Full country name: Kingdom of Thailand
Head of state: King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX)
Prime Minister: Samak Sundaravej
Area: 517,000 sq. kms.
Population: 65 million
Capital: Bangkok (pop. 6 million)
People: 75% Thai, 11% Chinese, 3.5% Malay, also Mon, Khmer, Phuan and Karen minorities
Religion: 88% Buddhism, 12% Muslim
Government: Democratic constitutional monarchy
The North is characterized by forested hills and deep river valleys; the South by tropical beaches and limestone formations producing cliffs and offshore islands; the Northeast by semi-arid plateaus; and the Central Plain by hugely fertileland watered by the Chao Phraya River.
Totals over 2,500 kilometers. The western shores are touched by the Andaman Sea, the east by the Gulf of Thailand. Dotting the coastline are hundreds of offshore islands, both populated and uninhabited.
Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three seasons: Summer (March-May), Rainy (June-Oct.), and Winter (Nov.-Feb.). Temperatures vary 19-38 degree ceeisius.
Flora and fauna
Thailand has nearly 300 species of mammals and can claim to one of Asia’s richest bird faunas (over 900 species sighted). It has over 60 national parks and over 30 wildlife preserves.
Thailand means “land of the free.” And throughout its 800-year history, it can boast the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. The Thais founded their kingdom in the southern part of China, which is Yunnan, Kwangsi and Canton today. A great number of people migrated south as far as the Chao Phraya Basin and settled down over the Central Plain under the sovereignty of the Khmer Empire, whose culture they probably accepted.
The Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the region in the13th century, gradually asserting independence from existing Khmer and Mon kingdoms. Called by its rulers “the dawn of happiness”, this is often considered the golden era of Thai history, an ideal Thai state in a land of plenty governed by paternal and benevolent kings.