The Kingdom of Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia, bordering Laos and Cambodia to the east, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia to the south, and the Andaman Sea and Myanmar to the west. Thailand is also known as Siam , which was the country's official name until May 11 , 1949. The word Thai (ไทย) means "freedom" in the Thai language. It is also the name of the Thai people - leading some inhabitants, particularly the sizeable Chinese minority, to continue to use the name Siam .

ราชอาณาจักรไทย
Racha-anachakra Thai
Kingdom of Thailand

Capital Bangkok
Language

Thai
English (as a foreign language), ethnic and regional dialects

Government
King
Prime Minister
Constitutional monarchy
Bhumibol Adulyadej
Thaksin Shinawatra
Area
  • Total
  • Water (%)

514,000 km²  ( 49th )
0.4%
Population
  • 2005 est.

65,444,371 ( 19th )

Currency ฿ Bath (THB)
Religions Buddhism 95%, Muslim 3.8%, Christianity 0.5%, Hinduism 0.1%, other 0.6% (1991)
Administrative divisions 76 provinces

Independence

1238 (traditional founding date; never colonised)

National holiday

Birthday of His Majesty the King, 5 December (1927)
Time zone
  • Summer ( DST )
( UTC +7)
( UTC +7)

 

History


Main article: History of Thailand

Thailand's origin is traditionally tied to the short-lived kingdom of Sukhothai founded in 1238, after which the larger kingdom of Ayutthaya was established in the mid- 14th century. Thai culture was greatly influenced by both China and India. Contact with various European powers began in the 16th century but, despite continued pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power, though Western influence, including the threat of force, led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions to British mercantile interests (as such many historians include Thailand in the "informal British Empire").

A mostly bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. Known previously as Siam, the country first changed its name to Thailand in 1939, and definitively in 1949 after reverting to the old name post - World War II. During that conflict Thailand was in a loose alliance with Japan; following its conclusion Thailand became an ally of the United States. Thailand then saw a series of military coups d'état, but progressed towards democracy from the 1980s onward.

The official calendar in Thailand is based on the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the western calendar. For example, the year AD 2000 is equal to the year 2543 BE.

On 26 December 2004 the west coast of Thailand was devastated by a 10 metre high tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, claiming more than 5,000 casualties in Thailand, half of them tourists.

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Politics


Main article: Politics of Thailand

The king has little direct power under the constitution but is the anointed protector of Thai Buddhism and a symbol of national identity and unity. The present monarch enjoys a great deal of popular respect and moral authority, which has on occasion been used to resolve political crises. The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the king from among the members of the lower house of parliament, usually the leader of the party that can organise a majority coalition government.

The bicameral Thai parliament is the National Assembly (รัฐสภา, rathasapha) which consists of a House of Representatives (สภาผู้แทนราษฎร, sapha phuthaen ratsadon) of 500 seats and a Senate (วุฒิสภา, wuthisapha) of 200 seats. Members of both houses are elected by popular vote. The House of Representatives is elected by electoral district (one each), the Senate is elected by province. Members of House of Representatives serve four-year terms, while Senators serve six-year terms. The law court system (ศาล, san) has three layers, the highest judicial body being the Supreme Court (ศาลฎีกา, sandika) whose judges are directly appointed by the monarch. Thailand is an active member of the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations .

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Provinces


Main article: Provinces of Thailand

Thailand is divided into 75 provinces (จังหวัด, changwat), which are grouped into 5 groups of provinces and Bangkok as capital city. Each province is divided into smaller districts - as of 2000 there are 795 districts (อำเภอ, amphoe), 81 sub-districts (กิ่งอำเภอ, king amphoe) and 50 districts of Bangkok (เขต, khet). However, some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are referred to as Greater Bangkok (ปริมณฑล, pari monthon). These Provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon. The name of each capital city (เมือง, mueang) is the same as that of the province: for example, the capital of Chiang Mai province ( changwat Chiang Mai ) is amphoe mueang Chiang Mai . The 75 provinces are as follows:

