Thailand occupies the western half of the Indochinese peninsula and the northern two-thirds of the Malay Peninsula in southeast Asia. Its neighbors are Burma (Myanmar) on the north and west, Laos on the north and northeast, Cambodia on the east, and Malaysia on the south. Thailand is about the size of France.
Kingdom of Thailand
Ruler: King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1946)
Prime Minister: Abhisit Vejjajiva (2008)
Current government officials
Land area: 197,595 sq mi (511,771 sq km); total area: 198,455 sq mi (514,000 sq km)
Population (2007 est.): 65,068,149 (growth rate: 0.7%); birth rate: 13.7/1000; infant mortality rate: 18.9/1000; life expectancy: 72.6; density per sq mi: 329
Capital and largest city (2000): Bangkok, 6,320,174 (city proper)
Other large cities: Nonthanburi, 304,700; Chiang Mai, 175,500
Monetary unit: baht
Languages: Thai (Siamese), English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects
Ethnicity/race: Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, other 11%
Religions: Buddhist 95%, Islam 5%, Christian 1% (2000)
Literacy rate: 96% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $519.4 billion; per capita $7,900. Real growth rate: 4.8%. Inflation: 2.2%. Unemployment: 1.4%. Arable land: 28%. Agriculture: rice, cassava (tapioca), rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, soybeans. Labor force: 36.9 million; agriculture 49%, industry 14%, services 37% (2000 est.). Industries: tourism, textiles and garments, agricultural processing, beverages, tobacco, cement, light manufacturing such as jewelry and electric appliances, computers and parts, integrated circuits, furniture, plastics, automobiles and automotive parts; world's second-largest tungsten producer and third-largest tin producer. Natural resources: tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, fish, gypsum, lignite, fluorite, arable land. Exports: $105.8 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): textiles and footwear, fishery products, rice, rubber, jewelry, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances. Imports: $107 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): capital goods, intermediate goods and raw materials, consumer goods, fuels. Major trading partners: U.S., Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan (2004).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 5.6 million (2000); mobile cellular: 3.1 million (2002). Radio broadcast stations: AM 204, FM 334, shortwave 6 (1999). Radios: 13.96 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 5 (all in Bangkok; plus 131 repeaters) (1997). Televisions: 15.19 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 15 (2000). Internet users: 1.2 million (2001).
Transportation: Railways: total: 4,071 km (2002). Highways: total: 64,600 km; paved: 62,985 km; unpaved: 1,615 km (1999 est.). Waterways: 4,000 km principal waterways; 3,701 km with navigable depths of 0.9 m or more throughout the year; numerous minor waterways navigable by shallow-draft native craft. Ports and harbors: Bangkok, Laem Chabang, Pattani, Phuket, Sattahip, Si Racha, Songkhla. Airports: 111 (2002).
International disputes: completion of boundary demarcation with Cambodia hampered by accusations of moving and destroying boundary markers, encroachments, initiating border incidents, and sealing off Preah Vihear temple ruins, awarded to Cambodia by ICJ decision in 1962; demarcation complete except for a 1 kilometer segment at the mouth of the Kolok River in dispute with Malaysia; demarcation with Laos complete except for certain Mekong River islets and complaints of Thai squatters; despite continuing border committee talks, significant differences remain with Burma over boundary alignment and the handling of ethnic rebels, refugees, and illegal cross-border activities.
The Thais first began settling their present homeland in the 6th century, and by the end of the 13th century ruled most of the western portion. During the next 400 years, they fought sporadically with the Cambodians to the east and the Burmese to the west. Formerly called Siam, Thailand has never experienced foreign colonization. The British gained a colonial foothold in the region in 1824, but by 1896 an Anglo-French accord guaranteed the independence of Thailand. A coup in 1932 demoted the monarchy to titular status and established representative government with universal suffrage.
At the outbreak of World War II, Japanese forces attacked Thailand. After five hours of token resistance Thailand yielded to Japan on Dec. 8, 1941, subsequently becoming a staging area for the Japanese campaign against Malaya. Following the demise of a pro-Japanese puppet government in July 1944, Thailand repudiated the declaration of war it had been forced to make in 1942 against Britain and the U.S.
By the late 1960s the nation's problems largely stemmed from conflicts brewing in neighboring Cambodia and Vietnam. Although Thailand had received $2 billion in U.S. economic and military aid since 1950 and had sent troops (paid by the U.S.) to Vietnam while permitting U.S. bomber bases on its territory, the collapse of South Vietnam and Cambodia in spring 1975 brought rapid changes in the country's diplomatic posture. At the Thai government's insistence, the U.S. agreed to withdraw all 23,000 U.S. military personnel remaining in Thailand by March 1976.
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