Thailand

From ISOC Wiki, the ultimate monger encyclopedia!
Jump to: navigation, search
ราชอาณาจักรไทย
Ratcha Anachak Thai

Kingdom of Thailand

Flag of Thailand
Location of Thailand
Capital Bangkok / Krung Thep
Official languages Thai
Ethnic groups Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, other 11%
Currency Thai Baht (THB)
Exchange Rates USD CAD EUR GBP
Monthly Minimum Wage Ranges from 139 Thai baht to 181 baht per day, depending on the cost of living in various provinces.
HIV Percentage 1.5% (2003 est.)
Time zone (UTC+7)
DST (UTC+7)
Electricity 220 volts AC, 50Hz; both flat and round two-pin plugs are used
Internet TLD .th
Calling code +66

The Kingdom of Thailand lies in Southeast Asia, with Laos and Cambodia to its east, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia to its south, and the Andaman Sea and Myanmar to its west. The country's official name was Siam until 24 June 1939.

It was again called Siam between 1945 and May 11, 1949, when it was once again changed by official proclamation. The word Thai (ไทย) means "freedom" in the Thai language and is also the name of the majority ethnic group.

Demographics

Thailand's population is dominated by various Tai-speaking peoples. Among these, the most numerous are the Central Thai, the Northeastern Thai or Isan or Lao, the Northern Thai, and the Southern Thai. The Central Thai have long dominated the nation politically, economically, and culturally, even though they make up only about one-third of Thailand's population and are slightly outnumbered by the Northeastern Thai. Due to education system and the forging of a national identity, many people are now able to speak Central Thai as well as their own local dialects.

The largest group of non-Tai people are the Chinese who have historically played a disproportionately significant role in the economy. Most have integrated completely into mainstream Thai society, and do not live in Bangkok's Chinatown on Yaowarat Road. Other ethnic groups include Malays in the south, Mon, Khmer and various hill tribes. After the end of the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese refugees settled in Thailand, mainly in the northeastern regions.

Ethnic groups 
Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, other 11%
Religious affiliation 
Buddhism 95%, Muslim 4.6%, Roman Catholic 0.3%
Largest cities 
Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani, Phuket and Hat Yai

see also List of cities in Thailand

Country Executive Monger Summary

Overview

Prostitution Laws

Policy: It is illegal under the Criminal Code to work as a prostitute or to live off the earnings of a prostitute.

Practice: Prostitutes operate as ‘entertainers’. Sex tourism is common, though the majority of clients are local.

Read more at Thailand Sexuality.

