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Thailand (/talnd/ TY-land or /talnd/ TY-lnd;[12] Thai: , RTGS:

Prathet Thai), officially the Kingdom of Thailand (Thai: , RTGS:


Ratcha Anachak Thai; IPA: [rt.t ntk tj] ( listen)), formerly known as
Siam (Thai: ; RTGS: Sayam), is a country at the centre of the Indochina
peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the
east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia,
and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma. Its
maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast,
and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest.

Thailand is a monarchy headed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX and


governed by a military junta that took power in May 2014.[13] The king is the
ninth of the House of Chakri, and has reigned since 1946 as the world's longestserving current head of state and the country's longest-reigning monarch.[14]
The King of Thailand's titles include Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces,
Adherent of Buddhism, and Upholder of religions.[15] Although a constitutional
system was established in 1932, the monarchy and military have continued to
intervene periodically in politics.

With a total area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), Thailand is the
world's 51st-largest country. It is the 20th-most-populous country in the world,
with around 66 million people. The capital and largest city is Bangkok, which is
Thailand's political, commercial, industrial, and cultural hub. About 7595% of the
population is ethnically Tai, which includes four major regional groups: central
Thai, northeastern Thai (Khon [Lao] Isan),[2] northern Thai (Khon Mueang); and
southern Thai. Thai Chinese, those of significant Chinese heritage, are 14% of the
population,[5] while Thais with partial Chinese ancestry comprise up to 40% of
the population.[16] Thai Malays represent 3% of the population, with the
remainder consisting of Mons, Khmers and various "hill tribes". The country's
official language is Thai and the primary religion is Buddhism, which is practised
by around 95% of the population.

Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1996, becoming
a newly industrialised country and a major exporter. Manufacturing, agriculture,
and tourism are leading sectors of the economy.[17][18] Among the ten ASEAN
countries, Thailand ranks second in quality of life[19] and the country's HDI had
been rated as "high". Its large population and growing economic influence have
made it a middle power in the region and around the world.[20]

Contents

1 Etymology
2 History
2.1 20th century
2.2 World War II
3 Politics and government
3.1 Constitutional history
3.2 28 June 1932
3.3 1932 to 1972
3.4 1973 to 1997
3.5 1997 to 2001
3.6 2001 to 2008
3.6.1 2006 coup d'tat
3.7 20082010 political crisis
3.8 20132014 political crisis
3.9 2014 coup d'tat
4 Administrative divisions
4.1 The southern region
5 Foreign relations
6 Military
7 Geography
7.1 Climate
7.2 Wildlife
8 Education
9 Science and technology
9.1 Internet
10 Economy
10.1 Recent economic history
10.2 Exports and manufacturing

10.3 Tourism
10.4 Agriculture
10.5 Energy
11 Demographics
11.1 Ethnic groups
11.2 Population centres
11.3 Language
11.4 Religion
12 Culture
12.1 Cuisine
12.2 Media
12.3 Units of measurement
12.4 Sports
12.4.1 Sporting venues
13 International rankings
14 See also
15 References
16 External links

Etymology

The country has always been called Mueang Thai by its citizens; but by others, by
the exonym Siam (Thai: RTGS: Sayam, pronounced [sjm]). Also spelled
Siem, Sym, or Syma, it has been identified with the Sanskrit yma (
,
meaning "dark" or "brown"). The names Shan and A-hom seem to be variants of
the same word, and yma is possibly not its origin, but a learned and artificial
distortion.[21]
SPPM Mongkut Rex Siamensium

The signature of King Mongkut (r. 1851 1868) reads SPPM (Somdet Phra
Poramenthra Maha) Mongkut King of Siam, giving it official status until 23 June

1939 when it was changed to Thailand.[22] Thailand was renamed Siam from
1945 to 11 May 1949, after which it again reverted to Thailand.

The word Thai () is not, as commonly believed,[citation needed] derived from


the word Thai () meaning "independence" in the Thai language; it is, however,
the name of an ethnic group from the central plains (the Thai people).[citation
needed] A famous Thai scholar argued that Thai () simply means "people" or
"human being" since his investigation shows that in some rural areas the word
"Thai" was used instead of the usual Thai word "khon" () for people.[23]

The Thai use the phrase "land of the freedom" expresses pride in the fact that
Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never colonised by a European
power.

