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Surat Thani ("city of good people")is a coastal city 651 km south of Bangkok, near the mouth of the Tapi river on the Gulf of Thailand. Previously the city was Bandon ("village on higher ground"), but king Vajiravudh (Rama VI) of Siam renamed it in 1915 due to its intense devotion to Buddhism and his fondness for the Indian city Surat, Gujarat (on the Indian river Tapi); ironically, since 1969 it has been the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese for in southern Thailand. Some historians regard the name of nearby Chaiya, one of the oldest Thai cities, to be a corruption of (Sri-vi)ja-ya and either the capital or regional center of the little-known 5th to 13th century empire of Srivijaya ("Siwichai" in Thai), taken from the Sanskrit words "śri" (fortunate, prosperous, or happy) and "vijaya" (victorious or excellence), an important center for the expansion of Buddhism. Most historians believed its first capital was near Palembang, Sumatra, since the earliest known mention of it is the Kedukan Bukit inscription dated 16 June 682 found there, which mentioned that Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa came from Minanga Tamwan, perhaps on the east coast of the Malay peninsula. After Srivijaya fell due to various factors, including the expansion of the Javanese Singhasari and Majapahit empires, it was largely forgotten until 1918, when George Coedès of the École française d'Extrême-Orient formally postulated its existence.
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