Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex
Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries
|Background: A unified Thai kingdom was established in the
mid-14th century; it was known as Siam until 1939. Thailand is the only
southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power.
A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. In
alliance with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US ally
following the conflict.
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Currency: 1 baht (B) = 100 satang
Geography of Thailand
Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand,
southeast of Burma
People of Thailand
Thailand's population is relatively homogeneous. More than 85% speak a dialect of Thai and share a common culture. This core population includes the central Thai (36% of the population), Thai-Lao (32%), northern Thai (8%), and southern Thai (8%).
The language of the central Thai population is the language taught in schools and used in government. Several other small Thai-speaking groups include the Shan, Lue, and Phutai.
The largest minorities are the Chinese--about 12% of the population--and the Malay-speaking Muslims of the south (3%). Other groups include the Khmer; the Mon, who are substantially assimilated with the Thai; and the Vietnamese. Smaller, predominantly mountain-dwelling tribes, such as the Hmong, Karen, and Mein, number about 500,000.
The population is mostly rural, concentrated in the rice-growing areas of the central, northeastern, and northern regions. However, as Thailand continues to industrialize, its urban population--18% of total population, principally in the Bangkok area--is growing.
Thailand's highly successful government-sponsored family planning program has resulted in a dramatic decline in population growth from 3.1% in 1960 to around 1% today. Life expectancy also has risen, a positive reflection of Thailand's efforts at public health education. However, the AIDS epidemic has had a major impact on the Thai population. Thai Government officials estimate that Thailand has between 200,000 and 400,000 HIV carriers. Chiang Rai Province in the north may have an infection rate as high as 15%. In recent years, the Thai Government has devoted substantial resources toward AIDS education and awareness.
Universal, free public education is compulsory for a period of 6 years. Education accounts for 25% of total government expenditures.
Theravada Buddhism is the official religion of Thailand and is the religion of more than 90% of its people. The government permits religious diversity, and other major religions are represented. Spirit worship and animism are widely practiced.
Population: 65,444,371 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Thailand > Map Economy History