EVERY day at dusk, loyal workers pay homage to the memory of the man credited with putting Thai silk on the world market. The workers set the dinner table at Jim Thompson's House Museum in Bangkok with the faint hope the American entrepreneur will return. So far, their faith has not been rewarded, but they refuse to give up hope. Jim Thompson came to Thailand at the end of the World War II and revitalised the silk industry, taking the unique home-grown art and making it a worldwide business. He failed to return from an expedition into the Malaysian jungle in 1967, but his workers cling to the faint hope he is still alive. His efforts built for Thailand a multi-million-dollar silk industry by transforming out-dated practices. So successful was he in marketing silk to world centres such as Paris and New York, that many in the West believed he had founded the art of Thai silk weaving. This, of course, was an erroneous impression. The Thais had been weaving silk for centuries, particularly in the northeast where mulberry trees grow in abundance. The traditional wardrobe of every aristocratic Thai included many silk garments, rich with intricate gold embroidery. The common man also had silk in his wardrobe, although this was only for ceremonial use and other special occasions. That Jim Thompson is synonymous with Thai silk is due mainly to the fact that the industry had gone into a long decline from the latter part of the 19th century when cheaper, factory-produced silks from China and Japan began to flood the market. An attempt to improve production was made, with Japanese experts employed and the Department of Sericulture being established, but it was an effort which enjoyed limited success. By the time Thompson arrived in Thailand the material was being woven in only a few places. His contribution was to improve production techniques and make the silk known to the international markets. Thailand has a vast number of silk factories, most of them in or around Bangkok, but the weaving remains basically a cottage industry, with thousands of households deriving all or part of their income from it. The northeast is still the main centre of production, although the industry has spread throughout the country. Besides plain and printed silks of various weights, a number of special weaves have become celebrated. One of these is called ''mudmee'', which is a specialty of the northeast and now widely used as a result of encouragement from Queen Sirikit. Mudmee is produced by a tie-dye process: the silk thread is wound around two poles (called luck mee ) whose various lengths equal the width of the cloth, after which it is tied (mud ) at various places according to the design. The thread is then dyed and spun on a shuttle, producing a handsome textile with subtle designs that often depict stylised flowers and animals.