While Thai people will often refer to their country using the polite form prathet
Thai (Thai: ), they most commonly use the more colloquial word
mueang Thai (Thai: ) or simply Thai (Thai: ), the word mueang (Thai:
) meaning "nation" but most commonly used to refer to a city or town.
Ratcha Anachak Thai (Thai: ) means "kingdom of Thailand" or
"kingdom of Thai". Etymologically, its components are: -Ratcha- (from Sanskrit
raja, meaning "king, royal, realm") ; -ana- (from Pli , "authority, command,
power", itself from Sanskrit j, same meaning) -chak (from Sanskrit cakra or
cakra meaning "wheel", a symbol of power and rule). The Thai National Anthem
(Thai: ), written by Luang Saranupraphan during the extremely patriotic
1930s, refers to the Thai nation as: prathet Thai (Thai: ). The first line
of the national anthem is: prathet thai ruam lueat nuea chat chuea thai (Thai:
), "Thailand is the unity of Thai flesh and blood."
History
Main article: History of Thailand

There is evidence of human habitation in Thailand that has been dated at 40,000
years before the present, with stone artefacts dated to this period at Tham Lod
Rockshelter in Mae Hong Son. Similar to other regions in Southeast Asia, Thailand

was heavily influenced by the culture and religions of India, starting with the
Kingdom of Funan around the 1st century CE to the Khmer Empire.[24]
The ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram at Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya was burned and sacked in 1767 by a Burmese army under King
Hsinbyushin. Indian influence on Siamese culture was partly the result of direct
contact with Indian settlers, but mainly it was brought about indirectly via the
Indianized kingdoms of Dvaravati, Srivijaya, and Cambodia.[25] E:A Voretzsch
believes that Buddhism must have been flowing into Siam from India in the time
of the Indian Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Empire and far on into the first
millennium after Christ.[25] Later Thailand was influenced by the south Indian
Pallava Dynasty and north Indian Gupta Empire.[25]

After 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 artefacts 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 13th15th century, the
Buddhist Tai kingdoms of Sukhothai, Lanna and Lan Xang (now Laos) were on the
rise. However, a century later, the power of Sukhothai was overshadowed by the
new Kingdom of Ayutthaya, established in the mid-14th century in the lower Chao
Phraya River or Menam area.
Stupas, Ayutthaya Historical Park.

Ayutthaya's expansion centred along the Menam while in the northern valleys the
Lanna Kingdom and other small Tai city-states ruled the area. In 1431, the Khmer
abandoned Angkor after Ayutthaya forces invaded the city.[26] Thailand retained
a tradition of trade with its neighbouring states, from China to India, Persia, and
Arab lands. Ayutthaya became one of the most vibrant trading centres in Asia.
European traders arrived in the 16th century, beginning with the Portuguese,
followed by the French, Dutch, and English.

After the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767 to the Burmese, King Taksin the Great moved
the capital of Thailand to Thonburi for approximately 15 years. The current
Rattanakosin era of Thai history began in 1782, following the establishment of
Bangkok as capital of the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I the Great. According
to the Encyclopdia Britannica, "A quarter to a third of the population of some

areas of Thailand and Burma were slaves in the 17th through the 19th
centuries."[27][28]

Despite European pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation to never
have been colonised.[29] This has been ascribed to the long succession of able
rulers in the past four centuries who exploited the rivalry and tension between
French Indochina and the British Empire. As a result, the country remained a
buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia that were colonised by the two
colonial powers, Great Britain and France. Western influence nevertheless led to
many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions, most notably the loss
of a large territory on the east side of the Mekong to the French and the step-bystep absorption by Britain of the Shan and Karen people areas and Malay
Peninsula.
20th century

The losses initially included Penang and eventually culminated in the loss of four
predominantly ethnic-Malay southern provinces, which later became Malaysia's
four northern states, under the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909.

In 1932, a bloodless revolution carried out by the Khana Ratsadon 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 absolute monarchy.

In 1939, the name of the kingdom, "Siam", was changed to "Thailand".


World War II
Main article: Thailand in World War II

During World War II, the Empire of Japan demanded the right to move troops
across Thailand to the Malayan frontier. Japan invaded Thailand on 8 December
1941, in co-ordination with attacks throughout Asia, 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 21 December 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.[30]

Subsequently, Thailand declared war on the United States and the United
Kingdom on 25 January 1942, and 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. Approximately 200,000 Asian labourers
(mainly romusha) and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the
ThailandBurma Death Railway.[30]

After the war, Thailand emerged as an ally of the United States. As with many of
the developing nations during the Cold War, Thailand then went through decades
of political instability characterised by a number of coups d'tat, as one military
regime replaced another, but eventually progressed towards a stable, prosperous
democracy in the 1980s.[citation needed]

Pottery discovered near Ban Chiang in Udon Thani Province, the earliest dating
to 2100 BCE.

Phimai, Prasat Phimai is the largest temple in the country from the Khmer
Empire.

The immense 19 metre high gilded statue of a seated Buddha in Wat Phanan
Choeng, the latter from 1324, pre-dates the founding of the city of Ayutthaya

15 metre high Buddha image in Sukhothai, Phra Achana , built in the 13th
century

Painting of Ayutthaya, ordered by the Dutch East India Company, 1665.

Kosa Pan present King Narai's letter to Louis XIV at Versailles, 1 Sep 1686.

Politics and government


Main articles: Politics of Thailand, Constitutions of Thailand, Law of Thailand and
Government of Thailand

The politics of Thailand is currently conducted within the framework of a


constitutional monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government
and a hereditary monarch is head of state. The judiciary is independent of the
executive and the legislative branches.

