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.
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.
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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