According to ehangzhou, Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia with an area of 513,120 km² and a population of about 69.6 million. Thailand is also called Siam (ขาย, Sayam, [sa.jǎːm]), which was the country’s official name until June 23, 1939. The word “Thai” means “free” in the Thai language. The capital and largest city of Thailand is Bangkok.
A citizen of Thailand is usually identified as a “Thai” or “Siamese” (obsolete), which strictly speaking refers only to ethnic Thais. Most Thais are Theravada Buddhists of Thai descent, but the country also has a significant number of minorities, especially Han Chinese, but also Muslim Malays in the south.
Thailand is located in the center of the Indo-Chinese Peninsula. It borders Laos and Cambodia to the east, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia to the south, and the Andaman Sea (part of the Indian Ocean ‘s Bay of Bengal ) and Myanmar (formerly Burma) to the west. To the west of Thailand are the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which belong to India and to the southwest is the Indonesian island of Sumatra. In addition, Thailand shares a maritime border with Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand.
Thailand’s main industries are manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. It is considered a newly industrialized country and is a member of the regional organization ASEAN.
The country’s official name was “Siam” until 23 June 1939, but it was again known as “Siam” between 1945 and 11 May 1949, before it was again changed by official proclamation to Thailand (Thai: Prathet Thai ). Even before the official name change, Thais referred to their country as Muang Thai. The word “Thai” (ไทย) is derived from the word “Tai” (ไทย), which means “freedom” in Thai. Thai is also the name of the largest ethnic group in Thailand.
The country has always been called Mueang Thai by its inhabitants. Before 1949, the country was usually referred to by outsiders as Siam (Thai: สุมั่, sayam, [sajǎːm], also spelled Siem, Syâm or Syâma ). The word Siam may be derived from Pali ( suvaṇṇabhūmi, “land of gold”) or Sanskrit श्याम ( śyāma, “dark”) or Mon রামমা ( rhmañña, “stranger”). The names Shan and A-hom appear to be variants of the same word. The word Śyâma is probably not the origin, but an artificial adaptation over the years. Another idea is that the name is of Chinese origin: “Ayutthaya emerged as a dominant center late in the 14th century. The Chinese called this region Xian which the Portuguese renamed Siam. A further possibility is that Mon-speaking people who migrated south called themselves syem, like the native Mon-Khmer-speaking inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula.
King Mongkut’s (reigned 1851–1868) signature read SPPM for Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha or Latin : Mongkut Rex Siamensium (“Mongkut, King of the Siamese”). This gave official status to the name Siam until 24 June 1939, when the country’s name was changed to “Thailand”. “Thailand” fell back to Siam from 1946 to 1948, after which it was again changed back to “Thailand” until today.
According to George Cœdès, Thai (ไทย) means “free man” in Thai, “to distinguish the Thai from the natives who exist as slaves in Thai society”. A well-known Thai scholar argues that Thai (தி) simply means “people” or “being human”, as his investigations show that in some rural areas the word “Thai” was used instead of the common Thai word khon (ப ) for humans. According to Michel Ferlus, the ethnonym Thai-Tai (or Thay-Tay) developed from the etymon *k(ə)ri: (“being human”) through the following chain: *kəri: > *kəli: > *kədi: /*kədaj > *di:/*daj > *daj A (Proto-Southwestern Tai) > tʰaj (in Thai and Lao ) or > taj (in the other Southwestern and Central Tai languages as classified by Li Fangkuei). Michel Ferlus’ work is based on simple rules of phonetic changes observable in the Sinopher and for the most part investigated by William H. Baxter (1992).
While Thais want to refer to their country with the polite form prathet Thai (พระเพิม), they generally use the term mueang Thai (汰明) or just Thai; the word mueang, which originally referred to a city-state, was especially used to refer to a city as the center of an area. Ratcha Anachak Thai (พรับต้ายต้าแต่วิย) means “Kingdom of Thailand” or “Kingdom of Thai”. Etymologically, it consists of: ratcha ( Sanskrit : राजन्, rājan, “king, royal, empire”); -ana- ( Pali : āṇā “authority, command, power”, in turn derived from Sanskrit अग्ण, ājñā, with the same meaning) -chak (from Sanskrit चक्र, cakra- “wheel”, a symbol of power and dominion). The Thai National Anthem (ขาวิต้ม), written by Luang Saranupraphan during the 1930s, refers to the Thai nation as prathet Thai (ครื่อง). The first line of the national anthem reads: prathet thai ruam lueat nuea chat chuea thai (พระเทียยเต้าแม่วี่วั่วิมส้าย), “Thailand is the unity of Thai flesh and blood”.
