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Kingdom of Thailand
Ratcha Anachak Thai
Flag Emblem
Anthem:  Phleng Chat Thai
Royal anthem:  Phleng Sansoen Phra Barami
Location of  Thailand  (green)in ASEAN  (dark grey)  —  [Legend]
Location of  Thailand  (green)

in ASEAN  (dark grey)  —  [Legend]

and largest city
13°45′N 100°29′E
Official languages Thai
Official scripts Thai alphabet
Demonym Thai
Government Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX)
 -  Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva
Legislature National Assembly
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house House of Representatives
 -  Sukhothai Kingdom 1238 - 1448 
 -  Ayutthaya Kingdom 1351 - 1767 
 -  Thonburi Kingdom 1768 - 1782 
 -  Rattanakosin Kingdom 6 April 1782 
 -  Constitutional Monarchy 24 June 1932 
 -  Later Constitution 24 August 2007 
 -  Total 513,120 km2 ( 50th)
198,115 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.4 (2,230 km2)
 -  2010 estimate 65,998,436 (est. July 2010) ( 20th)
 -  2000 census 60,606,947
 -  Density 132.1/km2 ( 88th)
342/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $584.768 billion
 -  Per capita $8,643.626
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $312.605 billion
 -  Per capita $4,620.705
Gini (2006) 43rd
Error: Invalid Gini value
HDI (2010) Increase0.654
Error: Invalid HDI value · 92nd
Currency Baht (฿) ( THB)
Time zone ( UTC+7)
Drives on the left
Calling code +66
ISO 3166 code TH
Internet TLD .th
1. ^ Thai name: กรุงเทพมหานคร Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or Krung Thep. The full name is กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุทธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์ Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
2. ^ According to the Department of Provincial Administration's official register, not taking into account unregistered citizens and immigrants.

Thailand (pronounced /ˈtaɪ.lænd/ TYE-land or /ˈtaɪ.lənd/; Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย Ratcha Anachak Thai, IPA:  [râːtɕʰa ʔaːnaːtɕɑ̀k tʰaj]), formerly Siam ( Thai: สยาม, IPA:  [sàjǎːm]), and officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is an independent country that lies in the heart of 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 are shared with Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast. Thailand also shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea to the southwest.

The country is a kingdom, a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, who has reigned since 1946, making him the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. The king is officially titled Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, an Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and the Defender of all Faiths.

The largest city in Thailand is Bangkok, the capital, which is also the country's centre of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities.

Thailand is the world's 50th largest country in terms of total area (slightly smaller than Yemen and slightly larger than Spain), with a surface area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), and the 20th most-populous country, with approximately 66 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 number of expatriates from developed countries. The country's official language is Thai. Its primary religion is Buddhism, which is practiced by around 95% of all Thais.

Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1995 and is a newly industrialized country with tourism, due to well-known tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Ko Samui, and exports contributing significantly to the economy.


The country's official name was Siam ( Thai: สยาม RTGS: Sayam, IPA:  [sàjǎːm]) until June 23, 1939, when it was changed to Thailand. It was then renamed Siam from 1945 to May 11, 1949, after which it was again renamed Thailand. Also spelled Sayam, 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. 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 Thai use the phrase "land of the free" to express pride in the fact that Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never colonized by an outside power.

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 ( Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย) means "Kingdom of Thailand".

Etymologically, its components are: -Ratcha- (from Sanskrit raja, meaning "king, royal, realm") ; -ana- (from Pāli āṇā, "authority, command, power", itself from Sanskrit ājñā, same meaning) -chak (from Sanskrit cakra or cakraṃ meaning "wheel", a symbol of power and rule). The Thai National Anthem ( Thai: เพลงชาติ) refers to the Thai nation as: prathet-thai (Thai: ประเทศไทย). The first line of the national anthem is: prathet thai ruam lueat nuea chat chuea thai (Thai: ประเทศไทยรวมเลือดเนื้อชาติเชื้อไทย) and was translated in 1939 by Colonel Luang Saranuprabhandi as: “Thailand is the unity of Thai blood and body.”


An example of pottery discovered near Ban Chiang in Udon Thani province, the earliest dating to 2100 BCE.

The region known as Thailand has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic period, about 10,000 years ago. Similar to other regions in Southeast Asia, it was heavily influenced by the culture and religions of India, starting with the kingdom of Funan around the 1st century CE.

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 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, 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.

