THAILAND IN-DEPTH

 

   

Geographic Information

Situated in the heart of the Southeast Asian mainland and covering an area of 517,000 km2, from North 5º 30" to 21º and from East 97º 30" to 105º 30", Thailand borders Laos (the Lao People's Democratic Republic), Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand to the East, Myanmar (Burma) and the Indian Ocean (Andaman Sea) to the West, and Malaysia to the South.  

Thailand has maximum dimensions of about 2,500 km North to South and 1,250 km East to West, with a coastline of approximately 1,840 km on the Gulf of Thailand and 865 km along the Indian Ocean.  

Climate: Thailand is a warm and rather humid tropical country.  The climate is monsoonal, marked by a pronounced rainy season lasting from about May to September and a relatively dry season for the remainder of the year.  Temperatures are highest in March and April and lowest in December and January. The average temperature is 28º C.  

  

Thailand is divided into four natural regions:

  • The North is a mountainous region comprising natural forests, ridges and deep, narrow, alluvial valleys. The major city in the region is Chiang Mai. 

  • Central Thailand (Central Plain), the basin of the Chao Phraya River, is a lush, fertile valley. It is the richest and most extensive rice-producing area in the country and has often been called the "Rice Bowl of Asia." Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is located in this region. 

  • The Northeast (Korat Plateau) is arid, characterized by rolling surfaces and undulating hills. Harsh climatic conditions often result in this region being subjected to floods and droughts. 

  • The South (Southern Peninsula) ranges from hilly to mountainous, with thick virgin forests and rich deposits of minerals and ores. The region is the center for production of rubber and cultivation of other tropical crops. 

 

 

Summary:

  • Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand;

  • Border countries: Burma 1,800 km, Cambodia 803 km, Laos 1,754 km, Malaysia 506 km 

  • Geographic coordinates: 15 00 N, 100 00 E  (North 5º 30" to 21º and East 97º 30" to 105º 30")

  • Area: total: 514,000 sq km,  land: 511,770 sq km;   Highest point: Doi Inthanon 2,576 m 

  • Climate: tropical; rainy, warm, cloudy southwest monsoon (mid-May to September); dry, cool northeast monsoon (November to mid-March); southern isthmus always hot and humid 

  • Natural resources: tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, fish, gypsum, lignite, fluorite 

    

Demographics Information

The population of Thailand, approximately 67 million, includes ethnic Chinese, Malays, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Indians, and others.  Of the total population, approximately 30 percent are under the age of 15.  The growth rate is about 1.2-1.4 percent per year and by the year 2010, should exceed 70 million. 

The size of the work force now exceeds 32 million, with the majority of the work force under 30 years of age.  Each year about 800,000 people join this force, with a literacy rate above 90 percent.  Many standard labor practices apply, including mandatory severance packages, and overtime payments for work in excess of the normal workday. 

The minimum wage in Thailand is currently 162 Baht per day (USD 3.70) in Bangkok, and between 130-140 Baht in the provinces.  While not the lowest labor market in the region, Thailand's workforce is among the most cost-efficient in the world, as they have earned a reputation for diligence and adaptability. 

In recent years, there has been increased emphasis on education.  This emphasis is sure to continue into the 21st Century, as the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan (1997-2002) focuses on development of the Kingdom's human resources as its highest priority. 

    

Summary:

  • Population: 67,605,219 (2005 est.)  

  • Population growth rate: 0.97% (2005 est.) 

  • Sex ratio:  at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female;  under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female;  15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female;  65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female;  total population: 0.97 m/f (2005 est.) 

  • Infant mortality rate: 29.54 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.) 

  • Life expectancy at birth: total population: 69.21 years;  male: 65.58 years;  female: 73.01 years (2005 est.) 

  • Total fertility rate: 1.82 children born/woman (2005 est.) 

  • Ethnic groups: Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, other 11% 

  • Religions: Buddhism 95%, Muslim 3.8%, Christianity 0.5%, Hinduism 0.1%, other 0.6% (2005) 

  • Languages: Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects 

  • Literacy: (def.: age 15 and over can read and write) total population: 93.8%; male: 96%, female:91.6% (2005 est.)

  

The "Kingdom of Thailand", in short, "Thailand", is governed by a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentarian form of government.  The capital, Bangkok, is divided into 38 districts and administered by the BMA (Bangkok Metropolitan Administration), headed by an elected governor.  Thailand is divided into 76 provinces, each administered by an appointed governor.   The provinces are further divided into districts, sub-districts, tambons (groups of villages), and villages.  

The 76 provinces ("Changwat") are:  Amnat Charoen, Ang Thong, Buriram, Chachoengsao, Chai Nat, Chaiyaphum, Chanthaburi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chon Buri, Chumphon, Kalasin, Kamphaeng Phet, Kanchanaburi, Khon Kaen, Krabi, Krung Thep Mahanakhon (Bangkok), Lampang, Lamphun, Loei, Lop Buri, Mae Hong Son, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Sawan, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Nan, Narathiwat, Nong Bua Lamphu, Nong Khai, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Pattani, Phangnga, Phatthalung, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phetchaburi, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phrae, Phuket, Prachin Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ranong, Ratchaburi, Rayong, Roi Et, Sa Kaeo, Sakon Nakhon, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Sara Buri, Satun, Sing Buri, Sisaket, Songkhla, Sukhothai, Suphan Buri, Surat Thani, Surin, Tak, Trang, Trat, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Uthai Thani, Uttaradit, Yala, Yasothon 