Constitutional history
Bangkok's Democracy Monument: a representation of the 1932 Constitution sits
on top of two golden offering bowls above a turret.

Since the political reform of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has had 19
constitutions and charters.[31][32] 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.[33]
[34]
28 June 1932

Prior to 1932, the Kingdom of Siam did not possess a legislature, as all legislative
powers were vested within the person of the monarch. This had been the case
since the foundation of the Sukhothai Kingdom in the 12th century: as the king
was seen as a "Dharmaraja" or "King who rules in accordance with Dharma" (the
Buddhist law of righteousness). However on 24 June 1932 a group of civilians and
military officers, calling themselves the Khana Ratsadon (or People's Party)
carried out a bloodless revolution, in which the 150 years of absolute rule of the
House of Chakri was ended. In its stead the group advocated a constitutional
form of monarchy with an elected legislature.

The "Draft Constitution" of 1932 signed by King Prajadhipok, created Thailand's


first legislature, a People's Assembly with 70 appointed members. The assembly
met for the first time on 28 June 1932, in the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. The
Khana Ratsadon decided that the people were not yet ready for an elected
assembly; however they later changed their minds. By the time the "permanent"
constitution came into force in December of that year, elections were scheduled
for 15 November 1933. The new constitution also changed the composition of the
assembly to 78 directly elected and 78 appointed (by the Khana Ratsadon)
together compromising 156 members.
1932 to 1972
[icon] This section requires expansion. (November 2013)
See also: History of Thailand (19321973) and History of Thailand since 1973

The history of Thailand from 1932 to 1973 was dominated by military


dictatorships which were in power for much of the period. The main personalities
of the period were the dictator Luang Phibunsongkhram (better known as
Phibun), who allied the country with Japan during the Second World War, and the
civilian politician Pridi Phanomyong, who founded Thammasat University and was

briefly the prime minister after the war. The Japanese invasion of Thailand
occurred on 8 December 1941.

A succession of military dictators followed Pridi's ousting Phibun again, Sarit


Dhanarajata and Thanom Kittikachorn under whom traditional, authoritarian
rule was combined with increasing modernisation and westernisation under the
influence of the US. The end of the period was marked by Thanom's resignation,
following a massacre of pro-democracy protesters led by Thammasat students.
Thanom misread the situation as a coup d'tat, and fled, leaving the country
leaderless. HM appointed Thammasat University chancellor Sanya Dharmasakti
PM by royal command. For events subsequent to the abdication of the king,
including the name change of 1939, up to the coup d'tat of 1957, see Plaek
Pibulsonggram.

Thailand helped the USA and South Vietnam in the Vietnam War between 1965
1971. The USAF based F-4 Phantom fighters at Udon and Ubon Air Base, and
stationed B-52s at U-Tapao. Thai forces also saw heavy action in the covert war in
Laos that occurred from 1964 to 1972.
1973 to 1997
[icon] This section requires expansion. (November 2013)
See also: History of Thailand since 1973
1997 to 2001
See also: 1997 Constitution of Thailand
Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, the old meeting place of the National Assembly;
now only the State Opening is held there.
Parliament House, the meeting place of the two chambers of the National
Assembly of Thailand

The 1997 Constitution was the first constitution to be drafted by popularly


elected Constitutional Drafting Assembly, and was popularly called the "people's
constitution".[35] The 1997 Constitution created a bicameral legislature
consisting of a 500-seat House of Representatives (
, sapha phu
thaen ratsadon) and a 200-seat Senate (, wutthisapha). For the first time
in Thai history, both houses were directly elected.

Many human rights were 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 provincial system, where one province could return more than one senator
depending on its population size.

The two houses of the National Assembly have two different terms. In accordance
with the constitution the Senate is elected to a six-year term, while the House is
elected to a four-year term. Overall the term of the National Assembly is based on
that of the House. The National Assembly each year will sit in two sessions: an
"ordinary session" and a "legislative session". The first session of the National
Assembly must take place within thirty days after the general election of the
House of Representatives. The first session must be opened by the king in person
by reading a Speech from the Throne; this ceremony is held in the Ananta
Samakhom Throne Hall. He may also appoint the crown prince or a
representative to carry out this duty. It is also the duty of the king to prorogue
sessions through a royal decree when the House term expires. The king also has
the prerogative to call extraordinary sessions and prolong sessions upon advice
of the House of Representatives.

The National Assembly may host a "joint-sitting" of both Houses under several
circumstances. These include: The appointment of a regent, any alteration to the
1924 Palace Law of Succession, the opening of the first session, the
announcement of policies by the Cabinet of Thailand, the approval of the
declaration of war, the hearing of explanations and approval of a treaty and the
amendment of the Constitution.