Ayutthaya's expansion centered along the Menam while in the northern valley the Lanna Kingdom and other small Tai city-states ruled the area. In 1431, the Khmer abandoned Angkor after the Ayutthaya forces invaded the city. 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.

Buddhist images at Wat Mahathat built during the Sukhothai period.

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. 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 French Indochina and the British Empire. As a result, the country remained a buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia that were colonized by the two powers, Great Britain and France.

Western influence nevertheless 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 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.

Grand Palace in Bangkok built in 1782, is the official residence of the King of Thailand.

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.

During World War II, the Empire of Japan 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. About 200,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied POWs worked on the Thailand–Burma Death Railway.

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 coups d'état as one military regime replaced another, but eventually progressed towards a stable prosperity and democracy in the 1980s.


Thailand experienced strong economic growth during the 2000s, recovering from 1997's Asian financial crisis. From 2004 onwards, Thailand has faced an insurgency in 3 Southern provinces.

In 2006, the Thai government was overthrown in a coup d'état. The political events of 2006 led to the 2008–2010 Thai political crisis, which saw violent clashes in Bangkok.

Politics and government


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 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.

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 has 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 the 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 comprising 156 members.

1997 to 2006

Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, once the meeting place of the National Assembly, now used for the State Opening.
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". 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.

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 prologue sessions through a Royal Decree when the House term expires. The king also has the prerogative to call extraordinary sessions and prolong sessions at his discretion.

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 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 four-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

Armoured vehicles parked inside the compound of the Headquarters of the 1st Army

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

Royal Thai Policemen at the ready during the 2008 political crisis.
The demonstration of March 20, 2010, on Rama 4 road, Bangkok .

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), 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 in a highly controversial ruling found the Peoples Power Party 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.

Thailand remains an active member of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations).

As of April 2010, a set of new violent protests by the Red Shirt opposition movement, possibly backed financially by fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have resulted in 87 deaths (mostly civilian and some military) and 1,378 injured. When the army tried to disperse the protesters on April 10, 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. Grenades were fired at protesters, that were protesting against the "red shirts" and for the government, by unknown gunmen killing one pro-government protester, the government stated that the Red Shirts protesters were firing the weapons at civilians. However, the police later stated the path of the grenades and amunitions was from the Chulalongkorn Hospital, which the army was occupying.

Foreign relations

Thaksin Shinawatra and Surakiart Sathirathai meeting with former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on 19 September 2005
Pimpen Vejjajiva, Michelle Obama, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and U.S. President Barack Obama on 23 September 2009, in New York

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

Thailand participates fully in international and regional organizations. It is a major non-NATO ally of the United States. 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 cooperation is progressing in economic, trade, banking, political, and cultural matters. In 2003, Thailand served as APEC host. 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 organizations 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 criticized, with claims that high-cost Thai industries could be wiped out.

Thailand joined the US-led invasion of Iraq, sending a 423-strong humanitarian contingent. It withdrew its troops on 10 September 2004. Two Thai soldiers died in Iraq in an insurgent attack.

Thaksin announced that Thailand would forsake foreign aid, and work with donor countries to assist in the development of neighbors in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Thaksin was repeatedly attacked for acting undiplomatically with foreign leaders and the international community. Besides his famous swipe at the UN (see The 'war on drugs' above), there were also allegations of gaffes at international meetings.

Thaksin was ambitious 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, including extending the impoverished country a 4 billion baht credit line so it could conclude a satellite telecom deal with his family business.

Thaksin energetically supported his former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai's somewhat improbable campaign to become UN Secretary General.

Abhisit appointed Peoples Alliance for Democracy leader Kasit Piromya as foreign minister. Prior to his appointment, Kasit had led anti-Cambodia protests and called Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen a "gangster minded (ใจนักเลง)" (he later claimed the word he used actually meant "a person who is lionhearted, a courageous and magnanimous gentleman"). In April 2009, "large-scale fighting" erupted between Thai and Cambodian troops amid the 900-year-old ruins of the Cambodian temple of Preah Vihear in Khmer Territory. 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 soldiers were killed and three Thai soldiers were killed. Both armies blamed the other for firing first and denied entering the other's territory.