Practicalities

International Airports:
Visas:
  • Visas are not required for holiday travel by US passport holders for periods of 30 days or less (an extension of up to 10 days is possible). Passports must be valid for at least 30 days from date of arrival, but it's recommended to have at least 6 months validity remaining.
  • Visa renewals are restricted to a maximum of 90 days in a six-month period.
Transport:
  • State Railways of Thailand (SRT), for train times & fares see website.
  • Bangkok is the only city with a metro system, consisting of the Bangkok Skytrain and the Bangkok Metro subway.
  • Best ways to travel inside the cities; tuk-tuk, bus or Taxi-meter because of "not so fresh" air. Expect tuk-tuk fares to be equal to, or even higher, than taxi fares. Threfore the taxi is probably the cheapest way, if you do not like to take the buses. To get the best price in a tuk-tuk make sure to talk to the driver before you get into the vehicle, if you just get a ride and ask for the price after, you will get ripped off.
  • Modern and comfortable air-conditioned buses provide reliable service to every province and all the major towns. Regular and local buses, while usually slower and less comfortable, are extremely reasonably priced. You can buy ticket at every bus terminal (Please note: in Bangkok there are different bus terminals!) or contact any local travel agent to help with purchasing a ticket. Besides that there are mini-buses leaving from Khao San Road to nearly any spot of tourist interest. There are very cheap, direct, but very often very uncomfortable. Besides that you will not meet any local people.
  • Thailand has a good up-to-date network of well-maintained roads and highways between all main centres. Much of the north-south route is dual carriageway. Road signage follows international convention and usually are in Thai and English. Often the smaller roads, known as Sois, are in Thai only. Renting a car is not recommended, you will be liable for any damage to the vehicle regardless of who is at fault.
Communications:
  • Payphones are straightforward enough and generally come in three colours. Red phones are for local calls and take the medium-sized one-baht coins. Blue-and-stainless steel ones are for long-distance calls within Thailand, but they gobble up B5 coins and are generally unreliable, so you're better off buying a phonecard (B25 to B240 available from hotels, post offices and some shops) and using a green cardphone.
  • The least costly way of making an international call is to use a government telephone centre - there's usually one located within or adjacent to the town's main post office, open daily from about 7am to 10pm (24hr in Bangkok and Chiang Mai). If you call between 9pm and 5am you get up to 33 percent off standard rates. Collect or reverse charge calls and home direct calls can be made free of charge at government phone centres.
  • Cellular Companies
Health:
  • Malaria is a risk outside Bangkok and the major tourist resorts and most physicians will advise immunisation against hepatitis A and typhoid fever. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required from those travelling from infected areas. Since January 2005 there has been an increase in reported cases of dengue fever in the south, particularly the area near the border with Malaysia. There have been recent outbreaks of bird flu among poultry, and several human deaths, although the risk of travellers contracting the disease is slight; contact with live birds should be avoided, and all poultry and egg dishes well cooked.
Language:
  • Thai is the official language, although English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
Tipping:
  • Tipping is not expected, but is becoming more common. A 10% service charge is added to the bill at most hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers are not tipped.
Other Info:
  • Thai people have a deep, traditional reverence for the Royal Family, and a visitor should be careful to show respect for the King, the Queen and the Royal Children. This includes, for example, standing up in the cinema as the Royal Anthem is played before every movie starts. You also should stand still, when at public places as the railway stations the anthem is played (at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.) as well.
  • Visitors should dress neatly in all religious temples and shrines. They should never go without sleeves or in shorts, hot pants or other unsuitable clothing (otherwise you will never get into the Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaeow compound. It is acceptable to wear shoes when walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is kept. Each Buddha image, large or small, ruined or not, is regarded as a sacred object. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do anything which might indicate a lack of respect.
  • Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman, or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it. Or they should place it on a cloth, carried by most monks.

Summary of Conclusions

  • Strengths:
  • Weaknesses:

Cities with Executive Monger Summaries

Administrative divisions

Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (จังหวัด, changwat), which are gathered 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, of which Bangkok is also at a provincial level, while Pattaya is part of Chon Buri Province. Some Thai people still count Bangkok as a province, making Thailand a 76-province country.

Each province is divided into smaller districts. As of 2000 there are 796 districts (อำเภอ, amphoe), 81 minor districts (กิ่งอำเภอ, king amphoe) and the 50 districts of Bangkok (เขต, khet). Some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are also referred to as Greater Bangkok (ปริมณฑล, pari monthon). These provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon. The name of each province's capital city (เมือง, mueang) is the same as that of the province: for example, the capital of Chiang Mai province (changwat Chiang Mai) is Mueang Chiang Mai. The 76 provinces are as follows:

2005 Political map of Thailand

Central

  1. Ang Thong
  2. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  3. Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon), Special Governed District of [1]
  4. Chai Nat
  5. Kanchanaburi [2]
  6. Lop Buri
  7. Nakhon Nayok
  8. Nakhon Pathom [1]
  9. Nonthaburi [1]
  10. Pathum Thani [1]
  11. Phetchaburi [2]
  12. Prachuap Khiri Khan [2]
  13. Ratchaburi [2]
  14. Samut Prakan [1]
  15. Samut Sakhon [1]
  16. Samut Songkhram [2]
  17. Saraburi
  18. Sing Buri
  19. Suphan Buri

East

  1. Chachoengsao
  2. Chanthaburi
  3. Chonburi
  4. Prachinburi
  5. Rayong
  6. Sa Kaeo
  7. Trat

North

  1. Chiang Mai
  2. Chiang Rai
  3. Kamphaeng Phet
  4. Lampang
  5. Lamphun
  6. Mae Hong Son
  7. Nakhon Sawan
  8. Nan
  9. Phayao
  10. Phetchabun
  11. Phichit
  12. Phitsanulok
  13. Phrae
  14. Sukhothai
  15. Tak
  16. Uthai Thani
  17. Uttaradit

