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The Kingdom of Thailand ( ; Ratcha Anachak Thai, ) is an independent country that lies in the heart of Southeast Asia.

It is bordered to the north by Laosmarker and Myanmarmarker, to the east by Laosmarker and Cambodiamarker, to the south by the Gulf of Thailandmarker and Malaysiamarker, and to the west by the Andaman Seamarker and Myanmar. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnammarker in the Gulf of Thailandmarker to the southeast and Indonesiamarker and Indiamarker in the Andaman Seamarker to the southwest. The capital and largest city of Thailand is Bangkokmarker. It is also the country's center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities.

Thailand is the world's 50th largest country in terms of total area (slightly smaller than Yemenmarker and slightly larger than Spainmarker), with a surface area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), and the 21st most-populous country, with approximately 64 million people. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thai, 14% is of Chinese origin, and 3% is ethnically Malay; the rest belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers and various hill tribes. There are approximately 2.2 million legal and illegal migrants in Thailand. Thailand has also attracted a small number of expatriates from developed countries. The country's official language is Thai.

Thailand is one of the most devoutly Buddhist countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism which is practiced by more than 94.7% of all Thais. Muslims make up 4.6% of the population and 0.7% belong to other religions. Culture and traditions in Thailand are significantly influenced by Indiamarker, as are Burmamarker, Laosmarker and Cambodiamarker.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, as the ruling monarch. The king has reigned for more than sixty-three years, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch and the longest reigning current monarch in the world. The king is officially titled as the Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, an Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and the Defender of all faiths.

Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1995 and today is a newly industrialized country with an emphasis on exports and a flourishing tourism industry, thanks to various world-famous tourist destinations such as Pattayamarker, Bangkokmarker, and Phuketmarker.

Etymology

The Country's official name was Siam ( , ) until June 23, 1939, when it was changed to Thailand. It was renamed Siam from 1945 to May 11, 1949, after which it was again renamed Thailand. Also spelled Siem, Syâm or Syâma, it has been identified with the Sanskrit Śyâma (श्याम, meaning "dark" or "brown"). The names Shan and A-hom seem to be variants of the same word, and Śyâma is possibly not its origin but a learned and artificial distortion.

The word Thai (ไทย) is not, as commonly believed, derived from the word Tai (ไท) meaning "freedom" in the Thai language; it is, however, the name of an ethnic group from the central plains (the Thai people). A famous Thai scholar argued that Tai (ไท) simply means "people" or "human being" since his investigation shows that in some rural areas the word "Tai" was used instead of the usual Thai word "khon" (คน) for people. The phrase "Land of the free" is derived from Thai pride in the fact that Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never colonized by a European power.

The Thai National Anthem ( ) refers to the Thai nation as: prathet-thai (Thai: ประเทศไทย). The first line of the national anthem is: prathet thai ruam lueat neua chat chuea thai (Thai: ประเทศไทยรวมเลือดเนื้อชาติเชื้อไทย) and was translated in 1939 by Colonel Luang Saranuprabhandi as: “Thailand is the unity of Thai blood and body.”

While the Thai people will often refer to their country using the polite form prathet-thai (Thai: ประเทศไทย), they most commonly use the more colloquial word 'Mueang-Thai' (Thai: เมืองไทย) or simply Thai (Thai:ไทย); the word mueang (Thai: เมือง) meaning nation but most commonly used to refer to a city or town.

Ratcha Anachak Thai ( ) means "Kingdom of Thailand" or "Kingdom of Thai". Etymologically, its components are: -Ratcha- (from Sanskrit raja, meaning "king, royal, realm") ; -ana- (from Pāli , "authority, command, power", itself from Sanskrit , same meaning) -chak (from Sanskrit cakra or cakraṃ meaning "wheel", a symbol of power and rule).

History

The region known as Thailand has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic period, about 10,000 years ago. Before the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 13th century, various states thrived there, such as the various Tai, Mon, Khmer and Malay kingdoms, as seen through the numerous archaeological sites and artifacts that are scattered throughout the Siamese landscape. Prior to the 12th century however, the first Thai or Siamese state is traditionally considered to be the Buddhist kingdom of Sukhothai, which was founded in 1238.