Various indigenous cultures have existed in Thailand since the time of the Ban Chiang culture (around 2000 BC). Due to the country’s geographical location, the culture of Thailand has always been strongly influenced by India, China and other neighboring cultures of Southeast Asia. Buddhism was first introduced into the Chaopraya Basin in the 5th century in the form of Indian deities; probably without well-defined sects and traditions. However, in the 12th century, monks from Sri Lanka brought the Theravada form of Buddhism to Thailand where it quickly flourished. The first Siamese/Thai state is traditionally considered to be the Buddhist Kingdom of Sukhothai. This kingdom was an early kingdom in the vicinity of the city of Sukhotai in North-Central Thailand, which existed from 1238 to 1438.
The kingdom’s power was later overshadowed by the larger Siamese Kingdom of Ayutthaya which was founded in the mid-14th century. This kingdom was located around the present city of Ayutthaya in the province of the same name in Central Thailand. After the Siamese forces sacked Angkor in 1431, much of the Khmer Empire and its Hindu customs were taken back to Ayutthaya, and many of the customs and rituals were adopted into the culture of Siam.
After Ayuthaya was conquered by the Burmese in 1767, Thonburi was for a short period the capital of Thailand, under the leadership of King Taksin the Great. The current era of Thailand’s history began in 1782, following the establishment of Bangkok as the capital of the Chakri Dynasty, led by King Rama the Great.
European powers began traveling to Thailand in the 16th century. Despite the pressure exerted by Europe, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that was never colonized by a European power. The two main reasons for this are that Thailand had a long line of successful leaders in the 1800s and that it exploited the animosity and tension between the French and the British. As a result, the country became a buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia colonized by the two competing European colonial powers. However, the influence of a nearby British colony led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions to British trading interests. An example of this was the loss of the three southern provinces, which would later become Malaysia ‘s three northern states. Subsequently, independent Thailand was bordered in the west by British India, in the east by French Indo-China and in the south by British Malaya.
A non-violent revolution in 1932 led to a new constitutional monarchy. During the Second World War, Thailand was allied with Japan, but after the war became an ally of the United States of America and took part in, among other things, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. After a series of coups, Thailand began to move closer to a democracy in the 1980s. On October 13, 2016, Thailand’s monarch, Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88. He was also known as Rama IX and the world’s longest serving head of state.
In 1997, Thailand was hit by the Asian financial crisis and the currency of Thailand, the baht, suffered for a short period: before 1997, US$1 was equal to 25 baht, but during the crises, $1 was equal to 56 baht. Since then, however, the baht has strengthened and, in May 2007, $1 equaled 33 baht.
The official calendar used in Thailand is based on the Eastern version of the Buddhist calendar which predates the Gregorian calendar by 543 years. For example, the year 2019 AD is known in Thailand as 2562 BE.
The recent years have been particularly characterized by border conflicts with neighboring Cambodia around the Prasat Preah Vihear, which was listed as world heritage by Unesco in 2008.  In southern Thailand, ethnic Malays have been advocating unification with Malaysia for years.
Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world with an area of 513,120 km². It can be compared to the size of Yemen and is somewhat larger than Spain.
Major cities include the capital Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nonthaburi, Pak Kret, Surat Thani and Udon Thani.
Thailand has several areas that differ geographically from each other; these areas also more or less correspond to the respective provinces of the country. The north of the country is mountainous, with the peak of the mountain, Doi Inthanon, as the highest point with a height of 2576 m. The northeast consists of the Khorat Plateau and covers an area of 155,000 km². The plateau is bordered to the east by the Mekong River. In the west, the Salween River forms the border with Myanmar for a short distance. The center of the country is dominated by the mainly flat Chao Phraya river valley, which flows into the Gulf of Thailand. The south consists of the thin isthmus that widens closer to the Malay Peninsula.
The local climate is tropical and characterized by monsoons: rainy seasons lasting several months. From mid-May to September there is a rainy, cloudy yet warm southwest monsoon and a drier, cool northeast monsoon from November to mid-March. The southern isthmus is always hot and muggy.
