12th ASEAN Summit


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Member Country: THAILAND


The Kingdom of Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia, bordering Laos and Cambodia to the east, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia to the south, and the Andaman Sea and Myanmar to the west. Thailand is also known as Siam, which was the country's official name until May 11, 1949. The word Thai (ไทย) means "freedom" in the Thai language. It is also the name of the Thai people - leading some inhabitants, particularly the sizeable Chinese minority, to continue to use the name Siam.

History
Thailand's origin is traditionally tied to the short-lived kingdom of Sukhothai founded in 1238, after which the larger kingdom of Ayutthaya was established in the mid-14th century. Thai culture was greatly influenced by both China and India. Contact with various European powers began in the 16th century but, despite continued pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power, though Western influence, including the threat of force, led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions to British mercantile interests, including the loss of the 3 southern provinces, which later became Malaysia's 3 northern states.

The Thais are very proud that they were never colonized by a European power. There are two main reasons for this: it was left as a buffer state between parts of Asia that were colonised by the French and the British and Thailand had a series of very able rulers in the 1800s.

A mostly bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. Known previously as Siam, the country first changed its name to Thailand in 1939, and definitively in 1949 after reverting to the old name post-World War II. During that conflict Thailand was in a loose alliance with Japan; following its conclusion Thailand became an ally of the United States. Thailand then saw a series of military coups d'état, but progressed towards democracy from the 1980s onward.

The official calendar in Thailand is based on the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the western calendar. For example, the year AD 2006 is equal to the year 2549 BE.

On 26 December 2004 the southwest coast of Thailand was devastated by a tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. In places it was as high as 10 meters. It killed more than 5,000 people in Thailand, half of them tourists.

Politics
The king has little direct power under the constitution but is the anointed protector of Thai Buddhism and a symbol of national identity and unity. The present monarch enjoys a great deal of popular respect and moral authority, which has on occasion been used to resolve political crises. The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the king from among the members of the lower house of parliament, usually the leader of the party that can organise a majority coalition government.

The bicameral Thai parliament is the National Assembly ( rathasapha) which consists of a House of Representatives (sapha phuthaen ratsadon) of 500 seats and a Senate (wuthisapha) of 200 seats. Members of both houses are elected by popular vote. The House of Representatives is elected by the first-past-the-post system, where only one candidate with a simple majority will be elected in one constituency. The Senate is elected based on the province system, where one province can return more than one Senator depending on its population size. Members of House of Representatives serve four-year terms, while Senators serve six-year terms. The law court system (san) has three layers, the highest judicial body being the Supreme Court (sandika) whose judges are directly appointed by the monarch. Thailand is an active member of the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Provinces
Thailand is divided into 75 provinces (changwat), which are grouped into 5 groups of provinces by location. There are also 2 special governed districts: the capital Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon in Thai) and Pattaya. However Pattaya is still part of Chonburi Province. And some Thai people still count Bangkok as one province, making Thailand a 76-province country. Each province is divided into smaller districts - as of 2000 there are 795 districts (amphoe), 81 sub-districts (king amphoe) and 50 districts of Bangkok (khet). However, some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are referred to as Greater Bangkok (pari monthon). These Provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon. The name of each capital city (mueang) is the same as that of the province: for example, the capital of Chiang Mai province (changwat Chiang Mai) is amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai. The 75 provinces are as follows:

North

Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nakhon Sawan, Nan, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sukhothai, Tak, Uthai Thani, Uttaradit

Northeast

Amnat Charoen, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Loei, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nong Bua Lamphu, Nong Khai, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Si Sa Ket, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Yasothon

East

Chachoengsao, Chanthaburi, Chon Buri, Prachin Buri, Rayong, Sa Kaeo, Trat

Central

Ang Thong, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Chai Nat, Kanchanaburi, Lop Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Saraburi, Sing Buri, Suphan Buri

South

Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang Nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang, Yala

Special Governed Districts

Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok), Mueang Pattaya (Pattaya)

Geography
Doi Inthanon at 2,576 m. The northeast consists of the Khorat Plateau, bordered to the east by the Mekong river. The centre of the country is dominated by the predominantly flat Chao Phraya river valley, which runs into the Gulf of Thailand. The south consists of the narrow Kra Isthmus that widens into the Malay Peninsula.