Following the decline and fall of the Khmer empire in the 13th–14th century, the Buddhist Tai kingdoms of Sukhothai, Lanna and Lan Chang were on the ascension. However, a century later, Sukhothai's power was overshadowed by the new kingdom of Ayutthaya, established in the mid-14th century in the lower Chao Phraya River, or Menam area. Ayutthaya's expansion centered along the Menam while in the northern valley Lanna Kingdom and other small Tai city-states ruled the area.

Thailand retained a tradition of trade with its neighboring states, from China to India, Persia and Arab lands. Ayutthaya became one of the most vibrant trading centers in Asia. European traders arrived in the 16th century, beginning with the Portuguese, followed by the French, Dutch and English.

After the fall of the Ayutthaya in 1767 to the Burmesemarker, King Taksin the Great moved the capital of Thailand to Thonburimarker for approximately 15 years. The current Rattanakosin era of Thai history began in 1782, following the establishment of Bangkokmarker as capital of the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I the Great. A quarter to a third of the population of some areas of Thailand were slaves.

Despite European pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation that has never been colonized. Two main reasons for this were that Thailand had a long succession of very able rulers in the 19th century, and that it was able to exploit the rivalry and tension between the French and the British. As a result, the country remained a buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia that were colonized by the two colonial powers.
this, Western influence led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions, most notably being the loss of a large territory on the east side of the Mekong to the French and the step-by-step absorption by Britain of the Shan (Thai Yai) States (now in Burmamarker) and the Malay Peninsula. The losses initially included Penang and Tumasik and eventually culminated in the loss of four predominantly ethnic-Malay southern provinces, which later became Malaysiamarker's four northern states, under the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909.

In 1932, a bloodless revolution carried out by a small group of military and civilian officials resulted in a transition of power, when King Prajadhipok was forced to grant the people of Siam their first constitution, thereby ending centuries of absolutist monarchy.

During World War II, the Empire of Japanmarker demanded the right to move troops across Thailand to the Malayan frontier. Japan invaded the country and engaged the Thai army for six to eight hours before Plaek Pibulsonggram ordered an armistice. Shortly thereafter Japan was granted free passage, and on December 21, 1941, Thailand and Japan signed a military alliance with a secret protocol wherein Tokyo agreed to help Thailand regain territories lost to the British and French. Subsequently, Thailand undertook to 'assist' Japan in its war against the Allies, while at the same time maintaining an active anti-Japanese resistance movement known as the Seri Thai.
the war, Thailand emerged as an ally of the United Statesmarker. As with many of the developing nations during the Cold War, Thailand then went through decades of political instability characterised by coups d'état as one military regime replaced another, but eventually progressed towards a stable prosperity and democracy in the 1980s.

In 1997, Thailand was hit by the Asian financial crisis, and the Thai baht for a short time peaked at 56 baht to the US dollar compared to about 25 baht to the dollar before 1997. Since then, the baht has regained most of its strength and as of August 2009 is valued at 34.01 baht to the US dollar.

The official calendar in Thailand is based on the Eastern version of the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar. For example, the year AD 2009 is 2552 BE in Thailand.

Southern Violence

Malay Peninsula was once known as Tanah Melayu (Malay Land). It extends from Singapore to the Isthmus of Kramarker bordering Burma, Thailand and Malay Land. Phuket is Bukit (hill) in Malay, "Satun" is "Setol" (a tropical fruit) was the Province of "Kedah" under the Malay Sultanate and Patani (Land of Farmers) was also part of the Malay Sultanate. In these areas people once spoke both English as well as Sam-sam, a local version of the Siamese language. The majority of residents were Muslims. Thailand pushed to dominate the peninsula as far as Malacca in the 1400s and held much of the peninsula for the next few centuries, including Tumasek (Singapore) some of the Andaman Islands and a colony on Java, but eventually failed when the British used force to guarantee their suzerainty over the sultanate.