Thailand’s population is dominated by various Tai-speaking people. The most numerous are Central Thai, Northeastern Thai (also called “Isan” or “Lao”: two different, yet closely related dialects) and Southern Thai. Central Thai has long been the dominant language in terms of politics, economics and culture, although the language’s native speakers make up only a third of the country’s population ( native speakers of Northeastern Thai form the majority). However, many people are currently able to speak Central Thai, as well as their own dialects, thanks to the education system and the movement towards a national identity.
The largest group of non-Thai people are the Han Chinese who have played an important historical role in the economy of the country. Most Chinese have fully integrated themselves into the Thai community and it is only the minority that still lives in the Chinese neighborhood of Yaowarat Road in Bangkok. Other ethnic groups include the Malays in the south and the Mon, the Khmer and various mountain peoples (including the Padaungstam, made up of people from the Kayan, a small ethnic group some of whose members fled Myanmar for Thailand in the 1990s). After the end of the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese refugees settled in Thailand, mainly in the northeastern regions. Some of the other ethnic minorities include Bamar and Hakka.
According to the 2000 census, 95% of Thailand’s population are Theravada Buddhists. The Muslims are the second largest group with 4.6%. Muslims often live in different communities than the other faiths. The population in the southern tip of Thailand consists mainly of ethnic Malays, who are mostly concentrated in the south and form a strong majority in four provinces. Christians, mainly Roman Catholics, represent 0.75% of the country’s population. There are also small communities of Sikhs and Hindus in the country’s cities.
The national language of Thailand is Thai, but there are also many ethnic and regional dialects, as well as other areas where people mainly speak Isan or one of the Mon-Khmer languages. Thai also has its own alphabet, which is drastically different from the Latin alphabet used by Western languages, among others. English is currently taught in schools, although the number of speakers who can speak it is still in the minority. In addition, languages such as Hakka, Khmer, Malay and Min are spoken in Thailand.
Politics and government
Since the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has already had 17 constitutions and charters. During this time, the form of government varied from a military dictatorship to an elected democracy, but all governments recognized a hereditary monarch as the head of state.
1997 to 2006
The 1997 constitution was the first constitution drafted by an elected committee. This committee was elected on the basis of popularity and this constitution is referred to as the “Constitution of the People”.
The 1997 constitution created a bicameral system, consisting of a 500-seat House of Representatives (பாட்தைம்ப்ப்புராயாப்ப்பு, “sapha phutan ratsadon”) and a 200-seat Senate (முத்திப்ப்பு, “wuthisapha”). It was also the first time in history that both houses were directly elected. Many human rights are expressly recognized in the constitution and measures have been put in place to improve the stability of elected governments. During the election of the House of Representatives, only one candidate could be elected with a majority vote per voting district. The Senate was elected by province, during which a province could have more than one senator, depending on the province’s population size. Members of the House of Representatives serve for a four-year term, while senators serve for six years.
The court system (கால், “saan”) included a constitutional court that had jurisdiction over the constitutionality of parliamentary acts, royal decrees, and other political matters.
The January 2001 general election was the first election under the 1997 constitution, and has been referred to as the first corruption-free election in Thailand’s history. The succeeding government was the first government to serve the full four-year term. The 2005 elections drew the largest number of voters in Thailand’s history and showed a marked reduction in the number of bought votes seen in previous elections.
At the start of 2006, significant pressure from allegations of corruption led Thaksin Shinawatra to call for a snap election, which would take place before the scheduled election date. The opposition boycotted the elections and Thaksin was re-appointed. Sustained, mounting pressure led to a military coup on 19 September 2006.
After the coup of 2006
A military junta, the Council for National Security, overthrew the elected government of Thaksin on 19 September 2006. King Bhumibol Adulyadej confirmed the situation with a royal declaration the day after the coup. The junta abolished the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Court of Justice, detained and later removed some members of the government, declared martial law and appointed one of the King’s privy councilors, Surayud Chulanont, as prime minister. The junta drafted a highly abbreviated transitional constitution and appointed a panel to draft a permanent constitution. The junta also appointed a 250-member legislature, referred to by one critic as a “chamber of generals”. The head of the junta was allowed to remove the prime minister at any time. The legislature was not allowed to pass a motion of no confidence in the Cabinet and the public was not allowed to submit comments on any of the rights.