The local climate is tropical and characterised by monsoons. There is a rainy, warm, and cloudy southwest monsoon from mid-May to September, as well as a dry, cool northeast monsoon from November to mid-March. The southern isthmus is always hot and humid. Major cities beside the capital Bangkok include Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Thani, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani, Phuket and Hat Yai (Songkhla Province).

Economy
After enjoying the world's highest growth rate from 1985 to 1995 - averaging almost 9% annually - increased pressure on Thailand's currency, the baht, in 1997 led to a crisis that uncovered financial sector weaknesses and forced the government to float the currency. Long pegged at 25 to the US dollar, the baht reached its lowest point of 56 to the US dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted by 10.2% that same year. The collapse prompted a wider Asian financial crisis.

Thailand entered a recovery stage in 1999, expanding 4.2% and grew 4.4% in 2000, largely due to strong exports - which increased about 20% in 2000. Growth was dampened by softening of global economy in 2001, but picked up in the subsequent years due to strong growth in China and the various domestic stimulation programs of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, popularly known as Thaksinomics. Growth in 2003 and 2004 was over 6% annually.[1]

Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer parts and automobiles, while tourism contributes about 5% of the Thai economy's GDP.

Demographics
Thailand's population is dominated by ethnic Thai and Lao, the latter concentrated in the northeastern Isan region and making up around one third of the population. There is also a large community of Thai Chinese, who have historically played a disproportionately significant role in the economy. Bangkok's Chinatown is located on Yaowarat Road. Other ethnic groups include Malays in the south, Mon, Khmer and various indigenous hill tribes. After the end of the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese refugees settled in Thailand, mainly in the eastern regions.

According to the last census (2000) 94.6% of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims are the second religious group in Thailand at 4.6%. Most of them are ethnic Malays and they are mostly concentrated in the south, where they form a strong majority in four provinces. Christians, mainly Catholics, represent 0.75% of the population. A tiny but influential community of Sikhs and some Hindus also live in the country's cities.

The Thai language is Thailand's national language, written in its own alphabet, but many ethnic and regional dialects exist as well as areas where people speak predominantly Isan or Khmer. Although English is widely taught in schools, proficiency is low.

Culture
Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand and its native martial art. It reached popularity all over the world in the 1990s. Similar martial art styles exist in other southeast Asian countries.

The standard greeting in Thailand is a prayer-like gesture called the wai. Taboos include touching someone's head or pointing with the feet, as the head is considered the highest and the foot the lowest part of the body. Stepping over someone, or over food, is considered insulting. Books and other documents are considered the most revered of secular objects - therefore one should not slide a book across a table or place it on the floor.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the King is extremely respected and revered. It is illegal to insult the Royal Family.

Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty.

 

 
Racha-anachakra Thai
Kingdom of Thailand
Flag of Thailand Coat of Arms of Thailand
Flag Coat of Arms
Anthem: Phleng Chat
Location of Thailand
Official language Thai
Capital Bangkok
13°44N 10030E
Largest city Bangkok
Government
King
Prime Minister
Constitutional monarchy
Bhumibol Adulyadej
Thaksin Shinawatra
Independence
- Sukhothai kingdom
- Ayutthaya kingdom
- Taksin
- Chakri dynasty
from Khmer Empire
12381368
13501767
1767April 7, 1782
April 7, 1782present
Area
- Total
- % water
514,000 km(49th)
0.4%
Population
- Total (2005)
- Density
65,444,371 (19th)
60,916,441

127/km (59th)
GDP (PPP)
- Total
- capita
2005 estimate
$559.5 billion (20th)
$8,542 (72nd)
HDI (2003) 0.778 (73rd) medium
Currency Baht (THB)
Time zone
Summer(DST)
(UTC+7)
(UTC+7)
Internet TLD .th
Calling code +66
 
 

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