All the states of the Malay Sultanate presented annual gifts to the Thai king in the form of a golden flower, which understood the gesture to be tribute and an acknowledgement of vassalage. The British intervened in the Malay State and with the Anglo-Siamese Treaty tried to build a railway from the south to Bangkok, Thailand relinquished sovereignty over what are now the northern Malay provinces of Kedah, Pelis, Kelantan and Terengganu to the British. Satun and Pattani provinces were given to Thailand.

The Malay peninsula provinces were infiltrated by the Japanese during World War II, and by the Malayan Communist Party (CPM) from 1942 to 2008, when they decided to sue for peace with the Malaysian and Thai governments after the CPM lost its support from Vietnam and China subsequent to the Cultural Revolution.

Recent insurgent uprisings may be a continuation of separatist fighting which started after World War II with Sukarno's support for the PULO, and the intensification since the U.S. initiation of the War on Terror may be related. Most victims since the uprisings have been Buddhist and Muslim bystanders.

Politics and government



History

Since the political reform of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has had 17 constitutions and charters. Throughout this time, the form of government has ranged from military dictatorship to electoral democracy, but all governments have acknowledged a hereditary monarch as the head of state.

1997 to 2006

The 1997 Constitution was the first constitution to be drafted by popularly elected Constitutional Drafting Assembly, and was popularly called the "People's Constitution".

The 1997 Constitution created a bicameral legislature consisting of a 500-seat House of Representatives (สภาผู้แทนราษฎร, sapha phutaen ratsadon) and a 200-seat Senate (วุฒิสภา, wuthisapha). For the first time in Thai history, both houses were directly elected. Many human rights are explicitly acknowledged, and measures were established to increase the stability of elected governments. The House was elected by the first-past-the-post system, where only one candidate with a simple majority could be elected in one constituency. The Senate was elected based on the province system, where one province can return more than one senator depending on its population size. Members of the House of Representatives served four-year terms, while senators served six-year terms. The 1997 People's Constitution also promoted human rights more than any other constitutions.
The court system (ศาล, saan) included a constitutional court with jurisdiction over the constitutionality of parliamentary acts, royal decrees, and political matters.

The January 2001 general election, the first election under the 1997 Constitution, was called the most open, corruption-free election in Thai history. The subsequent government was the first in Thai history to complete a 4-year term. The 2005 election had the highest voter turnout in Thai history.. Despite efforts to clean up the system, vote buying and electoral violence remained problems of electoral quality in 2005. The PollWatch Foundation, Thailand's most prominent election watchdog, declared that vote buying in this election, specifically in the North and the Northeast, was more serious than in the 2001 election. The organization also accused the government of violating the election law by abusing state power in presenting new projects in a bid to seek votes.

2006 coup d'état

Without meeting much resistance, a military junta overthrew the interim government of Thaksin Shinawatra on 19 September 2006. The junta abrogated the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court, detained and later removed several members of the government, declared martial law, and appointed one of the king's Privy Counselors, General Surayud Chulanont, as the Prime Minister. The junta later wrote a highly abbreviated interim constitution and appointed a panel to draft a permanent constitution. The junta also appointed a 250-member legislature, called by some critics a "chamber of generals" while others claimed that it lacks representatives from the poor majority. In this interim constitution draft, the head of the junta was allowed to remove the prime minister at any time. The legislature was not allowed to hold a vote of confidence against the cabinet and the public was not allowed to file comments on bills. This interim constitution was later surpassed by the permanent constitution on 24 August 2007.

Martial law was partially revoked in January 2007. The ban on political activities was lifted in July 2007, following the 30 May dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai party. The new constitution has been approved by a referendum on 19 August, which led to a return to democratic elections on 23 December 2007.

