Learn more about Thailand
Ratcha Anachak Thai
Kingdom of Thailand
| Anthem: Phleng Chat|
Royal anthem: Phleng Sansoen Phra Barami
(and largest city)
| Bangkok |
|Government||Military junta under constitutional monarchy|
|- King||HM The King Bhumibol Adulyadej|
|- Prime Minister||Surayud Chulanont|
|- President of the Council of National Security||General Sonthi Boonyaratglin|
|Independence||from Khmer Empire|
|- Sukhothai kingdom||1238–1368|
|- Ayutthaya kingdom||1350–1767|
|- Thonburi kingdom||1767 to April 7 1782|
|- Ratanakosin kingdom||April 7 1782 to date|
|- Total|| 514,000 km² (49th)|
198,000 sq mi
|- Water (%)||0.4|
|- July 2005 estimate||65,444,3711 (19th)|
|- 2000 census||60,916,441|
|- Density|| 126/km² (80th2)|
|GDP (PPP)||2005 estimate|
|- Total||$560.7 billion (21st)|
|- Per capita||$8,300 (69th)|
|HDI (2004)||0.784 (medium) (74rd)|
|Currency|| Baht (฿) (|
|- Summer (DST)||(UTC+7)|
| 1 Estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.|
2 Based on July 2005 figures.
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. The country's official name was Siam (Thai: สยาม; IPA: [saˈjaːm], RTGS: Sayam), until 1939. The word Thai (ไทย) means "freedom" in the Thai language and is also the name of the majority ethnic group.
According to archeological evidence various indigenous cultures have existed in Thailand from the time of the Ban Chiang culture (4420 BC-3400 BC) onwards, but due to its geographical location, Thai culture has always been greatly influenced by China and India. .
A century later, Sukhothai's power was overshadowed by the larger Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya, established in the mid-14th century. After Ayutthaya sacked Angkor itself in 1431, much of the Khmer court and its Hindu customs were brought to Ayuthaya, and Khmer customs and rituals were adopted into the courtly culture of Siam.
After Ayuthaya fell in 1767, Thonburi was the capital of Thailand for a brief period under King Taksin the Great, until a coup d'etat in 1782. The current (Ratthanakosin) era of Thai history began in 1782 following the establishment of Bangkok as capital of the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I the Great.
Contact with various European powers began in the 16th century. Despite continued pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. There are two main reasons for this. First, Thailand had a series of very able rulers in the 1800s. Secondly, it was able to utilise the rivalry and tension between the French and the British and thus remained as a buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia that were colonised by the two colonial powers. Yet Western influence, including the threat of force, led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions to British trading interests. This included the loss of the three southern provinces, which later became Malaysia's three northern states.
A mostly bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. Previously named Siam, the country changed its name from to Thailand in 1939, back to Siam after World War II, and again to Thailand in 1949. During the war, it was loosely allied with Japan; after the war, it became an ally of the United States. Thailand then saw a series of military coups d'état, but progressed towards democracy since the 1980s.
In 1997, Thailand was hit with the Asian financial crisis and the Thai baht was soon worth 56 baht to the US Dollar compared to about 25 baht to the dollar before 1997. Since then the baht has regained some strength and currently trades around 36-38 baht to the dollar.
The official calendar in Thailand is based on Eastern version of the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian (western) calendar. For example, the year AD 2006 is called 2549 BE in Thailand.
Until the coup on 19 September, 2006 (see below), Thailand was a constitutional monarchy. The King is extremely well respected and revered and it is illegal to insult the Royal Family. The Thai King recently celebrated 60 years on the throne and millions of Thai citizens commemorated the event and showed their reverence by donning yellow t-shirts and/or by wearing yellow wrist bands - the official royal colour. The government is now a military junta headed by Sonthi Boonyaratglin (RTGS: Sonthi Bunyaratkalin). On 1 October 2006, the junta named Surayud Chulanont (RTGS: Surayut Chulanon) as the prime minister of the interim government.
 September 2006 coup d'état
On September 19, 2006, the Royal Thai Army led by Army Commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin seized control of key government buildings and television stations in Bangkok. At the time, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (RTGS: Thaksin Chinawat) was in New York for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. At least 50 soldiers entered the Government House building. Television stations were ordered to broadcast music written by King Bhumibol Adulyadej (RTGS: Phumiphon Adunyadet) and displayed images of the royal family. Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in an effort to counter-act the coup, declared from New York that Bangkok was in a "severe state of emergency", and vowed to return to the country as soon as possible. He also removed the Army Commander from his position, and ordered military forces not to "move illegally." <ref>News from BBC: 'Coup' sparks Thailand emergency</ref>. His broadcast was abruptly shut off.
