Ramkhamhaeng (c. 1239 – 1317, aka. Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng; พ่อขุนรามคำแหงมหาราช) was the third king of the Phra Ruang dynasty, ruling the Sukhothai kingdom (a forerunner of the modern kingdom of Thailand) from 1277 to 1317, during its most prosperous era. He is credited with the creation of the Thai alphabet and the firm establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the state religion of the kingdom.
At the age of 19 he participated in his father's successful invasion of the city of Sukhothai, freeing it from Khmer rule and essentially establishing the independent Sukhothai kingdom. Because of his conduct at war, he was given the title "Phra Ramkhamhaeng", or Rama the Bold. After his father's death his elder brother Ban Muang ruled the kingdom and gave Prince Ramkhamhaeng control of the city of Si Sat Chanalai. On his accession, therefore, Prince Ramkhamhaeng had an established reputation for leadership.
Ramkhamhaeng formed an alliance with the Yuan Dynasty of China, from whom he imported the techniques for making ceramics now known as Sawankhalok ware. A story describes his seduction of the wife of King Ngam Muang, the ruler of neighbouring Phayao - an event which may have helped him to form his three-way alliance with Ngam Mueang and with King Mengrai of Chiang Mai, both of whose kingdoms were to the north of Sukhothai. Ramkhamhaeng expanded his kingdom as far as Lampang, Phrae and Nan in the north, Phitsanulok and Vientiane in the east, Mon in the west, as far as the Gulf of Bengal in the northwest and Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south.
Ramkhamhaeng is traditionally credited with developing the Thai alphabet (Lai Sue Thai) from Sanskrit, Pali and Grantha script. He wanted Thai to be free of Mon and Khmer influence. He is also still respected as the king who introduced the style of benevolent monarchy that remains today.
He was succeeded by his son Pho Khun Loethai.
Ramkhamhaeng University, the first open university and well-recognised as the most prestigious university in Thailand with campuses throughout the country and in some certain countries, has been named in fond memory of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great for his numerous contributions to the Kingdom of Thailand.
This stone was allegedly discovered in 1833 by King Mongkut (then still a monk) in the Wat Mahathat. It should be noted that the authenticity of the stone -- or at least portions of it -- has been brought into question. Piriya Krairiksh, an academic at the Thai Khadi Research institute, notes that the stele's treatment of vowels suggests that its creators had been influenced by European alphabet systems; thus, he concludes that the stele was fabricated by someone during the reign of Rama IV himself, or shortly before. The matter is very controversial, since if the stone is in fact a fabrication, the entire history of the period will have to be re-written.
Scholars are still divided over the issue about the stele's authenticity. It remains an anomaly amongst contemporary writings, and in fact no other source refers to King Ramkhamhaeng by name. Some authors claim the inscription was completely a 19th-century fabrication, some claim that the first 17 lines are genuine, some that the inscription was fabricated by King Lithai (a later Sukhothai king), and some scholars still hold to the idea of the inscription's authenticity. The inscription and its image of a Sukhothai utopia remains central to Thai nationalism, and the suggestion that it may have been faked in the 1800s caused Michael Wright, a British scholar, to be threatened with deportation under Thailand's lese majeste laws .