Political Crisis

200px-Police_"response"_to_PAD_Protest.jpg" style='width:200px' alt="" />
The People's Power Party , led by Samak Sundaravej formed a government with five smaller parties. Following several court rulings against him in a variety of scandals, and surviving a vote of no confidence, and protesters blockading government buildings and airports, in September 2008, Sundaravej was found guilty of conflict of interest by the Constitutional Court of Thailand (due to being a host in cooking TV program), and thus, ended his term in office. He was replaced by PPP member Somchai Wongsawat. As of October 2008, Wongsawat was unable to gain access to his offices, which were occupied by protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy. On December 2, 2008, Thailand's Constitutional Court found the ruling Peoples Power Party guilty of electoral fraud, which led to the dissolution of the party according to the law. After defections from smaller parties the opposition Democrats Party was able to form a government, a first for the party since 2001. The leader of the Democrat party, and former leader of the opposition, Abhisit Vejjajiva was appointed and sworn-in as the 27th Prime Minister, together with the new cabinet on 17 December 2008.

Thailand remains an active member of the regional Association of South-East Asian Nations.

Military



The Royal Thai Armed Forces ( is the name of the military of the Kingdom of Thailandmarker. It consists of the following branches:

Today the Royal Thai Armed Forces comprises about 1,025,640 personnel. The Head of the Thai Armed Forces (จอมทัพไทย: Chomthap Thai) is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), however this position is only nominal. The Armed Forces is managed by the Ministry of Defence of Thailand, which is headed by the Minister of Defence (a member of the Cabinet of Thailand) and commanded by the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, which in turn is headed by the Chief of Defence Forces of Thailand.

According to the Constitution of the Kingdom, serving in the Armed Forces is a duty of all Thai citizens. However only males over the age of 21, who have not gone through reserve training are subjected to a random draft. Those chosen randomly are subjected to twenty-four months fulltime service, while volunteers are subjected to eighteen months service, depending on their education.

The Royal Thai Armed Forces Day is celebrated on January 18th to commemorate the victory of King Naresuan the Great in battle against the Crown Prince of Burma in 1593.

Education

Primary school students in Thailand
Thailand enjoys a high level of literacy, and education is provided by a well-organized school system of kindergartens, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools, numerous vocational colleges, and universities. The private sector of education is well developed and significantly contributes to the overall provision of education which the government would not be able to meet through the public establishments.Education is compulsory up to and including grade 9, and the government provides free education through to grade 12.

Thailand has never been colonized, and its teaching relies heavily on rote rather than on student-centred methodology. Education in a modern sense is therefore relatively recent and still needs to overcome some major cultural hurdles to ensure further development and improvement to its standards.

The establishment of reliable and coherent curricula for its primary and secondary schools is subject to such rapid changes that schools and their teachers are not always sure what they are supposed to be teaching, and authors and publishers of textbooks are unable to write and print new editions quickly enough to keep up with the volatile situation.
issue concerning university entrance has therefore also been in constant upheaval for a number of years. Nevertheless, education has seen its greatest progress in the years since 2001. Most of the present generation of students are computer literate, and knowledge of English is on the increase at least in quantity if not in quality.

There has been concern in recent years regarding the low IQ scores of many Thai youth. A study in the Nation newspaper reported that the "Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health will (make) an effort to combat low intelligence, after it found the average IQ level among many youths was lower than 80." In 2006, the Vice Minister for Education Watchara Phanchet reported that "the average intelligence quotient (IQ) of Thai children, somewhere between 87 and 88 points, remains in the "low average" category when ranked internationally. Further, with the exception of the well-educated wealthy class, the level of English speaking remains quite low.

Administrative divisions

Thailand is divided into 75 provinces (จังหวัด, changwat), which are gathered into 5 groups of provinces by location. There are also 2 special governed districts: the capital Bangkokmarker (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) and Pattayamarker, of which Bangkok is at provincial level and thus often counted as a 76th province.