Armed forces

Royal Thai Navy HTMS Chakri Naruebet aircraft carrier
F-16 Block 15OCUs in flight, Royal Thai Air Force
Gripen C/D to be delivered in January 2011, Royal Thai Air Force

The Royal Thai Armed Forces ( Thai: กองทัพไทย: Kongthap Thai) is the name of the military of the Kingdom of Thailand. It consists of the following branches:

  • Royal Thai Army (กองทัพบกไทย)
  • Royal Thai Navy (กองทัพเรือไทย, ราชนาวีไทย)
  • Royal Thai Air Force (กองทัพอากาศไทย)
  • Other Paramilitary Forces

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 (Raksa Dindan - Ror Dor) are given the option of whether they want to volunteer for the armed forces, or pick the random draft. The candidates are subjected to varying lengths of training from 6 months to 2 years of fulltime service depending on their education, whether they have partially completed the reserve training course, and whether they volunteered before the drafting date (usually April 1 every year).

Candidates with a recognized bachelor's degree will be subjected to 1 year of full-time service if they picked the random draft, or 6 months if they volunteer at their respective district office (Sassadee).

Likewise, the training length is also reduced for those who have partially completed the 3-year reserve training course (Ror Dor). A person who completed 1 year out of 3 will only have to serve full-time for 1 year. Those completed 2 years of reserve training will only have to do 6 months of full-time training. While those who complete 3 years or more of reserve training will be exempted.

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

Law enforcement in Thailand


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 6.

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.

Chulalongkorn University, established in 1917 is the oldest university in Thailand.

The 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 76 provinces (จังหวัด, changwat), which are gathered into 5 groups of provinces by location. There are also 2 special governed districts: the capital Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) and Pattaya, of which Bangkok is at provincial level and thus often counted as a 77th province.

Each province is divided into districts and the districts are further divided into sub-districts (tambons). As of 2010 there are 878 districts (อำเภอ, amphoe) and the 50 districts of Bangkok (เขต, khet). Some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are also referred to as Greater Bangkok (ปริมณฑล, pari monthon). These provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Sakhon. 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
Wat Arun, in Bangkok


  1. Ang Thong
  2. Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon), Special Governed District of
  3. Chai Nat
  4. Kamphaeng Phet
  5. Lopburi
  6. Nakhon Nayok
  7. Nakhon Pathom
  8. Nakhon Sawan
  9. Nonthaburi
  10. Pathum Thani
  11. Phetchabun
  12. Phichit
  13. Phitsanulok
  14. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  15. Samut Prakan
  16. Samut Sakhon
  17. Samut Songkhram
  18. Saraburi
  19. Sing Buri
  20. Sukhothai
  21. Suphan Buri
  22. Uthai Thani


  1. Chachoengsao
  2. Chanthaburi
  3. Chonburi
  4. Prachinburi
  5. Rayong
  6. Sa Kaeo
  7. Trat


  1. Chiang Mai
  2. Chiang Rai
  3. Lampang
  4. Lamphun
  5. Mae Hong Son
  6. Nan
  7. Phayao
  8. Phrae
  9. Uttaradit
Wat Phra Sing, Chiang Mai Province

Northeast (Isan)

  1. Amnat Charoen
  2. Buri Ram
  3. Chaiyaphum
  4. Kalasin
  5. Khon Kaen
  6. Loei
  7. Maha Sarakham
  8. Mukdahan
  9. Nakhon Phanom
  10. Nakhon Ratchasima
  11. Nong Bua Lamphu
  12. Nong Khai
  13. Roi Et
  14. Sakon Nakhon
  15. Si Sa Ket
  16. Surin
  17. Ubon Ratchathani
    Phra Borommathat Nakhon Si Thammarat Thailand
  18. Udon Thani
  19. Yasothon


  1. Chumphon
  2. Krabi
  3. Nakhon Si Thammarat
  4. Narathiwat
  5. Pattani
  6. Phang Nga
  7. Phatthalung
  8. Phuket
  9. Ranong
  10. Satun
  11. Songkhla
  12. Surat Thani
  13. Trang
  14. Yala


  1. Kanchanaburi
  2. Phetchaburi
  3. Prachuap Khiri Khan
  4. Ratchaburi
  5. Tak
Largest Metropolitan Areas of Thailand

Pattaya Beach

Nakhon Ratchasima

Rank Metropolitan area Population

Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai


1 Bangkok 11,971,000
2 Pattaya-Chon Buri 1,183,604
3 Chiang Mai 960,906
4 Hat Yai-Songkhla 801,747
5 Nakhon Ratchasima 439,546


  • Telephone: Thailand has about 7,099,000 base telephones, and about 51,377,000 numbers for GSM/ 3G
  • Radio: AM 238 stations, FM 351 stations
  • Television: stations with 111 network stations. There are about 15,190,000 cable subscribers.
  • Satellite: 4 satellites



Mountainous landscape of Northern Thailand.
Dawn at Patong beach, Phuket Province, Thailand.