Later, the Thai armed forces and police force declared the creation of the Council for Democratic Reform of the Constitutional Monarchy, and announced that it had taken control of Bangkok. The military declared martial law, abrogated the Thai Constitution, and suspended Parliament. Meanwhile, Army forces took strategic positions around the capital, occupying key intersections. Additionally, all unauthorized military movements were banned, and all soldiers were ordered to report to their duty stations. Military forces wore yellow ribbons, both on their uniforms and weapons, to identify themselves and communicate loyalty to the King. The CDRM has since revised its English name to avoid the appearance that the coup was sanctioned by the King. It is now known as the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR).
While reactions in Bangkok generally supported the results of the coup if not the methods, no one knew how people reacted outside of Bangkok because of the tight media restrictions, although it is generally accepted that people in rural areas oppose the coup. A complete ban on political activities and political gatherings of more than 5 people was ordered, under penalty of up to 6 months in prison. Several protestors were arrested. In addition the media was banned from expressing any opinion that is contrary to or critical of the new junta, shut down hundreds of community radio stations, and shut down at least one website.
The EU, the USA, and many other nations initially condemned the coup as unnecessary and contrary to democracy, but have resisted calling for the immediate restoration of the elected government. Human Rights groups also expressed concerns regarding the right to free speech, and the right to protest and engage in political activities, all of which were curtailed by the military coup leaders.
The coup had very little impact on every day life in the country.
- Main articles on politics and government of Thailand can be found at the Politics and government of Thailand series.
The king has little direct power under the constitution but is the anointed protector of Buddhism in Thailand 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. It is illegal to mock or criticize the King and doing so can bring about charges of lèse majesté.
The head of government is the Prime Minister, and 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 Prime Minister usually appoints a Cabinet.
The parliament is called the National Assembly (รัฐสภา, rathasapha) and is bicameral: it 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 the first-past-the-post system, where only one candidate with a simple majority will be elected in one constituency. The Senate is elected based on the province system, where one province can return more than one Senator depending on its population size. Members of House of Representatives serve four-year terms, while Senators serve six-year terms. The court system (ศาล, saan) has three layers, the highest judiciary body being the Supreme Court (ศาลฎีกา, sandika).
Thailand is an active member of the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
 Administrative divisions
Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (จังหวัด, changwat), which are gathered into 5 groups of provinces by location. There are also 2 special governed districts: the capital Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon in Thai) and Pattaya, of which Bangkok is also at a provincial level, while Pattaya is part of Chon Buri Province. Some Thai people still count Bangkok as a province, making Thailand a 76-province country.
Each province is divided into smaller districts. As of 2000 there are 796 districts (อำเภอ, amphoe), 81 minor districts (กิ่งอำเภอ, king amphoe) and the 50 districts of Bangkok (เขต, khet). Some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are also referred to as Greater Bangkok (ปริมณฑล, pari monthon). These provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon. The name of each province's capital city (เมือง, mueang) is the same as that of the province: for example, the capital of Chiang Mai province (changwat Chiang Mai) is Mueang Chiang Mai. The 75 provinces are as follows:
- Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nakhon Sawan, Nan, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sukhothai, Tak, Uthai Thani, Uttaradit
- 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, Sisaket, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Yasothon.
- Ang Thong, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Chachoengsao, 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
- Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang Nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang, Yala
 Special Governed Districts
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 Doi Inthanon at 2,576 metres (8,451 ft). 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, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani, Phuket and Hat Yai (Songkhla Province).
See also: List of islands of Thailand
After enjoying the world's highest growth rate from 1985 to 1995 - averaging almost 9% annually - increased 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 collapse prompted a wider Asian financial crisis.
Thailand entered a recovery stage in 1998, expanding 4.2% and grew 4.4% in 2000, largely due to strong exports - which increased about 20% in 2000. Growth was dampened by a softening of the global economy in 2001, but picked up in the subsequent years due to strong growth in China and the various domestic stimulation programs of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, popularly known as Thaksinomics. Growth in 2003 and 2004 was over 6% annually.<ref name=CIA_Thailand>CIA world factbook - Thailand</ref>
Thailand exports over $105 billion worth of products annually <ref name=CIA_Thailand></ref>. Major exports include rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewelry, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world’s no.1 exporter of rice, exporting 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually. Rice is the most important crop in the country. Thailand has the highest percent of arable land, 27.25%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion <ref>CIA world factbook - Greater Mekong Subregion</ref>. About 55% of the arable land area is used for rice production <ref name=IRRI_Thailand>IRRI country profile</ref>.
Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer parts and automobiles, while tourism contributes about 5% of the Thai economy's GDP. Long stay foreign residents also contribute heavily to GDP.
Thailand's population is dominated by various Tai-speaking peoples. Among these, the most numerous are the Central Thai, the Northeastern Thai or Isan or Lao, the Northern Thai, and the Southern Thai. The Central Thai have long dominated the nation politically, economically, and culturally, even though they make up only about one-third of Thailand's population and are slightly outnumbered by the Northeastern Thai. Due to education system and the forging of a national identity, many people are now able to speak Central Thai as well as their own local languages.