Each province is divided into districts and the districts are further divided into sub-districts (tambons). As of 2006 there are 877 districts (อำเภอ, amphoe) and the 50 districts of Bangkok (เขต, khet). Some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are also referred to as Greater Bangkokmarker (ปริมณฑล, pari monthon). These provinces include Nonthaburimarker, Pathum Thanimarker, Samut Prakanmarker, Nakhon Pathommarker and Samut Sakhonmarker. 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 or Chiang Mai. The 76 provinces are as follows:

Map of Thailand


Central

  1. Ang Thongmarker
  2. Bangkok marker, Special Governed District of
  3. Chai Natmarker
  4. Kanchanaburimarker
  5. Lopburimarker
  6. Nakhon Nayokmarker
  7. Nakhon Pathommarker
  8. Nonthaburimarker
  9. Pathum Thanimarker
  10. Phetchaburimarker
  11. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthayamarker
  12. Prachuap Khiri Khanmarker
  13. Ratchaburimarker
  14. Samut Prakanmarker
  15. Samut Sakhonmarker
  16. Samut Songkhrammarker
  17. Saraburimarker
  18. Sing Burimarker
  19. Suphan Burimarker


East

  1. Chachoengsaomarker
  2. Chanthaburimarker
  3. Chonburimarker
  4. Prachinburimarker
  5. Rayongmarker
  6. Sa Kaeomarker
  7. Trat


North

  1. Chiang Maimarker
  2. Chiang Raimarker
  3. Kamphaeng Phetmarker
  4. Lampangmarker
  5. Lamphunmarker
  6. Mae Hong Sonmarker
  7. Nakhon Sawanmarker
  8. Nanmarker
  9. Phayaomarker
  10. Phetchabunmarker
  11. Phichitmarker
  12. Phitsanulokmarker
  13. Phraemarker
  14. Sukhothaimarker
  15. Takmarker
  16. Uthai Thanimarker
  17. Uttaraditmarker




Northeast (Isan)

  1. Amnat Charoenmarker
  2. Buri Rammarker
  3. Chaiyaphummarker
  4. Kalasinmarker
  5. Khon Kaenmarker
  6. Loeimarker
  7. Maha Sarakhammarker
  8. Mukdahanmarker
  9. Nakhon Phanommarker
  10. Nakhon Ratchasimamarker
  11. Nong Bua Lamphumarker
  12. Nong Khaimarker
  13. Roi Etmarker
  14. Sakon Nakhonmarker
  15. Si Sa Ketmarker
  16. Surinmarker
  17. Ubon Ratchathanimarker
  18. Udon Thanimarker
  19. Yasothonmarker


South

  1. Chumphonmarker
  2. Krabimarker
  3. Nakhon Si Thammaratmarker
  4. Narathiwatmarker
  5. Pattanimarker
  6. Phang Ngamarker
  7. Phatthalungmarker
  8. Phuketmarker
  9. Ranongmarker
  10. Satunmarker
  11. Songkhlamarker
  12. Surat Thanimarker
  13. Trangmarker
  14. Yalamarker






Bangkok
marker



Pattaya Beach
marker
Rank Metropolitan area Population



Chiang Mai
marker


Hatyaimarker

1 Bangkokmarker 11,971,000
2 Pattaya-Chon Buri 1,003,839
3 Chiang Mai 960,906
4 Hat Yai-Songkhla 801,747
5 Nakhon Ratchasima 439,546


Law enforcement in Thailand

Communications

  • Telephone: Thailand has about 7,024,000 base telephones, and about 51,377,000 numbers for GSM/3G
  • Radio: AM 238 stations, FM 351 stations
  • Television: 6 stations with 111 network stations. There are about 15,190,000 cable subscribers.
  • Satellite: 4 satellites


Geography

Promthep Cape in Phuket
Mountainous landscape of Northern Thailand


Totaling , Thailand is the world's 50th largest country in land mass, while it is the world's 20th largest country in terms of population. It is comparable in population to countries such as Francemarker and the United Kingdommarker, and is similar in land size to France and California in the United States; it is just over twice the size of the entire United Kingdom, and 1.4 times the size of Germany. The local climate is tropical and characterized 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.

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 Inthanonmarker at 2,565 metres above sea level (8,415 ft). The northeast, Isanmarker, consists of the Khorat Plateaumarker, 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 Thailandmarker. The south consists of the narrow Kra Isthmusmarker that widens into the Malay Peninsula. Politically, there are six geographical regions which differ from the others in population, basic resources, natural features, and level of social and economic development. The diversity of the regions is the most pronounced attribute of Thailand's physical setting.