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 constitution. The court system (, san) included a
constitutional court with jurisdiction over the constitutionality of parliamentary
acts, royal decrees, and political matters.
2001 to 2008

The January 2001 general election, the first election under the 1997 Constitution,
was called the most open, corruption-free election in Thai history.[36] Thai Rak
Thai Party, led by Thaksin Shinawatra won the election. The Thaksin government
was the first in Thai history to complete a four-year term. The 2005 election had
the highest voter turnout in Thai history,[37][38] and Thai Rak Thai Party won an
absolute majority. However, despite efforts to clean up the system, vote buying
and electoral violence remained electoral problems in 2005.[39]

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 organisation 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'tat
See also: 2006 Thai coup d'tat

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 new 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.[40][41]

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.[42] 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,[43] following the 30
May dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai party. The new constitution was approved by
referendum on 19 August, which led to a return to a democratic general election
on 23 December 2007.
20082010 political crisis
See also: 20082010 Thai political crisis
People's Alliance for Democracy, Yellow shirts, rally on Sukhumvit Road in 2008.
United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, Red Shirts, protest on
Ratchaprasong intersection in 2010.

The People's Power Party (Thailand), 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 a TV cooking program),[44] 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 2 December 2008,
Thailand's Constitutional Court in a highly controversial ruling found the Peoples
Power Party[45] guilty of electoral fraud, which led to the dissolution of the party
according to the law. It was later alleged in media reports that at least one
member of the judiciary had a telephone conversation with officials working for
the Office of the Privy Council and one other. The phone call was taped and has
since circulated on the Internet. In it, the callers discuss finding a way to ensure
the ruling PPP party would be disbanded. Accusations of judicial interference were
levelled in the media but the recorded call was dismissed as a hoax. However, in
June 2010, supporters of the eventually disbanded PPP were charged with
tapping a judge's phone.

Immediately following what many media described as a "judicial coup", a senior


member of the Armed Forces met with factions of the governing coalition to get
their members to join the opposition and the Democrat 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.

In April 2009, protests by the National United Front of Democracy Against


Dictatorship (UDD, or "Red Shirts") forced the cancellation of the Fourth East Asia
Summit after protesters stormed the Royal Cliff hotel venue in Pattaya, smashing
the glass doors of the venue to gain entry, and a blockade prevented the Chinese
premier at the time, Wen Jiabao, from attending. The summit was eventually held
in Thailand in October 2009.[46][47]

About a year later, a set of new "Red Shirts" protests resulted in 87 deaths
(mostly civilian and some military) and 1,378 injured.[48] When the army tried to
disperse the protesters on 10 April 2010, the army was met with automatic
gunfire, grenades, and fire bombs from the opposition faction in the army, known
as the "watermelon". This resulted in the army returning fire with rubber bullets
and some live ammunition. During the time of the "red shirt" protests against the
government, there have been numerous grenade and bomb attacks against
government offices and the homes of government officials. Gas grenades were
fired at "yellow-shirt" protesters, that were protesting against the "red-shirts" and
in favour of the government, by unknown gunmen killing one pro-government
protester, the government stated that the Red Shirts were firing the weapons at

civilians.[49][50][51][52] Red-shirts continued to hold a position in the business


district of Bangkok and it was shut down for several weeks.[53]

On 3 July 2011, the oppositional Pheu Thai Party, led by Yingluck Shinawatra (the
youngest sister of Thaksin Shinawatra), won the general election by a landslide
(265 seats in the House of Representatives, out of 500). She had never previously
been involved in politics, Pheu Thai campaigning for her with the slogan 'Thaksin
thinks, Pheu Thai acts'. Yingluck is the nation's first female prime minister and
her role was officially endorsed in a ceremony presided over by King Bhumibol
Adulyadej. The Pheu Thai Party is a continuation of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party.
[54]
20132014 political crisis
Main article: 201314 Thai political crisis

Protests recommenced in late 2013, as a broad alliance of protestors, led by


former opposition deputy leader Suthep Thaugsuban, demanded an end to the
so-called Thaksin regime, and the Bangkok Post says Suthep wants dictatorship
by himself.[55] A blanket amnesty for people involved in the 2010 protests,
altered at the last minute to include all political crimes including all convictions
against Thaksin triggered a mass show of discontent, with numbers variously
estimated between 98,500 (the police) and 400,000 (an aerial photo survey done
by the Bangkok Post), taking to the streets. The Senate was urged to reject the
bill to quell the reaction, but the measure failed. A newly named group, the
People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) along with allied groups,
escalated the pressure, with the opposition Democrat party resigning en masse
to create a parliamentary vacuum. Protesters demands variously evolved as the
movement's numbers grew, extending a number of deadlines and demands that
became increasingly unreasonable or unrealistic, yet attracting a groundswell of
support. They called for the establishment of an unelected peoples councilin
place of Yingluck's governmentthat will cleanse Thai politics and eradicate the
Thaksin regime.[56]