Totaling 513,120 square kilometres (198,120 sq mi), 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 France and the United Kingdom, and is similar in land size to France and California in the United States. 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 Inthanon 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. The south 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 sustainable resource 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 Gulf of Thailand is also an industrial centre of Thailand with the kingdom's main port in Sattahip along with being the entry gates for Bangkok's Inland Seaport.

The Andaman Sea is regarded as Thailand's most precious natural resource as it hosts the most popular and luxurious resorts in Asia. Phuket, Krabi, Ranong, Phang Nga and Trang and their lush islands all lay along the coasts of the Andaman Sea and despite the 2004 Tsunami, 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 Canal, analogous to the Suez and the Panama Canal. Such an idea has been greeted with positive accounts by Thai politicians as it would cut fees charged by the Ports of Singapore, improve ties with China and India, lower shipping times and increase ship safety owing to pirate fears in the Strait of Melaka 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 centre of Asia. The canal would be a major engineering project and has expected costs of 20–30 billion dollars.


Bangkok, the largest city, business and industrial centre of the country
Bangkok, All Seasons Place, Bangkok, China Resources Building
Bangkok at night, view from State Tower
Night view of Bangkok city
Thailand is the largest rice exporter in the world

Thailand is an emerging economy and considered as a newly industrialized country. Thailand enjoyed the world's highest growth rate from 1985 to 1996 – averaging 9.4% annually. In 1997 the economy contracted by 1.9% and increased pressure on Thailand's currency, the baht, 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. Major exports include Thai rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewellery, cars, 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 arable land area is used for rice production.

Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer parts and cars, 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 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 University 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.

The economy of Thailand is an emerging economy which is heavily export-dependent, with exports accounting for more than two thirds of gross domestic product (GDP).

Thailand has a GDP worth 8.5 trillion Baht (on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis), or US$627 billion (PPP). This classifies Thailand as the 2nd largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. Despite this, 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.

It functions as an anchor economy for the neighboring developing economies of Laos, Burma, and Cambodia. Thailand's recovery from the 1997–1998 Asian financial crisis depended mainly on exports, among various other factors. Thailand ranks high among the world's automotive export industries along with manufacturing of electronic goods.

Most of Thailand's labor force is working in agriculture. However, the relative contribution of agriculture to GDP has declined while exports of goods and services have increased.

Tourism revenues are on the rise. With the instability surrounding the recent coup and the military rule, however, the GDP growth of Thailand has settled at around 4-5% from previous highs of 5-7% under the previous civilian administration, as investor and consumer confidence has been degraded somewhat due to political uncertainty.

The incumbent elected civilian administration under Samak Sundaravej in power from January 29 to September 9, 2008 stated that the economy will have grown by 5.5% to 6% by the end of 2008. Due to rising oil and food prices, the annual inflation rate for 2008 shot up to 9.2% in July; a 10-year high, but it will unlikely reach double digit rates later this year as oil and food prices are stabilizing

Thailand generally uses the metric system but traditional units of measurement for land area are used, and imperial measure (feet, inches etc.) are occasionally used with building materials such as wood and plumbing sizes. 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 (Anno Domini [AD] or Common Era CE) counting prevails.

The Rajprasong, Chidlom and Sukhumvit skylines of Bangkok at night.



The official language of Thailand is Thai, a Kradai language closely related to Lao, Shan in Burma, and numerous smaller languages spoken in an arc from Hainan and Yunnan south to the Chinese 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, Teochew being the dialect best represented.

Numerous tribal languages are also spoken, including those belonging to the Mon-Khmer family, such as Mon, Khmer, Vietnamese, 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.


Thailand religiosity
religion percent

Thailand has a prevalence of Buddhism that ranks among the highest in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism. According to the last census (2000) 94.6% 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 – Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and part of Songkhla Chumphon have dominant Muslim populations that belong to the Sunni sect and are mostly ethnic Malay. 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.


Theravada Buddhism is highly respected in Thailand.

Thai culture has been shaped by many influences, including Chinese, Lao, Burmese, Cambodian, and Indian.

Its traditions incorporate a great deal of influence from India, China, Cambodia, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Thailand's national religion Theravada Buddhism is important to modern Thai identity. Thai Buddhism has evolved over time to include many regional beliefs originating from Hinduism, animism as well as ancestor worship. The official calendar in Thailand is based on the Eastern version of the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian (western) calendar. For example, the year AD 2010 is 2553 BE in Thailand.