The Chao Phraya and the Mekong River are the sustainable resource of rural Thailand. Industrial scale production of crops use both rivers and their tributaries. The Gulf of Thailandmarker covers 320,000 km² and is fed by the Chao Phraya, Mae Klong, Bang Pakong and Tapi Rivers. It contributes to the tourism sector owing to its clear shallow waters along the coasts in the Southern Region and the Kra Isthmus. The Gulf of Thailand is also an industrial center of Thailand with the kingdom's main port in Sattahipmarker along with being the entry gates for Bangkok's Inland Seaport. The Andaman Seamarker is regarded as Thailand's most precious natural resource as it hosts the most popular and luxurious resorts in Asia. Phuket, Krabimarker, Ranongmarker, Phang Ngamarker and Trangmarker and their lush islands all lay along the coasts of the Andaman Sea and despite the 2004 Tsunamimarker, they continue to be and ever more so, the playground of the rich and elite of Asia and the world.

Plans have resurfaced of a logistical connection of the two bodies of water which would be coined the Thai Canalmarker, analogous to the Suezmarker and the Panama Canalmarker. Such an idea has been greeted with positive accounts by Thai politicians as it would cut fees charged by the Ports of Singaporemarker, improve ties with Chinamarker and Indiamarker, lower shipping times and increase ship safety owing to pirate fears in the Strait of Melakamarker and, support the Thai government's policy of being the logistical hub for Southeast Asia. The ports would improve economic conditions in the south of Thailand, which relies heavily on tourism income, and it would also change the structure of the Thai economy moving it closer to a services center of Asia. The canal would be a major engineering project and has expected costs of 20–30 billion dollars.

Economy

[[File:Bangkok skytrain sunset.jpg|thumb|240px|Bangkokmarker, the largest city and business and industrial center of the country]]


Thailand is an emerging economy and considered as a Newly Industrialized Country. After enjoying the world's highest growth rate from 1985 to 1996 – averaging 9.4% annually – increased pressure on Thailand's currency, the baht, in 1997, the year in which the economy contracted by 1.9% led to a crisis that uncovered financial sector weaknesses and forced the Chavalit Yongchaiyudh administration to float the currency, however, Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was forced to resign after his cabinet came under fire for its slow response to the crisis. The baht was pegged at 25 to the US dollar from 1978 to 1997, however, the baht reached its lowest point of 56 to the US dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted by 10.8% that year. This collapse prompted the Asian financial crisis.

Thailand's economy started to recover in 1999, expanding 4.2% and 4.4% in 2000, thanks largely to strong exports. Growth (2.2%) was dampened by the softening of the global economy in 2001, but picked up in the subsequent years owing to strong growth in Asia, a relatively weak baht encouraging exports and increasing domestic spending as a result of several mega projects and incentives of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known as Thaksinomics. Growth in 2002, 2003 and 2004 was 5–7% annually. Growth in 2005, 2006 and 2007 hovered around 4–5%. Due both to the weakening of the US dollar and an increasingly strong Thai currency, by March 2008, the dollar was hovering around the 33 baht mark.

Thailand exports an increasing value of over $105 billion worth of goods and services annually. CIA world factbook - Thailand Major exports include Thai rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewelry, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world’s no.1 exporter of rice, exporting more than 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually. Rice is the most important crop in the country. Thailand has the highest percentage of arable land, 27.25%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. About 55% of the available land area is used for rice production. IRRI country profile

Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer parts and automobiles, while tourism in Thailand makes up about 6% of the economy. Prostitution in Thailand and sex tourism also form a de facto part of the economy. Cultural milieu combined with poverty and the lure of easy money have caused prostitution and sex tourism in particular to flourish in Thailand. One estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at US$4.3 billion per year or about three percent of the Thai economy. According to research by Chulalongkorn Universitymarker on the Thai illegal economy, prostitution in Thailand in the period between 1993 and 1995, made up around 2.7% of the GDP. It is believed that at least 10% of tourist dollars are spent on the sex trade.