In response to the intensive protests, Yinluck dissolved parliament on 9


December 2013 and proposed a new election for 2 February 2014, a date that
was later approved by the election commission.[57] The PDRC insisted that the
prime minister stand down within 24 hours, regardless of her actions, with
160,000 protesters in attendance at Government House on 9 December. Yingluck
insisted that she would continue her duties until the scheduled election in
February 2014, urging the protesters to accept her proposal: "Now that the
government has dissolved parliament, I ask that you stop protesting and that all
sides work towards elections. I have backed down to the point where I don't know
how to back down any further."[58]

In response to the Electoral Commission (EC)'s registration process for party-list


candidatesfor the scheduled election in February 2014anti-government
protesters marched to the Thai-Japanese sports stadium, the venue of the
registration process, on 22 December 2013. Suthep and the PDRC led the protest,
estimating that 3.5 million people participated in the march; however, security
forces claimed that approximately 270,000 protesters joined the rally. Yingluck
and the Pheu Thai Party reiterated their election plan and anticipate presenting a
list of 125 party-list candidates to the EC.[59]

On 7 May 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that Yingluck would have to step
down as the Prime Minister as she was deemed to have abused her power in
transferring a high-level government official.[60] On 21 August 2014 she was
replaced by army chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha.[61]
2014 coup d'tat
Main article: 2014 Thai coup d'tat

On 20 May 2014 the Thai army declared martial law and began to deploy troops
in the capital. They denied that it was a coup attempt.[62] On 22 May, the army
announced that it was a coup and that it was taking control of the country and
suspending the country's constitution.[63][64] On the same day, the military
announced imposed a curfew between the hours of 22:0005:00, ordering
citizens and visitors to remain indoors during this period.[65][66][67][68][69] On
21 August 2014 the National Assembly of Thailand, which had recently been
stacked with handpicked military officers, elected the army chief, General Prayut
Chan-o-cha, as prime minister.
Administrative divisions
Main article: Subdivisions of Thailand

Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (, changwat), which are gathered into


5 groups of provinces by location. There are also 2 specially-governed districts:
the capital Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) and Pattaya. Bangkok is at
provincial level and thus often counted as a province.

Each province is divided into districts and the districts are further divided into
sub-districts (tambons). As of 2006 there were 877 districts (, amphoe) and
the 50 districts of Bangkok (, khet). Some parts of the provinces bordering

Bangkok are also referred to as Greater Bangkok (, pari monthon). These


provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom and
Samut Sakhon. The name of each province's capital city (, 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.
A clickable map of Thailand exhibiting its provinces.
A clickable map of Thailand exhibiting its provinces.
About this image

The southern region


See also: South Thailand insurgency
Southern provinces of Thailand showing the Malay-Muslim majority areas.

Thailand controlled the Malay Peninsula as far south as Malacca in the 1400s and
held much of the peninsula, including Temasek (Singapore), some of the
Andaman Islands, and a colony on Java, but eventually contracted when the
British used force to guarantee their suzerainty over the sultanate.

Mostly the northern states of the Malay Sultanate presented annual gifts to the
Thai king in the form of a golden flowera gesture of 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, Perlis, Kelantan, and Terengganu to the British. Satun and
Pattani Provinces were given to Thailand.

The Malay peninsular provinces were occupied by the Japanese during World War
II, and infiltrated by the Malayan Communist Party (CPM) from 1942 to 2008,
when they sued 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.
Most victims since the uprisings have been Buddhist and Muslim bystanders.
Foreign relations
Main article: Foreign relations of Thailand

The foreign relations of Thailand are handled by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Thailand participates fully in international and regional organisations. It is a major


non-NATO ally and Priority Watch List Special 301 Report of the United States.
The country remains an active member of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian
Nations). Thailand has developed increasingly close ties with other ASEAN
members: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Laos,
Cambodia, Burma, and Vietnam, whose foreign and economic ministers hold
annual meetings. Regional co-operation is progressing in economic, trade,
banking, political, and cultural matters. In 2003, Thailand served as APEC (Asia
Pacific Economic Cooperation) host. Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, the former Deputy
Prime Minister of Thailand, currently serves as Secretary-General of the United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In 2005 Thailand
attended the inaugural East Asia Summit.

In recent years, Thailand has taken an increasingly active role on the


international stage. When East Timor gained independence from Indonesia,
Thailand, for the first time in its history, contributed troops to the international
peacekeeping effort. Its troops remain there today as part of a UN peacekeeping
force. As part of its effort to increase international ties, Thailand has reached out
to such regional organisations as the Organization of American States (OAS) and
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Thailand has
contributed troops to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Thaksin initiated negotiations for several free trade agreements with China,
Australia, Bahrain, India, and the US. The latter especially was criticised, with
claims that uncompetitive Thai industries could be wiped out.[70]

Thaksin also announced that Thailand would forsake foreign aid, and work with
donor countries to assist in the development of neighbours in the Greater Mekong
Sub-region.[71] Thaksin sought to position Thailand as a regional leader,
initiating various development projects in poorer neighbouring countries like
Laos. More controversially, he established close, friendly ties with the Burmese
dictatorship.[72]

Thailand joined the US-led invasion of Iraq, sending a 423-strong humanitarian


contingent.[73] It withdrew its troops on 10 September 2004. Two Thai soldiers
died in Iraq in an insurgent attack.