Northeast

  1. Amnat Charoen
  2. Buri Ram
  3. Chaiyaphum
  4. Kalasin
  5. Khon Kaen
  6. Loei
  7. Maha Sarakham
  8. Mukdahan
  9. Nakhon Phanom
  10. Nakhon Ratchasima
  11. Nong Bua Lamphu
  12. Nong Khai
  13. Roi Et
  14. Sakon Nakhon
  15. Si Sa Ket
  16. Surin
  17. Ubon Ratchathani
  18. Udon Thani
  19. Yasothon

South

  1. Chumphon
  2. Krabi
  3. Nakhon Si Thammarat
  4. Narathiwat
  5. Pattani
  6. Phang Nga
  7. Phatthalung
  8. Phuket
  9. Ranong
  10. Satun
  11. Songkhla
  12. Surat Thani
  13. Trang
  14. Yala

NOTE: In italics [1], that province represents the Greater Bangkok sub-region; in italics [2], that province represents the West sub-region.

See also: List of cities in Thailand

Geography

At 514,000 km² (198,000 mi²), Thailand is the world's 49th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Spain, and somewhat larger than the US state of California.

Thailand is home to several distinct geographic regions, partly corresponding to the provincial groups. The north of the country is mountainous, with the highest point being Doi Inthanon at 2,576 metres (8,451 ft). 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.

Climate

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.

Environment

Landforms and drainage divide the country more or less into four natural regions--the North, the Northeast, Central, and the South. Although Bangkok geographically is part of the central plain, as the capital and largest city this metropolitan area may be considered in other respects a separate region. Each of the four geographical regions differs from the others in population, basic resources, natural features, and level of social and economic development. The diversity of the regions is in fact the most pronounced attribute of Thailand's physical setting.

North Thailand

During the winter months in the mountainous North, the temperature is cool enough for the cultivation of fruits such as lychees and strawberries. These high mountains are incised by steep river valleys and upland areas that border the central plain. A series of rivers, including the Nan, Ping, Wang, and Yom, unite in the lowlands to form the Chao Phraya watershed. Traditionally, these natural features made possible several different types of agriculture, including wet-rice farming in the valleys and shifting cultivation in the uplands. The forested mountains also promoted a spirit of regional independence. Forests, including stands of teak and other economically useful hardwoods that once dominated the North and parts of the Northeast, had diminished by the 1980s to 130,000 km². In 1961 they covered 56% of the country, but by the mid-1980s forestland had been reduced to less than 30% of Thailand's total area.

Northeast

The Northeast, with its poor soils, is not favored agriculturally. The region consists mainly of the dry Khorat Plateau and a few low hills. The short monsoon season brings heavy flooding in the river valleys. Unlike the more fertile areas of Thailand, the Northeast has a long dry season, and much of the land is covered by sparse grasses. Mountains ring the plateau on the west and the south, and the Mekong delineates much of the eastern rim.

Central Thailand

The "heartland", Central Thailand, is a natural self-contained basin often termed "the rice bowl of Asia." The complex irrigation system developed for wet-rice agriculture in this region provided the necessary economic support to sustain the development of the Thai state from the 13th century Sukhothai kingdom to contemporary Bangkok. Here the rather flat unchanging landscape facilitated inland water and road transport. The fertile area was able to sustain a dense population, 422 persons per square kilometer in 1987, compared with an average of 98 for the country as a whole. The terrain of the region is dominated by the Chao Phraya and its tributaries and by the cultivated paddy fields. Metropolitan Bangkok, the focal point of trade, transport, and industrial activity, is situated on the southern edge of the region at the head of the Gulf of Thailand and includes part of the delta of the Chao Phraya system.

