The area of Surat Thani was already inhabited in prehistoric times by Semang and Malayan tribes. Founded in the 3rd century, until the 13th century the Srivijaya kingdom dominated the Malay Peninsula. The city Chaiya contains several ruins from Srivijaya times, and was probably a regional capital of the kingdom. Some Thai historians even claim that it was the capital of the kingdom itself for some time, but this is generally disputed. Wiang Sa was another main settlement of that time. After the fall of the Srivijaya it was divided into the cities (Mueang) Chaiya, Thatong (now Kanchanadit) and Khirirat Nikhom. While Chaiya was administrated directly from the capital, Thatong and Khirirat were controlled by the Nakhon Si Thammarat kingdom. In 1899 they were merged into one province named Chaiya. In 1915 also the court of the Monthon Chumphon was moved to Bandon, which received its new name Surat Thani on July 29, 1915 during a visit of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI). The monthon was renamed to Surat accordingly. In 1926 it was abolished and incorporated into monthon Nakhon Si Thammarat. In 1933 the monthon was dissolved, so the province became the first level administrative subdivision. The provincial administration was at first located in a building in Tha Kham (Amphoe Phunphin). It was moved to the city of Surat Thani directly at the shore of the Tapi river in World War II, but when the Japanese invaded Thailand on December 8, 1941 and landed in Surat Thani as well, the building caught fire during the short battle and burned down. It was reopened in 1954. On March 19, 1982 it was destroyed again by a bomb planted by communist rebels, killing 5 people. A new building was built in the south of the city, the former site of the provincial hall is now the city pillar shrine (Lak Mueang).

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Koh Tao is the smallest in a chain of three islands in The Gulf of Thailand.

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