Abhisit appointed Peoples Alliance for Democracy leader Kasit Piromya as foreign
minister. In April 2009, fighting broke out between Thai and Cambodian troops on
territory immediately adjacent to the 900-year-old ruins of Cambodia's Preah
Vihear Hindu temple near the border. The Cambodian government claimed its
army had killed at least four Thais and captured 10 more, although the Thai
government denied that any Thai soldiers were killed or injured. Two Cambodian
and three Thai soldiers were killed. Both armies blamed the other for firing first
and denied entering the other's territory.[74][75]
Military
Main article: Royal Thai Armed Forces
The HTMS Chakri Naruebet, an aircraft carrier of the Royal Thai Navy.

The Royal Thai Armed Forces (Thai: , Kong Thap Thai) constitute the
military of the Kingdom of Thailand. It consists of the Royal Thai Army (
), the Royal Thai Navy (), and the Royal Thai Air Force (
). It also incorporates various paramilitary forces.

The Thai Armed Forces have a combined manpower of 306,000 active duty
personnel and another 245,000 active reserve personnel.[76] The head of the
Thai Armed Forces (, Chom Thap Thai) is King Bhumibol Adulyadej
(Rama IX),[77] although this position is only nominal. The armed forces are
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.[78] In 2011, Thailand's known military expenditure totalled
approximately US$5.1 billion.[79]

According to the constitution, serving in the armed forces is a duty of all Thai
citizens.[80] However, only males over the age of 21, who have not gone through
reserve training of the Army Reserve Force Students, are given the option of
volunteering for the armed forces, or participating in the random draft. The
candidates are subjected to varying lengths of training, from six months to two
years of full-time service, depending on their education, whether they have
partially completed the reserve training course, and whether they volunteered
prior to the draft date (usually 1 April every year).

Candidates with a recognised bachelor's degree serve one year of full-time


service if they are drafted, or six months if they volunteer at their district office

(, satsadi). Likewise, the training length is also reduced for those who have
partially completed the three-year reserve training course (.., ro do). A person
who completed one year out of three will only have to serve full-time for one
year. Those who completed two years of reserve training will only have to do six
months of full-time training, while those who complete three years or more of
reserve training will be exempted entirely.

Royal Thai Armed Forces Day is celebrated on 18 January, commemorating the


victory of King Naresuan the Great in battle against the Crown Prince of Burma in
1593.[citation needed]
Geography
Main article: Geography of Thailand
View of the Luang Prabang Range, which straddles the Thai/Lao border, in Nan
Province, Northern Thailand

Totalling 513,120 square kilometres (198,120 sq mi),[1] Thailand is the world's


51st-largest country by total area. It is slightly smaller than Yemen and slightly
larger than Spain.
Satellite image of flooding in Thailand, Oct 2011.

Thailand is home to several distinct geographic regions, partly corresponding to


the provincial groups. The north of the country is the mountainous area of the
Thai highlands, with the highest point being Doi Inthanon in the Thanon Thong
Chai Range at 2,565 metres (8,415 ft) above sea level. The northeast, Isan,
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.

Southern Thailand consists of the narrow Kra Isthmus 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 indispensable water courses of
rural Thailand. Industrial scale production of crops use both rivers and their
tributaries. The Gulf of Thailand covers 320,000 square kilometres (124,000 sq
mi) 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 eastern shore of the Gulf
of Thailand is an industrial centre of Thailand with the kingdom's premier
deepwater port in Sattahip and its busiest commercial port, Laem Chabang.

The Andaman Sea is a precious natural resource as it hosts the most popular and
luxurious resorts in Asia. Phuket, Krabi, Ranong, Phang Nga, and Trang and their
islands all lay along the coasts of the Andaman Sea and despite the 2004
tsunami, they are a tourist magnet for visitors from around the world.

Plans have resurfaced for a canal which would connect the Andaman Sea to the
Gulf of Thailand, analogous to the Suez and the Panama Canals. The idea has
been greeted positively by Thai politicians as it would cut fees charged by the
Ports of Singapore, improve ties with China and India, lower shipping times, and
eliminate pirate attacks in the Strait of Malacca, and support the Thai
government's policy of being the logistical hub for Southeast Asia. The canal, it is
claimed, 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 by making it an Asia logistical hub. The canal would be a major
engineering project and has an expected cost of US$2030 billion.
Climate

Most of Thailand has a "tropical wet and dry or savanna climate" type (Kppen's
Tropical savanna climate).[81] The south and the eastern tip of the east have a
tropical monsoon climate.

Countrywide, temperatures normally range from an average annual high of 38 C


(100.4 F) to a low of 19 C (66.2 F). During the dry season, the temperature
rises dramatically in the second half of March, spiking to well over 40 C (104 F)
in some areas by mid-April when the sun passes its zenith.

