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 name until May 11, 1949. The word Thai means "free" in the local language. It is also the name of the Thai people - leading some inhabitants, particularly the sizeable chinese minority, to still use the name Siam.
|National motto: None|
|Prime minister||Thaksin Shinawatra[?]|
- % water
|Ranked 49th |
- Total (2002)
|Time zone||UTC +7|
|National anthem||Phleng Chat|
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.
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 to serve four-year terms. The highest judiciary 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.
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.
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).
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[?].
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.
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%.
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.
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.
|Date||English Name||Local Name||Remarks|
|January 1||New Year's Day||Wan Khun Pee Mai|
|February||Mahka Bucha||Based on thai lunar calendar|
|April 6||Chakri Day||Commemorates King Rama I, founder of the Chakri dynasty|
|April 13-April 15||Thai New Year||Songkran|
|May||Vaisakh Bucha||Based on thai lunar calendar|
|May||Royal Ploughing Ceremony||Government only|
|May 1||Labour Day||Bank holiday only|
|May 5||Coronation Day||Commemorates coronation of the current king Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1950|
|July||Asarnha Bucha||Based on Thai lunar calendar, government only|
|July||Buddhist Lent||Khao Phansa||Based on Thai lunar calendar|
|July 1||Mid Year Day||Bank holiday only|
|August 12||Mothers Day||Commemorates birthday of the current queen|
|October 23||Chulalongkorn Day||Commemorates King Chulalongkorn (Rama V)|
|December 5||Fathers Day||Commemorates birthday of the current king Bhumibol Adulyadej|
|December 10||Constitution Day||Commemorates the change to constitutional monarchy in 1932|
|December 31||New Year's Eve|