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211/365 – Thailand

Capital: Bangkok, population 8 million

Major Cities:  Nonthaburi, population 265,000  Pak Kret, population 175,000  Hat Yai, population 158,000  Chiang Mai, population 146,000

Government: Thailand is a constitutional monarchy under the beloved king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned since 1946. King Bhumibol is the world’s longest-serving head of state. Thailand’s current Prime Minister is Yingluck Shinawatra, who assumed office as the first ever female in that role on August 5, 2011.

Language: Thailand’s official language is Thai, a tonal language from the Tai-Kadai family of East Asia. Thai has a unique alphabet derived from the Khmer script, which is itself descended from the Brahmic Indian writing system. Written Thai first appeared around 1292 A.D.

Population: Thailand’s estimated population as of 2007 was 63,038,247. The population density is 317 people per square mile.   The vast majority are ethnic Thais, who make up about 80% of the population. There is also a large ethnic Chinese minority, comprising about 14% of the population. Unlike the Chinese in many neighboring Southeast Asian countries, the Sino-Thai are well-integrated into their communities. Other ethnic minorities include the Malay, Khmer, Mon, and Vietnamese. Northern Thailand also is home to small mountain tribes such as the Hmong, Karen, and Mein, with a total population of less than 800,000.

Religion: Thailand is a deeply spiritual country, with 95% of the population belonging to the Theravada branch of Buddhism. Visitors will see gold-spired Buddhist stupas scattered all across the country.   Muslims, mostly of Malay origin, make up 4.5% of the population. They are located primarily in the far south of the country, in the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and Songkhla Chumphon.   Thailand also hosts tiny populations of Sikhs, Hindus, Christians (mostly Catholics), and Jews.

Geography: Thailand covers 514,000 square kilometers (198,000 square miles) at the heart of Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia.

The Thai coastline stretches for 3,219 km along both the Gulf of Thailand on the Pacific side, and the Andaman Sea on the Indian Ocean side. The west coast was devastated by the Southeast Asian tsunami in December of 2004, which swept across the Indian Ocean from its epicenter off Indonesia.   The highest point in Thailand is Doi Inthanon, at 2,565 meters (8,415 feet). The lowest point is the Gulf of Thailand, at sea level.

Climate: Thailand’s weather is ruled by the tropical monsoons, with a rainy season from June through October, and a dry season beginning in November. Average annual temperatures are a high of 38° C (100° F), with a low of 19° C (66° F). The mountains of northern Thailand tend to be much cooler and somewhat drier than the central plain and coastal regions.

Economy: Thailand’s “Tiger Economy” was humbled by the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, when the GDP growth rate plummeted from +9% in 1996 to -10% in 1998. Since then, Thailand has recovered well, with growth at a manageable 4-7%.

The Thai economy depends mainly on automotive and electronics manufacturing exports (19%), financial services (9%), and tourism (6%). About half of the workforce is employed in the agriculture sector, and Thailand is the world’s top exporter of rice. The country also exports processed foods like frozen shrimp, canned pineapple, and canned tuna.

Thailand’s currency is the baht.

Source: http://asianhistory.about.com/od/thailand/p/ThailandProfile.htm

Categories: General Knowledge, Place
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