Southwest monsoons that arrive between May and July (except in the south)
signal the advent of the rainy season (ruedu fon). This lasts into October and the
cloud covering reduces the temperature again, with the high humidity
experienced as 'hot and sticky'. November and December mark the onset of the
dry season and night temperatures on high ground can occasionally drop to a
light frost. Temperatures begin to climb again in January.
Wildlife
Main article: List of species native to Thailand

The population of Asian elephants in Thailand's wild has dropped to an estimated


2,000, down from 100,000 elephants a century earlier.[82]

Thailand's wildlife is threatened by poaching, habitat loss, and an industry that


sells wild animals as pets.[83]

The elephant is Thailand's national symbol. Although there were 100,000


elephants in Thailand a century ago, the population of elephants in the wild has
dropped to an estimated 2,000.[84] Poachers have long hunted elephants for
ivory, meat[citation needed], and hides. Young elephants are often captured for
use in tourist attractions or as work animals, although their use has declined
since the government banned logging in 1989. There are now more elephants in
captivity than in the wild, and environmental activists claim that elephants in
captivity are often mistreated.[85]

Poaching of protected species remains a major problem. Hunters have decimated


the populations of tigers, leopards, and other large cats for their valuable pelts.
Many animals (including tigers, bears, crocodiles, and king cobras) are farmed or
hunted for their meat, which is considered a delicacy, and for their supposed
medicinal properties. Although such trade is illegal, the famous Bangkok market
Chatuchak is still known for the sale of endangered species.[86]

The practice of keeping wild animals as pets threatens several species. Baby
animals are typically captured and sold, which often requires killing the mother.
Once in captivity and out of their natural habitat, many pets die or fail to
reproduce. Affected populations include the Asiatic black bear, Malayan sun bear,
white-handed lar, pileated gibbon and binturong.[83]
Education
Main article: Education in Thailand
Primary school students in Thailand

In 2014 the literacy rate was 93.5%.[87] Education is provided by a wellorganized 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 with
public establishments. Education is compulsory up to and including age 14, with
the government providing free education through to age 17.[citation needed]
Chulalongkorn University, established in 1917, is the oldest university in Thailand.

Teaching relies heavily on rote learning rather than on student-centred


methodology. 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 volatility. Issues concerning university entrance has
been in constant upheaval for a number of years. Nevertheless, Thai education
has seen its greatest progress in the years since 2001. Most of the present
generation of students are computer literate. Thailand was ranked 54th out of 56
countries globally for English proficiency, the second-lowest in Asia.[88]

Students in ethnic minority areas score consistently lower in standardised


national and international tests.[89] [90] [91] This is likely due to unequal
allocation of educational resources, weak teacher training, poverty, and low Thai
language skill, the language of the tests.[89] [92] [93]

Extensive nationwide IQ tests were administered to 72,780 Thai students from


December 2010 to January 2011. The average IQ was found to be 98.59, which is
higher than previous studies have found. IQ levels were found to be inconsistent
throughout the country, with the lowest average of 88.07 found in the southern
region of Narathiwat Province and the highest average of 108.91 reported in
Nonthaburi Province. The Ministry of Public Health blames the discrepancies on
iodine deficiency and steps are being taken to require that iodine be added to
table salt, a practice common in many Western countries.[94]

In 2013, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology announced


that 27,231 schools would receive classroom-level access to high-speed internet.
[dead link][95]
Science and technology
Main article: List of Thai inventions and discoveries

The National Science and Technology Development Agency is an agency of the


government of Thailand which supports research in science and technology and
its application in the Thai economy.[citation needed]

The Synchrotron Light Research Institute (SLRI) is a Thai synchrotron light source
for physics, chemistry, material science, and life sciences. It is at the Suranaree
University of Technology (SUT), in Nakhon Ratchasima, about 300 km northeast

of Bangkok. The institute, financed by the Ministry of Science and Technology


(MOST), houses the only large scale synchrotron in Southeast Asia. It was
originally built as the SORTEC synchrotron in Japan and later moved to Thailand
and modified for 1.2 GeV operation. It provides users with regularly scheduled
light.[citation needed]
Internet

In Bangkok, there are 23,000 free public Wi-Fi Internet hotspots.[96] The Internet
in Thailand includes 10Gbit/s high speed fibre-optic lines that can be leased and
ISPs such as KIRZ that provide residential Internet services.[citation needed]

The Internet is censored by the Thai government, making some sites


unreachable. The organisations responsible are the Royal Thai Police, the
Communications Authority of Thailand, and the Ministry of Information and
Communication Technology (MICT).[citation needed]
Economy
Main article: Economy of Thailand
Bangkok, the largest city, business and industrial centre of Thailand.
Automotive production in Thailand, 2004-2013.

Thailand is an emerging economy and is considered a newly industrialised


country. Thailand had a 2013 GDP of US$673 billion (on a purchasing power
parity [PPP] basis).[97] Thailand is the 2nd largest economy in Southeast Asia
after Indonesia. Thailand ranks midway in the wealth spread in Southeast Asia as
it is the 4th richest nation according to GDP per capita, after Singapore, Brunei,
and Malaysia.

