Thailand

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 means "free" in the Thai language. It is also the name of the Thai people - leading some inhabitants, particularly the sizeable Chinese minority, to still use the name Siam.

ราชอาณาจักรไทย
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official language Thai
Capital Bangkok
King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Prime ministerThaksin Shinawatra
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 49th
514,000 km²
0.4%
Population
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 19th
62,354,402
121/km²
Establishment 1238
Currency Baht
Time zone UTC +7
National anthem Phleng Chat
Internet TLD.TH
Calling Code66

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External Links

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 led to many reforms in the 19th century.

A 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 coup d'états, but progressed towards democracy from the 1980s onward.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Thailand

The king has little direct power under the constitution but is a symbol of national identity and unity and 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 after having been designated 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 or Rathasapha, which consists of a House of Representatives (the Sapha Phuthaen Ratsadon) of 500 seats and a senate (the Wuthisapha) of 200 seats. Members of both houses are elected by popular vote. Members of House of Representatives serve four-year terms. Members of Senate serve six-year terms. The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court or Sandika, whose judges are appointed by the monarch. Thailand is an active member of the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Provinces

Main article: Provinces of Thailand

Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (changwat, singular and plural), which are grouped into 5 groups of provinces. The name of a province is derived from its capital city.

North East South

North-East

Central

Provinces are further subdivided into 642 districts (Amphoe) and 78 sub-districts (King Amphoe), and furthermore into 7,236 communes (Tambon), 55,746 villages (Muban), 123 municipalities (Tesaban), and 729 sanitation districts (Sukhaphiban) (numbers are for 1984).

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, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, and Songkhla.

See also: List of islands of Thailand

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. An ailing financial sector and the slow pace of corporate debt restructuring, combined with a softening of global demand, however, slowed growth in 2001 to 1.4%.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Thailand

Thailand's population is dominated by ethnic Thais who make up three quarters of the population. There is also a large community of ethnic Chinese, who have historically played a disproportionately significant role in the economy. Other ethnic groups include Malays in the south and various indigenous hill tribes.

The majority of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition, but small minorities of Muslims, Christians and Hindus also exist. The Thai language is Thailand's national language, written in its own Thai alphabet, but many ethnic and regional dialects exist and English is commonly taught in schools.

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 last decade.

A notable social norm holds that touching someone on the head may be considered rude. It is also considered rude to place one's feet at a level above someone else's head, especially if that person is of higher social standing.

Thai cuisine is famous for the blending of four fundamental tastes:

  • sweet (sugar, fruits, sweet peppers)
  • spicy hot (chilies)
  • sour (vinegar, lime juice, tamarind)
  • salty (soy sauce, fish sauce)

Most of the dishes in Thai cuisine try to combine most, if not all, of these tastes. It is accomplished by using a host of herbs, spices and fruit, including: chili, cumin, garlic, ginger, basil, lime, lemongrass, coriander, pepper, turmeric and shallots.

Holidays
DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
January 1New Year's DayWan Khun Pee Mai 
February Mahka BuchaBased on thai lunar calendar
April 6Chakri Day Commemorates King Rama I, founder of the Chakri dynasty
April 13-April 15Thai New YearSongkran 
May Vaisakh BuchaBased on thai lunar calendar
MayRoyal Ploughing Ceremony Government only
May 1Labour Day Bank holiday only
May 5Coronation Day Commemorates coronation of the current king Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1950
July Asarnha BuchaBased on Thai lunar calendar, government only
JulyBuddhist LentKhao PhansaBased on Thai lunar calendar
July 1Mid Year Day Bank holiday only
August 12Mothers Day Commemorates birthday of the current queen
October 23Chulalongkorn DayWan PiyamaharatCommemorates King Chulalongkorn (Rama V)... the anniversary of his death
December 5Fathers Day Commemorates birthday of the current king Bhumibol Adulyadej
December 10Constitution Day Commemorates the change to constitutional monarchy in 1932
December 31New Year's Eve  

Miscellaneous topics

External Links


Countries of the world  |  Asia

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