Several different ethnic groups, many of which are marginalized, populate Thailand. Some of these groups overlap into Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia 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.

Life in Thailand

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.

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.

Thai seafood curry, an example of Thai cuisine.

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. 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.

As in 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.

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.Thai society has been influenced in recent years by its widely available multi-language press and media. There are some English and numerous Thai and Chinese newspapers in circulation; most Thai popular magazines use English headlines as a chic glamor factor. Many 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 Isan, Thailand's northeastern region, hosted 116 newspapers along with radio, TV and cable.


The cinema of Thailand dates back to the early days of filmmaking, when King Chulalongkorn's 1897 visit to Bern, Switzerland was recorded by Francois-Henri Lavancy-Clarke. The film was then brought to Bangkok, where it was exhibited. This sparked more interest in film by the Thai Royal Family and local businessmen, who brought in filmmaking equipment and started to exhibit foreign films. By the 1920s, a local film industry was started and in the 1930s, the Thai film industry had its first "golden age", with a number of studios producing films. Like some Southeast Asian film industries, the Thai film industry once had a decline, with the number of films made during the 1990s dropped from 113 in 1990 to only 32 in 1996. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives ( Thai: ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ, translit. Lung Boonmee raluek chat), directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, won the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.


Rajamangala National Stadium
Muay Thai is Thailand's national sport
Thai boxing

Muay Thai (Thai: มวยไทย, RTGS: Muai Thai, IPA:  [muɛj tʰaj], 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.

Pone Kingpetch was a Thai boxer, from Hua Hin, who defeated Pascal Perez, an Argentinean boxer to become the first Thai WBC Flyweight Champion on 16 April 1960 and later a 3 time WBC Flyweight Champion. Pone Kingpetch originally known as Mana Sidokbuab, assumed this name from his training camp; Kingpetch. Thai fighters traditionally take on the name of the camps they train for. That owner of the gym and head coach’s, Thongtos Intratat is present in these pictures. Thongtos Intratat is also known for being the first person to officially formulate and bottle Namman Muay (Thai Liniment) which is desired for his fighter, Pone Kingpetch. Namman Muay (Thai Liniment) is still only produced by his direct descendants in Thailand.

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.

Sepak Takraw

Takraw (Thai: ตะกร้อ) is a sport native to Thailand, in which the players hit a rattan ball and are allowed to use only their feet, knees, chest and head to touch the ball. Sepak Takraw is a form of this sport which resembles volleyball where the players volley a ball over a net with the aim of causing it to hit the ground on the opponent's side. It is also popular in other countries in Southeast Asia.


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 University, Mahasarakham University, Kasetsart University, Prince of Songkla University, Thammasat University, Silpakorn University, Rangsit University, 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 (Bangkok) and the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.


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.


Snooker is also increasingly popular in Thailand, following the success of James Wattana, a former world number three, who helped raise the profile of the sport in Thailand and the rest of Asia. There have been several other Thai players who have competed on the main tour including Supoj Saenla and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, although they have yet to emulate the acievements of Wattana. Currently Issara Kachaiwong, Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon and Noppon Saengkham are competing on the main tour along with Wattana.

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.


Thammasat Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. It is currently used mostly for football matches. The stadium holds 25,000. It is located in Thammasat University's Rangsit campus.

It was built for the 1998 Asian Games by construction firm Christiani and Nielsen, the same company that constructed the Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

Its appearance is that of a scaled down version of the Rajamangala Stadium. The tribunes form a continuous ring which are quite low behind each goal but rise up on each side. Unlike the Rajamangala though, Thammasat has a roof covering both side tribunes. Most striking about this stadium are the floodlights. Thai architects usually favour concrete pylons but these are the steel variety. As viewed from the exterior of the stadium the base of each pylon seems to grip the outside of the stadium and they dramatically lean over the tribunes so as to better illuminate the playing area.

Thammasat was going to be used for PEA FC's match against Singapore Armed Forces FC in an Asian Champions League qualifier in February 2009 but the pitch was deemed unplayable and the match was switched to the Rajamangala.

Rajamangala National Stadium is the biggest sporting arena in Thailand. It currently has a capacity of 65,000. It is located in Bang Kapi, Bangkok. The stadium was built in 1998 for the 1998 Asian Games and is the home stadium of Thailand national football team up to present.

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