Udon Thani is one of the 76 provinces of Thailand. It is in the northeastern region of Thailand and is bordered by Nong Khai to the north, Sakon Nakhon to the east, Khon Kaen to the south and the Loei to the west. The provincial capital is Udon Thani, the first city in Udon Thani.
Udon Thani first marked its name in the Bangkok era’s history when Anuwong staged an uprising and marched the Laotians’ troops to Nakhon Ratchasrima during 1826 to 1828. Met with fierce resistance from the local troops led by Lady Mo, wife to Nakhon Ratchasrima Governor, Anuwong was forced to move the troops back to Nongbua Lampoo, the city close to the present-day Udon Thani, and the Laotians eventually lost to Siam’s troops and the local Nongbua Lampoo’s militia.
Formerly known as Ban Mak-kaeng, Udon Thani was first settled as a military base led by Prince Prachak to crack down on minority uprising in then north eastern state of Lao Puan. Ban Mak-kaeng has evolved from a rural city eventually into what is known as the present-day Udon Thani, literally the northern city.
The province is most famous for the archeological site Ban Chiang with its remains of the Bronze age, located in what is now a hamlet about 85 miles east of Udon. Udon is one of the more bustling markets for agricultural goods in the relatively dry northeast of Thailand, and received its biggest economic boost in the 1960s when the US built the Udon Royal Thai Air Force Base as a joint-force military base during the Vietnam War. The Mel Gibson film Air America refers to Udon and includes shots from the Udon military base. Udon Thani was also the largest base in the region for CIA’s anti-communism campaign.
The U.S. turned the base over to the Thai military in 1976, but there were three significant after-effects of the base’s US presence. First, a number of the natives in the area were paid well and learned English, which helped them become more marketable to the outside world a significant percentage of the more educated group now work in the Middle East oilfields. Second, the base created ties, including a US Consulate in Udon, which was closed in 1995, and a US Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. Finally, the base and the consulate caused the city to be viewed as a regional hub, and this impression has continued.
In recent years the province has received international attention due to the discovery of a large potash deposit in the area and some anticipate that the region will become a major exporter of the mineral. Beginning the mining process of gaining licensure has been substantially delayed due to public opposition to the mine. Many of the villagers who live directly above the proposed mine site have expressed concern that the company and its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) have not adequately addressed concerns of salinization of groundwater and soil or land subsidence. Both would threaten the economic stability of local communities that rely primarily on income derived from rice farming.