The largest group of non-Tai people are the Chinese who have historically played a disproportionately significant role in the economy. Most have integrated completely into mainstream Thai society, and do not live in Bangkok's Chinatown on Yaowarat Road. Other ethnic groups include Malays in the south, Mon, Khmer and various hill tribes. After the end of the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese refugees settled in Thailand, mainly in the northeastern regions.
According to the last census (2000) 94.6% of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims are the second largest religious group in Thailand at 4.6%. Some provinces and towns south of Chumphon have dominant Muslim populations, including many ethnic Thai.[verification needed] Often Muslims live in separate communities from non-Muslims. The southern tip of Thailand are mostly 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 Mon-Khmer languages. Although English is widely taught in schools, proficiency is low.
Theravada Buddhism is central to modern Thai identity and belief. However, in areas in the southernmost parts of Thailand, Islam is prevalent. Several different ethnic groups, many of which are marginalized, populate Thailand. Some of these groups overlap into Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia and have maintained a distinctly traditional way-of-life despite strong Thai cultural influence. Ethnic Chinese also form a significant part of Thai society, particularly in and around Bangkok. Their successful integration into Thai society has allowed for this group to hold positions of economic and political power, the most noteworthy of these being the Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who held power from 2001 until September 19, 2006 when he was ousted by a military coup d'état.
Respect of ancestors is a large part of Thai spiritual practice, as well as charity towards Buddhist monks. Thais have a very strong sense of graciousness and hospitality, but also a strong sense of social hierarchy. Honorifics are important in day-to-day Thai speech, especially titles of seniority.
Seniority is a important concept in Thai culture. Thais respect the elderly so much that some natives wai or krab (bow) to the feet of their parents and grandparents. They honor the eldest first, and the elderly take precedence in all family decisions and any sort of ceremony.
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. Although similar martial art styles exist in other southeast Asian countries, few enjoy the recognition that Muay Thai has received with its full-contact rules allowing strikes including elbows, throws and knees. Association football, however, has possibly overtaken Muay Thai's position as most widely viewed and liked sport in contemporary Thai society and it is not uncommon to see Thais cheering their favourite English Premier League teams on television and walking round in replica kits. Another widely enjoyed pastime, while not a sport per se, is kite flying.
The standard greeting in Thailand is a prayer-like gesture called the wai (see namaste). Taboos include touching someone's head or pointing with the feet, as the head is considered the most sacred and the foot the dirtiest part of the body. Stepping over someone, or over food, is considered insulting. However, Thai culture as in many other Asian cultures, is succumbing to the influence of westernization and some of the traditional taboos are slowly fading away with time. Books and other documents are the most revered of secular objects - therefore one should not slide a book across a table or place it on the floor.
Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty. Some common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic, chillies, lime juice, lemon grass, and fish sauce. The staple food in Thailand is rice, which is included in almost every meal. Thais consume over 100 kg of milled rice per person per year <ref name=IRRI_Thailand>IRRI country profile Thailand</ref>. Clearly, rice is an important part of Thai culture. Over 5000 varieties of rice from Thailand are preserved in the rice gene bank of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in the Philippines. The King of Thailand is the official patron of IRRI<ref>Cooperation of IRRI and Thailand</ref>.
Thai culture has been greatly shaped in recent years by its vibrant and free press. There are numerous English, Thai and Chinese papers in circulation and Thailand is the largest newspaper market in South East Asia with an estimated circulation of at least 13 million copies daily in 2003.
 See also</div>
- Famous Places in Thailand:
- September 2006 Thailand coup
- Constitution of Thailand
- Cinema of Thailand
- Communications in Thailand
- Cuisine of Thailand
- Education in Thailand
- Historical parks of Thailand
- Foreign relations of Thailand
- Football in Thailand
- List of Thailand-related topics
- Media in Thailand
- Military of Thailand
- National parks (Thailand)
- The National Scout Organization of Thailand
- List of shopping malls in Thailand
- Public holidays in Thailand
- Transportation in Thailand
- Buddhist temples in Thailand
- Medical tourism in Thailand
- Prostitution in Thailand
- South Thailand insurgency
- Thai Gem Scam
- Stock Exchange of Thailand
- Survivor: Thailand, the 5th season to the CBS reality TV series.
 Neighbouring countries
 External links
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Image:Wikiversity-logo-Snorky.svg Learning resources from Wikiversity
- Thaigov.go.th Royal Government of Thailand
- Tourism Authority of Thailand Official tourism website
- Thai National Assembly Official Thai Parliament website
- Mfa.go.th Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Thailand Internet Information Thailand : National Electronics and Computer Technology Center