| Thailand existed in the form of many small states as far back as 1000 AD. Much influenced by India, Burma and the Khmer peoples, the region soon came under the sway of Buddhism. The kingdom of Siam was created in about 1350. Less than two centuries later, the Portuguese had arrived, along with other Europeans (bent on trade and missionizing). Siam managed to avoid European colonization but was forced to cede control of some of its more far-flung possessions (portions of Malaya, Laos, and Cambodia) to Britain and France. Though the absolute monarchy ended in 1932, a monarchy has endured. Occupied by the Japanese in 1941, Siam declared war on the US and Britain, while the monarchy secretly backed anti-Japanese actions on the part of the resistance. During the Vietnam War, Thailand was an important staging area for the US military. Attractive to investors and tourists alike, Thailand had been doing well economically until a decline in 1996 (brought about by the actions of a military-dominated government).