South Thailand

The South, a narrow peninsula, is distinctive in climate, terrain, and resources. Its economy is based on rice cultivation for subsistence and rubber production for industry. Other sources of income include coconut plantations, tin mining, and tourism, which is particularly lucrative on Phuket Island. Rolling and mountainous terrain and the absence of large rivers are conspicuous features of the South. North-south mountain barriers and impenetrable tropical forest caused the early isolation and separate political development of this region. International access through the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand made the South a crossroads for both Theravada Buddhism, centered at Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Islam, especially in the former Pattani kingdom on the border with Malaysia.

Politics

After the 2006 coup

A military junta overthrew the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra on 19 September 2006. The junta abrogated the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court, arrested several members of the government, declared martial law, and appointed General Surayud Chulanont as Prime Minister. The junta later wrote a highly abbreviated interim constitution and appointed a panel to draft a permanent constitution. The junta also appointed a 242-member legislature, called by one critic 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 hold a vote of confidence against the Cabinet and the public was not allowed to file comments on bills.

Martial law was not revoked until January 2007. The junta censors the media and has been accused of several other human rights violations. The junta has also banned all political activities and meetings.

Economy

Thailand exports over $105 billion worth of products annually. Major exports include rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewelry, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world’s no.1 exporter of rice, exporting 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually. Rice is the most important crop in the country. Thailand has the highest percent of arable land, 27.25%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. About 55% of the available land area is used for rice production.

Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer parts and automobiles, while tourism contributes about 5% of the Thai economy's GDP. Long stay foreign residents also contribute heavily to GDP.

The main natural resources of Thailand are tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, fish, gypsum, lignite, fluorite, and arable land.

Education

Literacy definition, age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 92.6%
    • male: 94.9%
    • female: 90.5% (2002 est.)

Culture

Theravada Buddhism is central to modern Thai identity and belief. In practice, Thai Buddhism has evolved over time to include many regional beliefs originating from animism as well as ancestor worship. In areas in the southernmost parts of Thailand, Islam is prevalent. Several different ethnic groups, many of which are marginalized, populate Thailand. Some of these groups overlap into Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia and have maintained a distinctly traditional way-of-life despite strong Thai cultural influence. Ethnic Chinese also form a significant part of Thai society, particularly in and around Bangkok. Their successful integration into Thai society has allowed for this group to hold positions of economic and political power, the most noteworthy of these being the Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who held power from 2001 until September 19, 2006 when he was ousted by a military coup d'état.

Like most Asian cultures, respect towards ancestors is an essential part of Thai spiritual practice. Thais have a strong sense of hospitality and generosity, but also a strong sense of social hierarchy. Seniority is an important concept in Thai culture. Thais will bow to the feet of their parents or grandparents to honor them. In addition, the elders always rule in family decisions or ceremonies.

The standard greeting in Thailand is a prayer-like gesture called the wai (see namaste). Taboos include touching someone's head or pointing with the feet, as the head is considered the most sacred and the foot the dirtiest part of the body. Stepping over someone, or over food, is considered insulting. However, Thai culture as in many other Asian cultures, is succumbing to the influence of westernization and some of the traditional taboos are slowly fading away with time.

Books and other documents are the most revered of secular objects - therefore one should not slide a book across a table or place it on the floor.

Sports

Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand and its native martial art. It achieved popularity all over the world in the 1990s. Although similar martial arts styles exist in other southeast Asian countries, few enjoy the recognition that Muay Thai has received with its full-contact rules allowing strikes including elbows, throws and knees. Association football, however, has possibly overtaken Muay Thai's position as most widely viewed and liked sport in contemporary Thai society and it is not uncommon to see Thais cheering their favourite English Premier League teams on television and walking round in replica kits. Another widely enjoyed pastime, and once a competitive sport, is kite flying.

Cuisine

Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty. Some common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic, chillies, lime juice, lemon grass, and fish sauce. The staple food in Thailand is rice, particularly jasmine variety rice (also known as Hom Mali rice) which is included in almost every meal. Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice and Thais domestically consume over 100 kg of milled rice per person per year. Over 5000 varieties of rice from Thailand are preserved in the rice gene bank of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in the Philippines. The King of Thailand is the official patron of IRRI.

External links

ISOC Forums
Official
Other