Thailand uses the metric system but traditional units of measurement and imperial measure (feet, inches) are still much in use, particularly for agriculture and building materials. Years are numbered as B.E. (Buddhist Era) in education, the civil service, government, and on contracts and newspaper datelines; in banking, however, and increasingly in industry and commerce, standard Western year (Christian or Common Era) counting prevails.

Demographics

Language

The official language of Thailand is the Thai language, a Kradai language closely related to Lao, Shan in Burma, and numerous smaller languages spoken in an arc from Hainanmarker and Yunnanmarker south to the Malaysian border. It is the principal language of education and government and spoken throughout the country. The standard is based on the dialect of the central Thai people, and it is written in the Thai alphabet, an abugida script that evolved from the Khmer script. Several other dialects exist, and coincide with the regional designations. Southern Thai is spoken in the southern provinces, and Northern Thai is spoken in the provinces that were formally part of the independent kingdom of Lannathai.

Thailand is also host to several other minority languages, the largest of which is the Lao dialect of Isan spoken in the northeastern provinces. Although sometimes considered a Thai dialect, it is a Lao dialect, and the region in where it is traditionally spoken was historically part of the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang. In the far south, Yawi, a dialect of Malay, is the primary language of the Malay Muslims. Chinese dialects are also spoken by the large Chinese population, Teochewmarker being the dialect best represented.

Numerous tribal languages are also spoken, including those belonging to the Mon-Khmer family, such as Mon, Khmer, Viet, Mlabri; Austronesian family, such as Cham, Moken, and Orang Asli, Sino-Tibetan family such as Lawa, Akhan, and Karen; and other Tai languages such as Nyaw, Phu Thai, and Saek. Hmong is a member of the Hmong-Mien languages, which is now regarded as a language family of its own.

English is a mandatory school subject, but the number of fluent speakers remains very low, especially outside the cities.

Religion

According to the last census (2000) 94.7% of the total population are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims are the second largest religious group in Thailand at 4.6%. Thailand's southernmost provinces – Pattanimarker, Yala, Narathiwatmarker and part of Songkhlamarker Chumphonmarker have dominant Muslim populations, consisting of both ethnic Thai and Malay. The southern tip of Thailand is mostly ethnically Malay, and most Malays are Sunni Muslims. Christians represent 0.5% of the population. A tiny but influential community of Sikhs in Thailand and some Hindus also live in the country's cities, and are heavily engaged in retail commerce. There is also a small Jewish community in Thailand, dating back to the 17th century. Since 2001, Muslim activists have rallied against the central government because of alleged corruption and ethnic bias among officials.

Culture



The culture of Thailand incorporates a great deal of influence from India, China, Cambodia, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Thailand's national religion Theravada Buddhism is central to modern Thai identity and belief. In practice, Thai Buddhism has evolved over time to include many regional beliefs originating from Hinduism, animism as well as ancestor worship. 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 Burmamarker, Laosmarker, Cambodiamarker, and Malaysiamarker and have mediated change between their traditional local culture, national Thai and global cultural influences. Overseas 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.After World War II, American missionaries sought to win Christian converts in Thailand. Harold Reeves, for instance, in 1952 became the first missionary to Thailand sent by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Like most Asian cultures, respect towards ancestors is an essential part of Thai spiritual practice. Thais have a strong sense of hospitality and generosity, but also a strong sense of social hierarchy. Seniority is an important concept in Thai culture. Elders have by tradition ruled in family decisions or ceremonies. Older siblings have duties to younger ones.

The traditional Thai greeting, the wai, is generally offered first by the younger of the two people meeting, with their hands pressed together, fingertips pointing upwards as the head is bowed to touch their face to the hands, usually coinciding with the spoken word "Sawasdee khrap" for male speakers, and "Sawasdee ka" for females. The elder then is to respond afterwards in the same way. Social status and position, such as in government, will also have an influence on who performs the wai first. For example, although one may be considerably older than a provincial governor, when meeting it is usually the visitor who pays respect first. When children leave to go to school, they are taught to wai to their parents to represent their respect for them. They do the same when they come back. The wai is a sign of respect and reverence for another, similar to the namaste greeting of India and Nepal.

Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand and its native martial art call "Muay". In the past "Muay" was taught to royal soldiers for combat on battlefield if unarmed. After they retired from the army, these soldiers often became Buddhist monks and stayed at the temples. Most of the Thai people's lives are closely tied to Buddhism and temples; they often send their sons to be educated with the monks. ”Muay” is also one of the subjects taught in the temples.

Muay Thai achieved popularity all over the world in the 1990s. Although similar martial arts 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. This is due to Thailand's economic standing in the world while other nation such as Cambodiamarker, Laosmarker and Burmamarker are listed as the world's Least Developed Countries by the UN. 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 around in replica kits. Another widely enjoyed pastime, and once a competitive sport, is kite flying.

Taboos in Thailand 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.Books and other documents are the most revered of secular objects. 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, particularly jasmine variety rice (also known as Hom Mali rice) which is included in almost every meal. Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice, and Thais domestically consume over 100 kg of milled rice per person per year. IRRI country profile Thailand 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.

Thai society has been influenced in recent years by its widely available multi-language press and media. There are numerous English, Thai and Chinese newspapers in circulation; most Thai popular magazines use English headlines as a chic glamor factor. Most large businesses in Bangkok operate in English as well as other languages. Thailand is the largest newspaper market in Southeast Asia with an estimated circulation of at least 13 million copies daily in 2003. Even upcountry, out of Bangkok, media flourishes. For example, according to Thailand's Public Relations Department Media Directory 2003-2004, the nineteen provinces of northeast Thailand themselves hosted 116 newspapers along with radio, TV and cable.

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
Heritage Foundation Indices of Economic Freedom 50 out of 157
A.T. Kearney/Foreign Policy Magazine Global Services Location Index 2009 4 out of 50
Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 134 out of 169
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 84 out of 179
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 78 out of 177
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report(2008) 34 out of 125


Sports



Thai boxing

Muay Thai (Thai: มวยไทย, RTGS: Muai Thai, , lit. "Thai Boxing") is a form of hard martial art practiced in large parts of the world, including Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. The art is similar to others in Southeast Asia such as: Pradal Serey in Cambodia, Lethwei in Burma, Tomoi in Malaysia, and Muay Lao in Laos. Muay Thai has a long history in Thailand and is the country's national sport.

Traditional Muay Thai practiced today varies significantly from the ancient art Muay Boran and uses kicks, punches and knee and elbow strikes in a ring with gloves similar to those used in Western boxing and this has led to Thailand gaining medals at the Olympic Games in Boxing.

Rugby

Rugby is also a growing sport in Thailand with the Thailand national rugby union team rising to be ranked 61st in the world. Thailand became the first country in the world to host an international 80 kg welterweight rugby tournament in 2005. The national domestic Thailand Rugby Union (TRU) competition includes several universities and services teams such as Chulalongkorn Universitymarker, Mahasarakham Universitymarker, Kasetsart Universitymarker, Prince of Songkla Universitymarker, Thammasat University, Rangsit Universitymarker, the Thai Police, the Thai Army, the Thai Navy and the Royal Thai Air Force. Local sports clubs which also compete in the TRU include the British Club of Bangkok, the Southerners Sports Club and the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.

Golf

Further information: Golf in Thailand

Thailand has been called the Golf Capital of Asia as it is a popular destination for golf. The country attracts a large number of golfers from Japan, Korea, Singapore, South Africa and Western countries who come to play golf in Thailand every year. The growing popularity of golf, especially among the middle classes and expats, is evident since there are more than 200 world-class golf courses nationwide, and some of them are chosen to host PGA and LPGA tournaments, such as Amata Spring Country Club, Alpine Golf & Sports Club, Thai Country Club and Black Mountain Golf Club.

Other sports

Other sports in Thailand are slowly growing as the country develops its sporting infrastructure. The success in sports like weightlifting and Taekwondo at the last two Summer Olympic Games has demonstrated that boxing is no longer the only medal chance for Thailand.

See also



References

External links

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