Apr 26, 2009

Country profile: Thailand

Facts and statistics on Thailand including history, population, politics, geography, economy, religion and climate
The Guardian, Saturday 25 April 2009 Article history

Map of Thailand. Source: Graphic

Potted history of the country: The basis of modern Thailand began in 1351 with the unified kingdom of Siam. It became the only south-east Asian nation not to be occupied by a European power. A 1932 bloodless revolution created a constitutional monarchy, and Siam became Thailand in 1939. Eighteen military coups since reflect political instability. The last in 2006 deposed the then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

At a glance
Location: South-east Asia
Neighbours: Burma, Laos, Cambodia
Size: 198,117 square miles
Population: 63,038,247 (20th)
Density: 318.2 people per square mile
Capital city: Bangkok (population 6,320,174)
Head of state: King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX)
Head of government: Prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva
Currency: Baht
Time zone: Thailand standard time (+7 hours)
International dialling code: +66
Website: thaigov.go.th
Data correct on Saturday 25 April 2009

Political pressure points: Society is highly divided between the Thaksin-supporting rural poor and a wealthy Bangkok elite. Thaksin's successors won power when the army stepped aside. But constitutional courts sacked two premiers before the army-backed prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva engineered a ruling coalition headed by his minority Democrat party. Thaksin supporters remain furious.

Population mix: Thai including Lao 75%, Chinese 14%, other minorities including: Malay, Cambodian, hill peoples (Meo, Lahu, Yao, Lisu, Lawa, Lolo and Karen) 1%

Religious makeup: Buddhist 94%, Muslim 5%

Main languages: Thai (official) Chinese, Malay and indigenous languages

Living national icons: Seni Saowaphong (author), Chart Korbjitti (author), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (film director) Somjit Jongjohor (boxer)

Landscape and climate: Tropical Thailand is flanked by the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. There are four distinct regions: the central plain; the north-east plateau, which rises 300 metres above the central plain; the mountainous north; and the rainforested southern peninsula. Its major river systems drain either into the Mekong or the Chao Phraya near Bangkok.

Highest point: Doi Inthanon 2,565 metres

Area covered by water: 861 square miles

Healthcare and disease: The number of Thais living with HIV/Aids is around 550,000. The incidence lowers life expectancy to 73 years, and increases infant mortality. Malaria, dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis are prevalent, particularly in jungle areas bordering Burma and Laos.

Average life expectancy (m/f): 69/75

Average number of children per mother: 1.8

Maternal deaths per 100,000 live births: 110

Infant deaths per 1,000 births: 8

8HIV/Aids rate: 1.4%

Doctors per 1,000 head of population: 0.4

Adult literacy rate: 94.1% (m 95.9%/f 92.6%)

Economic outlook: Exports - accounting for 60% of GDP - have slumped dramatically. The electronics, electrical goods and automotive sectors have all suffered sharp drops. Last year's 4.5% GDP growth is projected to reverse to 1% this year.

Main industries: Services including tourism, manufacturing including computers, vehicles and parts, electronics, textiles, rubber.

Key crops/livestock: Rice, sugar cane, cassava (tapioca), oil palm fruit, maize, natural rubber, fruit, cattle, buffaloes, pigs, poultry.

Key exports: Machinery, manufactured goods, rice

GDP: £105,374m (33rd)

GDP per head: £1,661

Unemployment rate: 1.2%

Proportion of global carbon emissions: 0.84%

Most popular tourist attractions: Bangkok, Phuket, Ko Samui, Ko Phi Phi. Chiang Mai for Thai cooking classes and hill trekking

Local recommendation: Tarutao is one of the most unspoiled national parks in Thailand.

National dish: Pad thai (stir-fried noodles with egg, vegetables, spices, chicken, shrimp, tofu)

Foreign tourist visitors per year: 13,821,802

Media freedom index (ranked out of 173): 124

Did you know ... Most Thais refer to the capital as Krung Thep, the shortened name of a title that actually consists of 32 words.

National anthem:
The Thai people are peace-loving
But they are no cowards at war
They shall allow no one to rob them of their independence
Nor shall they suffer tyranny

· Information correct on date of first publication, Saturday 25 April 2009.

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