  

Summary:

  • Country name: The Kingdom of Thailand;  in short ‘Thailand’;  data code: TH

  • Independence: 1238 (traditional founding date; never colonized) 

  • Capital: Bangkok (since 1782)

  • National holiday: Birthday of His Majesty the King, 5 December (1927) 

  • Calendar: Years are counted as BE (Buddhist Era); the current year 2000 AD is 2543 BE

  • Legal system: based on civil law system, with influences of common law; Thailand has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction 

  • Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory 

  • Executive Branch:

    • chief of state: HM The King BHUMIBHOL Adulyadej (since 9 June 1946) 

    • cabinet: Council of Ministers;  note: there is also a Privy Council 

    • elections: none;  the Monarch is hereditary; Prime Minister designated from among the members of the House of Representatives; following a national election for the House of Representatives, the leader of the party that can organize a majority coalition usually becomes prime minister 

  • Legislative Branch: bicameral National Assembly or Rathasapha consists of the Senate or Wuthisapha (previously a 253-member appointed body, since March 2000, a 200-member elected body; members serve six-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Sapha Phuthaen Ratsadon (currently has 391 members, but will become a 500-member body after the next election; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) 

  • Elections: House of Representatives —last held 17 November 1996 (next scheduled to be held by 17 November 2000, but may be held earlier) 

  • Judicial Branch: Supreme Court (Sandika), judges appointed by the Monarch 

  • Flag description:   five horizontal bands of red (top), white, blue (double width), white, and red. 

     

Society & Culture

There are conflicting opinions regarding the origins of Thais.  Three decades ago it could be said with presumed certainty that the Thais originated in northwestern Szechuan in China about 4,500 years ago and later migrated south to their present homeland.  However, this theory has been altered by the discovery of remarkable prehistoric artefacts in the village of Ban Chiang in the Nong Han District of Udon Thani Province in the Northeast of Thailand.  These include evidence of bronze metallurgy dating back 3,500 years, as well as other indications of a culture far more sophisticated than previously believed by archaeologists. It now appears that Thais might have originated here in Thailand and later scattered to various parts of Asia, including some parts of China.  Besides that, there maybe a stronger link of origin to the people of nowadays Laos than previously assumed or accepted.

"Siam" is the name by which the country was known to the world until 1939 and again between 1945 and 1949. On May 11, 1949, an official proclamation declared that the country would henceforth be known as "Thailand".   

The word "THAI" means "Free," and therefore "Thailand" means "Land of the Free." 

The traditional founding date (date of independence) goes back to the year 1238. The country was never colonized. The population of Thailand, approximately 60.9 m, includes ethnic Chinese, Malays, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Indians, and others. 

Buddhism, the national religion, is the professed faith of 95 percent of the population.  Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and other creeds are embraced by the rest of the population.  There is absolute religious freedom.  The King of Thailand, under the constitution and in practice, is patron of all major religions. 

The official national language is Thai.  It is tonal, uninflected, and predominantly uses monosyllabic words. Most polysyllabic words in the vocabulary have been borrowed, mainly from Khmer, Pali and Sanskrit. Dialects are spoken in rural areas. Other languages are Chinese and Malay. English, a compulsory subject in public schools, is spoken/understood mainly in Bangkok and other major cities. 

     

 

  

The system of absolute monarchy ended in 1932, following a revolution staged by a small group of disaffected civil servants and military men. Since then, Thai kings have ruled under a constitution; their powers theoretically no greater than those of European monarchs. Yet, since his coronation in 1946, His Majesty King Bhumibhol Adulyadej has assumed the role of constitutional monarch and worked tirelessly on behalf of his people, gaining a measure of personal devotion that is probably not less intense than that felt for any of his all-powerful ancestors. Of the several institutions that form the foundation of modern Thai life, the one His Majesty represents is not only the most visible but also the most revered. 

His Majesty has devoted himself to public service and made enduring contributions to Thailand's development, initiating vital "royally-suggested" projects such as crop rotation, fish breeding, irrigation, natural watershed programs, dairy farming, reforestation, road building, and the establishment of self-help villages. 

The Thai monarchy is revered and regarded as the central, unifying element in the pillars of the nation. King Bhumibhol, born on December 5, 1927, ascended the throne on June 9, 1946, and married Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on April 28, 1950. 

Their Majesties have four children; Their Royal Highnesses Princess Ubol Ratana, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and Princess Chulabhorn. 

Thailand's national flag, ceremoniously raised each morning at 08.00 h and lowered at 18.00 h in every town and village, is composed of five horizontal bands of red, white, and blue. Outer bands of red representing the nation enclose equal inner bands of white evoking religion.  The blue band, occupying the central one-third of the total area, symbolizes the monarchy. The harmony of design expresses the complementary nature of these three pillars of the Thai nation. The tri-colored flag, first introduced by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 1871, replaced an earlier design which featured a white elephant on a red background. 

December 5 is the birthday of Bhumibhol Adulyadej and is the Thai National Day. It is a public holiday. Most national holidays and festivals are of a religious nature and serve to evoke a sense of devotion to the monarchy, the religion, and the nation. Some are celebrated by the lunar calendar and thus vary in date from year to year, while others are celebrated according to the solar calendar. Years are counted as BE (Buddhist Era); the current year 2000 AD is 2543 BE.  While the official calendar year begins with the 1st of January, there are also celebrations of the Chinese New Year (lunar calendar) and Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year (as per Thai lunar year & astrology, moving between April 10-18). 

  

    

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