Country profile: Thailand
Thailand is a country of
mountains, tropical rainforests and flat plains. Religion, the monarchy
and the military have helped to shape its society and politics.
The 1980s brought economic boom, and the agriculture-based economy
changed as Thais flocked to work in industry and the services sector.
But the bubble burst in 1997 with the south-east Asian financial
crisis. Stock and property prices plummeted, dragging down the currency
and leading to bankruptcies, recession and unemployment.
The government of the time - under Chuan Leekpai - worked with the IMF to reform the battered economy.
the 1997 experience caused many Thais to regard international finance
with deep distrust. Mr Chuan lost the 2001 elections to an opponent who
promised to help people with their daily difficulties.
Cranes vie with the capital's tallest building, the Baiyoke 2 tower
Though Thailand's recent governments have been civilian and
democratically-elected, the country has seen turbulent times. The
military governed, on and off, between 1947 and 1992 - a period
characterised by coups, coup attempts and popular protests.
September 2006, the military once again stepped into politics, carrying
out a bloodless coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra while he
was at the UN General Assembly.
An interim prime minister was appointed a month later.
the end of 2007, the military junta had drafted a new constitution and
held general elections, marking the beginning of the transition back to
Thailand has a minority Muslim population, concentrated in its southern provinces.
decades-old separatist struggle in the region - which abated in the
1980s - flared again in 2004. The violence has claimed more than 3,000
Thailand's capital, Bangkok expanded rapidly with the
influx of workers during the boom years. It is one of Asia's most
vibrant, and heavily-congested, cities.
The large-scale sex
industry which flourishes there contributed to the incidence of HIV
infection - a major concern for the Thai government.
has taken the lead in the region in distributing cheaper generic drugs
for Aids sufferers and awareness campaigns are credited with reducing
the number of new infections.
Thai cuisine is known throughout
the world for its use of hot, sweet and sour spices. Sculptures of the
Buddha in sitting or reclining positions are also characteristic of
Thailand, as is classical dance.
- Full name: Kingdom of Thailand
- Population: 67.8 million (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Bangkok
- Area: 513,115 sq km (198,115 sq miles)
- Major language: Thai
- Major religion: Buddhism
- Life expectancy: 66 years (men), 72 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 baht = 100 satangs
- Main exports: Food including rice, seafood and live animals, office equipment, textiles and clothing, rubber
- GNI per capita: US $2,840 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .th
- International dialling code: +66
King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit
Head of state:
King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy.
Its king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, assumed the throne in June 1946 and is the world's longest-reigning monarch.
The royal family is revered by many Thais.
Prime minister: Abhisit Vejjajiva
Vejjajiva defeated an ally of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra in a parliamentary vote to become Thailand's fifth head of
government in a little over two years.
Abhisit Vejjajiva is supported by Thailand's educated middle classes
Mr Abhisit's election marked the first time his Democrat Party - Thailand's oldest - had formed a government in eight years.
vote was the result of weeks of manoeuvring to persuade several minor
parties which had supported the previous government to switch sides.
Abhisit's predecessor, Somchai Wongsawat, an ally of Mr Thaksin, was
forced from office in December 2008 by a Constitutional Court ruling
that disbanded his People Power Party and barred its leaders from
politics for five years.
The ruling came after months of protests by opponents of Mr Thaksin and his allies that closed the country's two main airports.
protesters said the previous two years' governments were proxies for
the discredited Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup
in 2006 and has fled Thailand to escape corruption charges.
Abhisit, 44, comes from a wealthy family of Thai-Chinese origins, and
was educated at England's top public school, Eton, and Oxford
He joined the Democrats in 1992, at the age of 27, becoming its leader in 2005.
supporters are mainly from Thailand's educated middle class, unlike
former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies, who draw their support
from working class and rural Thais.
After his election, he said
one of his main aims was to re-establish "national harmony" after the
deeply polarising politics of recent years.
But the deep
divisions within Thai society were once more highlighted when
anti-government protesters stormed the venue of an ASEAN summit in the
resort of Pattaya in April 2009, forcing the cancellation of the
The government and military control nearly all the national
terrestrial television networks and operate many of Thailand's radio
Multichannel TV, via cable and satellite, is widely
available. The radio market, particularly in Bangkok, is fiercely
competitive. There are more than 60 stations in and around the capital.
The media are free to criticise government policies, and cover
instances of corruption and human rights abuses, but journalists tend
to exercise self-censorship regarding the military, the monarchy, the
judiciary and other sensitive issues.
The print media are largely privately-run, with a handful of Thai-language dailies accounting for most newspaper sales.
series of media reforms are under way, aimed at reducing military
interest and influence in the media and opening up more opportunities
to the private sector.
There were 13.4 million internet users
by March 2008 (ITU). According to The Nation daily, surfers face "some
of the world's toughest measures on internet filtering". Pornographic
sites, anti-monarchy sites and anti-government sites are targeted, the
- Radio Thailand
- national network and external service operated by National
Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT), part of government Public
- MCOT Radio Network - run by government agency MCOT; operates stations in Bangkok and provincial networks
- Army Radio - network owned by Royal Thai Army