North

Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nakhon Sawan, Nan, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sukhothai, Tak, Uthai Thani, Uttaradit

Northeast

Amnat Charoen, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Loei, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nong Bua Lamphu, Nong Khai, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Si Sa Ket, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Yasothon

East

Chachoengsao, Chanthaburi, Chon Buri, Prachin Buri, Rayong, Sa Kaeo, Trat

Central

Ang Thong, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon), Chai Nat, Kanchanaburi, Lop Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Saraburi, Sing Buri, Suphan Buri

South

Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang Nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang, Yala

See also: List of cities in Thailand

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Geography


Main article: Geography of Thailand

Thailand is home to several distinct geographic regions, partly corresponding to the provincial groups. The north of the country is mountainous, with the highest point being the Doi Inthanon at 2,576 m. The northeast consists of the Khorat Plateau, bordered to the east by the Mekong river. The centre of the country is dominated by the predominantly flat Chao Phraya river valley, which runs into the Gulf of Thailand. The south consists of the narrow Kra Isthmus that widens into the Malay Peninsula.

The local climate is tropical and characterised by monsoons. There is a rainy, warm, and cloudy southwest monsoon from mid-May to September, as well as a dry, cool northeast monsoon from November to mid-March. The southern isthmus is always hot and humid. Major cities beside the capital Bangkok include Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Thani, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani, Phuket and Hat Yai (Songkhla).

See also: List of islands of Thailand

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Economy


Main article: Economy of Thailand

After enjoying the world's highest growth rate from 1985 to 1995 - averaging almost 9% annually - increased speculative pressure on Thailand's currency, the baht, in 1997 led to a crisis that uncovered financial sector weaknesses and forced the government to float the currency. Long pegged at 25 to the US dollar, the baht reached its lowest point of 56 to the US dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted by 10.2% that same year. The crisis spread to the Asian financial crisis.

Thailand entered a recovery stage in 1999, expanding 4.2% and grew 4.4% in 2000, largely due to strong exports - which increased about 20% in 2000. Growth was damped by softening of global economy in 2001, but picking up in the subsequent years due to strong growth in China and various domestic stimulation programs promoted by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, popularly known as Thaksinomics. Growth in 2003 is estimated to be around 6.3%, and projected at 8% and 10% in 2004 and 2005.

Tourism contributes significantly to the Thai economy, and the industry has benefited from the Thai baht's depreciation and Thailand's stability. Tourist arrivals in 2002 (10.9 million) reflected a 7.3% increase from the previous year (10.1 million).

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Demographics


Main article: Demographics of Thailand

Thailand's population is dominated by ethnic Thai and Lao, the latter concentrated in the northeastern Isan region and making up around one third of the population. There is also a large community of Thai Chinese, who have historically played a disproportionately significant role in the economy. Bangkok's Chinatown is located on Yaowarat Road. Other ethnic groups include Malays in the south, Mon, Khmer and various indigenous hill tribes.

According to the last census (2000) 94.6% of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims are the second religious group in Thailand at 4.6%. Most of them are ethnic Malays and they are mostly concentrated in the south, where they form a strong majority in four provinces. Christians, mainly Catholics, represent 0.75% of the population. A tiny but influential community of Sikhs and some Hindus also live in the country's cities. The Thai language is Thailand's national language, written in its own alphabet, but many ethnic and regional dialects exist as well as areas where people speak predominantly Isan or Khmer. Although English is widely taught in schools, proficiency is low.

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Culture


Main article: Culture of Thailand

Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand and its native martial art. It reached popularity all over the world in the 1990s. Similar martial art styles exist in other southeast Asian countries.

The standard greeting in Thailand is a prayer-like gesture called the wai. Taboos include touching someone's head or pointing with the feet, as the head is considered the highest and the foot the lowest part of the body. Stepping over someone, or over food, is considered insulting. Books and other documents are considered the most revered of secular objects - therefore one should not slide a book across a table or place it on the floor.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the King is extremely respected and revered. It is illegal to insult the Royal Family.

Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty.

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Miscellaneous topics


Source


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