successful in bringing about drug reform in the kingdom, despite the fact that his divisive campaign triggered three months of unrest in the South. Due to the high death toll and the fact that many of the victims were not at all connected to drug operations, these methods drew harsh criticism.
13. Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal-Activist
Chotiphatphaisal, who is only 26 years old, has become the public face of Thailand’s nascent anti-junta movement. His leadership has inspired millions of Thais, many of them young like him, to resist the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the current military junta that annexed power from the democratically elected government in May 2014.
The anti-junta movement challenges the military’s limitations on civil liberties and human rights, particularly Internet usage and its lèse-majesté law, the toughest of its type in the world, which imposes severe criminal penalties on anybody accused of insulting the monarchy or government.
14. Ariya Banomyong- First Country Head of Google
Banomyong, who was formerly the first country head of Google Thailand, changed his position to managing director of the wildly popular mobile app LINE in 2016. Under his direction, LINE completely changed how Thais interact, adding to the country’s recent decade of rapid technical and telecommunications progress.
Thailand is the most mobile nation in Southeast Asia, with 90% of its internet users owning smartphones. With a staggering 92% of these individuals using LINE exclusively for communication, the kingdom is now more connected than ever.
15. Aliza ‘Alice’ Napartivaumnuay- Startup Owner
The prestigious social business, Socialgiver, was co-founded by Aliza. The platform is a lifestyle charity idea that offers GiveCards, coupons redeemable at some of Thailand’s most recognisable brands and earns money for philanthropic causes by creating a sense of shared value between customers and companies.
It takes advantage of businesses’ excess capacity, such as unsold hotel rooms or event tickets, for which clients can receive vouchers for donating varying amounts to social projects of their choice and receiving high-quality goods and services for a small fraction of their retail cost.
Through initiatives that prioritised education, healthcare, and eliminating inequality, the service has so far had an impact on more than 45,000 people in need.
16. Somboon Lertsuwannaroj-MD Impact Solar Limited
This managing director of Impact Solar Ltd, a start-up for next-generation renewable energy, is an electrical engineer by training and was the first Thai to win the New Energy Leader award from the Asian Development Bank in 2017.
He seeks to weaken the Thai government’s monopoly over the electricity industry in order to boost the creation and use of clean energy.
He has led the development of renewable energy projects in Laos and Japan using the technology of his company, but he hasn’t strayed from his original goal of improving access to power in Thailand’s impoverished rural areas so that the residents there may better manage their daily lives.
17. Mechai Viravaidya-Politician
Due to his enthusiastic support of family planning, AIDS awareness, sexual health, and education, Viravaidya, a former politician and activist, is popularly known across the kingdom as “Mr. Condom.” In Thailand, condoms are usually slang-referred to as “mechais.” His effort has resulted in a reduction in the average number of children born to Thai families, from 7 to 1.5.
18. Moo Natavudh Pungcharoenpong-Tech entrepreneur
Moo is the CEO of Ookbee, a business that offers a digital public platform for mobile devices, and FavStay, Thailand’s domestic rival to Airbnb. He is a Thai software entrepreneur who was selected “Businessman of the Year” in 2016. His greatest recent achievement, however, comes from his role as co-manager of 500 TuTuks, the most active venture capital fund in Thailand that invests in start-ups and works with budding entrepreneurs to make a significant influence on the economy.
His Disrupt University, which was started in 2012 serves as a bridge to bring the greatest tools, frameworks, and methodologies from Silicon Valley to teach Thai innovators to launch their innovative products and start-ups, and has produced many of the start-ups he sponsors.
19. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk-Activist
Prueksakasemuk, an activist and magazine editor, was found guilty of publishing two articles that were disrespectful of a fictional figure that the court understood as standing in for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and he served an 11-year prison sentence.
The criticism was against Thailand’s controversial lèse-majesté law, which was taken as an insult to the Thai king and government.
The publications about the king, according to critics, were more of a smokescreen for an arrest because the activist was long on the government’s radar for taking an active part in efforts to alter the draconian censorship regulations.
20. King Bhumibol Adulyadej-King
The revered king, who passed away in 2016, had been in power for 70 years just as much as Queen Elizabeth II of the UK. He was revered by everyone in the kingdom, and some even consider him to be a demigod.
He actively pursued rural development initiatives to reduce poverty during his reign, travelled widely across the nation, and advocated the idea of a “sufficiency economy” that emphasised balanced growth based on social responsibility and economic advancement.