Martial law was partially repealed in January 2007. However, the junta continues to censor the media and is accused of a number of human rights violations. The junta also banned all political activities and meetings until May 2007.
Thailand remains an active member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN ).
Thailand is a newly industrialized country. The term is a socioeconomic classification used to refer to countries that have not yet achieved “first world” status, but which, in a macroeconomic sense, have already overtaken other developing countries. From 1985 to 1995, Thailand enjoyed the fastest growth rate in the world, with a general rate of 9% per year. However, the changes put increased pressure on Thailand’s currency, the baht, and a financial crisis in 1997 exposed weaknesses in the financial sector. After the baht had a fixed value of US$1 for 25 baht for a long period, the Thai government released the value of the baht to be determined by market forces. However, as a result of the release, the baht reached its all-time low in January 1998, when US$1 was equal to 56 baht. The economy also lost 10.2% of its value in that year. The collapse formed part of the wider Asian financial crisis.
The country later went through a recovery phase in 1998 and the economy grew by 4.2% that same year and a further 4.4% in 2000. The growth was largely due to their export trade, which grew by 20% in 2000 rose. Economic growth was somewhat subdued in 2001, due to a weakening of the global economy. However, growth resumed in the following years, thanks to economic growth in the People’s Republic of China and various local economic stimulus programs by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. His economic tactics are also referred to as “Thaksinomics”. Thailand enjoyed an annual economic growth of just over 6% in 2003 and 2004, despite a slowdown in the global economy.
However, investment stagnated in 2006, after investors were deterred by the Thaksin administration’s political problems. The military coup in September 2006 provided a new economic team, led by the former central bank manager. The Thai Board of Investment reported a 27% drop in investment applications between January and November (compared to the same period of the previous year). However, export trade skyrocketed and rose almost 17% in 2006.
Thailand exports products with a combined value of more than $105 billion annually. Some of their largest exports include rice, textiles and footwear, fish products, rubber, jewellery, motor cars, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world’s leading exporter of rice, exporting 6.5 tons of processed rice to countries around the world annually. Rice is therefore also the most important crop in the country. Thailand has the highest percentage of arable land of all the nations in the Greater Mekong Subregion: 27.25%. This region includes, among others, the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Yunnan province of the People’s Republic of China. About 55% of the available land is used for the production of rice.
Important industries include electrical appliances and parts, computer parts and motor vehicles. Tourism provides approximately 5% of the economy’s gross domestic product.
Thailand’s major natural resources include tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, lead, fish, gypsum and arable agricultural land.
Tourism is an important economic factor in Thailand. This industry got a boost when American soldiers stopped here in the 1970s during rest breaks in the Vietnam War. In 2005, the country received approximately 13% of foreign visitors: an increase of 14% since 2004.
According to the Tourism Board of Thailand, 65% of the country’s visitors are from Asia and the regions around the Pacific Ocean. Thailand experiences strong competition with its neighboring countries: Cambodia hosts the popular temple Angkor Wat while the city of Luang Prabang in Laos is also an extremely popular tourist destination.
Despite this, Thailand has a variety of attractions, including diving sites, beaches, exotic islands, archaeological sites, museums, ethnic and religious sites and world heritage sites. Thailand also has several temples of the Khmer Empire such as the Sdok Kok Thom near the border with Cambodia.
Thailand owns the following Unesco World Heritage Sites :
- Ban Chiang– an archaeological site.
- The Dong Phaya Yen mountain range.
- The Ayutthaya Park which is located on the ruins of the ancient city of Ayutthaya.
- The Sukhothai Park which is located on the ruins of the ancient capital Sukhothai.
- The Thungyai and Huai Kha Khaeng Game Reserves.
The capital of Thailand, Bangkok, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world: number three according to Travel and Leisure magazine, and the most popular in Asia. The city boasts three of the country’s most popular historical sites: Grand Palace (the former residence of the royal family) and the Buddhist temples Wat Pho and Wat Arun.
“Khaosan Road” is the name of a short street in Bangkok which is currently known as the ghetto of backpackers. The street houses a number of Bangkok’s cheaper hostels and hotels and many tourists use the street as a base for their visit to the rest of Thailand, as there are regular bus services from Khaosan Road to all tourist destinations in Thailand.
Some of the main international airports for tourists in Thailand include Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi serving Bangkok and Phuket International Airport on the tourist island of Phuket. Thai Airways forms Thailand’s flag carrier airline.