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Thailand - Overview
Language: Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects
Currency: baht (THB)
Thailand used to be known as Siam and is officially named the Kingdom of Thailand. The country is situated in Southeast Asia and its neighbours include Burma and Laos to the north and Cambodia to the East. In the south is the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, while the Andaman Sea is located to the west. Thailand has maritime borders too and these include a border with Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand and borders with India and Indonesia in the Andaman Sea.
The country is a constitutional monarchy and has the most recorded monarchs in the world. The current king is Rama IX who has been in power since 1946. He is officially the country’s head of state and the head of the country’s armed forces as well as the country’s defender of the faith. He is currently the longest serving monarch in the world.
Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world and has a population of around 66 million people. The capital city is Bangkok and this is also the largest city in the country. Around 75% of the population has true Thai origins, around 14% are of Chinese origin. Other ethnic groups in the country include Khmers and Mons as well as growing communities of expats from the US and Europe. Around 95% of the population is Buddhist. Thailand is rapidly becoming an industrialized country and tourism is now one of the main industries although there are many international companies based in Bangkok. Thousands flock to areas such as Phuket and Koh Samui each year and these areas are also popular with expats.
Thai is the official language of the country but there are a number of minority languages and dialects in use. In addition, it is becoming more common for children to be taught English in schools, so there are a growing number of people who can converse easily in English. The currency of Thailand is the Baht which has been in use for over a century in its current form. The country is situated in the GMT+7 time zone and has a tropical climate, with a monsoon season. The mountainous areas in the north of the country are much more temperate.
Thailand has been divided into 5 groups of provinces which are then subdivided into a total of 76 smaller provinces. The districts of Bangkok and Pattaya are also considered to be separate with their own governors. Each province is broken down into districts and each of these is then divided into sub-districts known as tambons. Bangkok is divided into a total of 50 districts and there are around 900 in total in the country. Each province is named after the capital city for that region and each small district has its own administrative offices.
In the central region the provinces include Bangkok, Lopburi, Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan. In the eastern part of the country the provinces include Chonburi, Rayong and Trat. In the western part of the country the provinces include Ratchaburi, Tak and Kanchanaburi. In the northern region the provinces include Chiang Mai, Lampung and Phrae. Those in the north-eastern part of the country will find a total of 20 provinces including Buri Ram, Kalasin, Mukdahan and Udon Thani. The provinces in the south of the country include Krabi, Pattani, Phuket and Trang.
The geography in Thailand is divided into distinct regions. The northern parts of the country are mountainous and this is one of the largest geographical areas of the country. The north-east of the country is mainly the Khorat Plateau and this is the second largest geographical area, home to the Mekong River. The central areas of the country are mainly flat and are home to the Chao Phraya river valley. This area is known for its agriculture and produces large amounts of rice and fruit.
The eastern region of the country is home to some of the country’s best known beaches so is popular with tourists. The western parts of the country are still largely undeveloped. There are mountainous areas and the towns are generally old fashioned. The south of the country is filled with pretty scenery, and is home to the country’s mining industry as well as fishing and some tourism.
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