Thailand functions as an anchor economy for the neighbouring developing


economies of Laos, Burma, and Cambodia. In the third quarter of 2014, the
unemployment rate in Thailand stood at 0.84% according to Thailand's National
Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).[98]
Recent economic history

Thailand experienced the world's highest economic growth rate from 1985 to
1996 - averaging 12.4% annually. In 1997 increased pressure on the baht, a 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. Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was forced to resign after his
cabinet came under fire for its slow response to the economic crisis. The baht
was pegged at 25 to the US dollar from 1978 to 1997. The baht reached its
lowest point of 56 to the US dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted
by 10.8% that year, triggering the Asian financial crisis.

Thailand's economy started to recover in 1999, expanding 4.24.4% 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 increased
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 57% annually.

Growth in 2005, 2006, and 2007 hovered around 45%. 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. While Thaksinomics has
received criticism, official economic data reveals that between 2001 and 2011,
Isan's GDP per capita more than doubled to US$1,475, while, over the same
period, GDP in the Bangkok area increased from US$7,900 to nearly US$13,000.
[99]

With the instability surrounding major 2010 protests, the GDP growth of Thailand
settled at around 45%, from highs of 57% under the previous civilian
administration. Political uncertainty was identified as the primary cause of a
decline in investor and consumer confidence. The IMF predicted that the Thai
economy would rebound strongly from the low 0.1% GDP growth in 2011, to 5.5%
in 2012 and then 7.5% in 2013, due to the monetary policy of the Bank of
Thailand, as well as a package of fiscal stimulus measures introduced by the
incumbent Yingluck Shinawatra government.[100]

Following the Thai military coup of 22 May 2014, the AFP global news agency
published an article that claimed that the nation was on the verge of recession.
The article focused on the departure of nearly 180,000 Cambodians from
Thailand due to fears of an immigration clampdown, but concluded with
information on the Thai economy's contraction of 2.1% quarter-on-quarter, from
January to the end of March 2014.[101]
Exports and manufacturing
A proportional representation of Thailand's exports.

The economy of Thailand is heavily export-dependent, with exports accounting


for more than two-thirds of gross domestic product (GDP). Thailand exports over
US$105 billion worth of goods and services annually.[1] Major exports include
rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewellery, cars, computers,
and electrical appliances.[1]

Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer


components, and vehicles. Thailand's recovery from the 19971998 Asian
financial crisis depended mainly on exports, among various other factors. As of
2012, the Thai automotive industry was the largest in Southeast Asia and the 9th
largest in the world.[102][103][104] The Thailand industry has an annual output
of near 1.5 million vehicles, mostly commercial vehicles.[104]

Most of the vehicles built in Thailand are developed and licensed by foreign
producers, mainly Japanese and South Korean. The Thai car industry takes
advantage of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) to find a market for many of its
products. Eight manufacturers, five Japanese, two US, and Tata of India, produce
pick-up trucks in Thailand.[105] Thailand is the second largest consumer of pickup trucks in the world, after the US.[citation needed] In 2014, pick-ups accounted
for 42% of all new vehicle sales in Thailand.[105]
Tourism
Further information: Tourism in Thailand

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 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 3% of the Thai economy.
[106] According to research by Chulalongkorn University on the Thai illegal
economy, prostitution in Thailand in the period between 1993 and 1995, made up
around 2.7% of the GDP.[107] It is believed that at least 10% of tourist dollars are
spent on the sex trade.[108]
Agriculture
Further information: Agriculture in Thailand
Thailand has been the largest rice exporter in the world. Forty-nine per cent of
Thailand's labour force is employed in agriculture.[109]

Forty-nine per cent of Thailand's labour force is employed in agriculture.[109]


This is down from 70% in 1980.[109] Rice is the most important crop in the

country and Thailand had long been the world's leading exporter of rice, until
recently falling behind both India and Vietnam.[110] Thailand has the highest
percentage of arable land, 27.25%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong
Subregion.[111] About 55% of the arable land area is used for rice production.
[112]

Agriculture has been experiencing a transition from labour-intensive and


transitional methods to a more industrialised and competitive sector.[109]
Between 1962 and 1983, the agricultural sector grew by 4.1% per year on
average and continued to grow at 2.2% between 1983 and 2007.[109] The
relative contribution of agriculture to GDP has declined while exports of goods
and services have increased.
Energy
Further information: Energy in Thailand

75% of Thailand's electrical generation is powered by natural gas in 2014.[113]


Coal-fired power plants produce an additional 20% of electricity, with the
remainder coming from biomass, hydro, and biogas.[113]

Thailand produces roughly one-third of the oil it consumes. It is the second


largest importer of oil in SE Asia. Thailand is a large producer of natural gas, with
reserves of at least 10 trillion cubic feet. After Indonesia, it is the largest coal
producer in SE Asia, but must import additional coal to meet domestic demand.