Thai Information

Geography : The Kingdom of Thailand, covering an area of 514,000 square kilometers, lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, roughly equidistant between India and China. It shares borders with Myanmar to the west and north, Lao P.D.R. to the north and northeast, Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south.

Thailand  is  a  Southeast Asian, predominantly Buddhist kingdom almost equidistant between India and China. For centuries known  by  outsiders  as Siam, Thailand has been something of a Southeast Asian migratory, cultural and religious cross-roads. With  an  area  of some 510,000 square kilometres and a population of some 57 million, Thailand is approximately the same size as France. Thailand  shares  borders  with  Myanmar  to  the west  and  north, Laos to the north-east, Kampuchea to the west, and Malaysia  to  the  south.

Geographically speaking,  Thailand  is  divided  into  six  major  regions:  the  mountainous  north   where elephants work forests and winter temperatures are sufficiently cool to permit cultivation of temperate fruits  such  as strawberries and  peaches; the  sprawling   north-east  plateau,  largely  bordered  by the Mekong River, where the world’s oldest Bronze Age civilisation  flourished  some  5,000  years  ago;  the  central  plain, one  of  the world’s most fertile rice and fruit-growing areas; the eastern  coastal plain, where fine sandy beaches support the growth of summer resorts; western mountains and valleys, suitable for  the  development  of hydro-electric power: and the peninsular south where arresting scenic beauty complements economically vital tin mining, robber cultivation and fishing.

Thailand  is  divided  into  four  distinct areas:  the  mountainous  North,  the  fertile  Central  Plains,  the  semi-arid plateau of the Northeast, and the peninsula South, distinguished by its many beautiful tropical beaches and offshore islands.

Thailand  lies  within the humid tropics and remains hot throughout the year. Average temperatures are about 29oC, ranging in Bangkok  from  35oC  in  April  to 17oC in December. There are three seasons: the cool season (November to February), the hot season (April to May), and the rainy season (June to October), though downpours rarely last more than a couple of hours.

Thailand  has  a  population  of  about  60  million.   Ethnic  Thais  form  the  majority,  though  the  area  has  historically  been a migratory crossroads, and thus strains of Mon, Khmer, Burmese, Lao, Malay, Indian and most strongly, Chinese stock produce a degree of ethnic diversity. Integration is such, however, that culturally and socially there is enormous unity.

Spoken  and  written  Thai  remain  largely  incomprehensible  to  the  casual  visitor.  However,  English  is widely understood, particularly  in  Bangkok  where it is almost the major commercial language. English and other European languages are spoken in most hotels,shops and restaurants, in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nation-wide

Throughout  her  long  history,  Thailand  has  gently  absorbed  immigrants.  Many  were skilled as writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians  and  architects, and  helped  enrich  indigenous  culture. People  inhabiting Thailand today share rich ethnic diversity – – mainly Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Chinese, Malay, Persian and Indian stock – – with the result that there is no typically Thai  physiognomy  or  physique. There  are  petite  Thais, statuesque Thais, round-faced Thais, dark-skinned Thais and light-skinned Thais. Some 80% of all  Thais  are  connected  in some way with agriculture which, in varying degrees, influences and is influenced by the religious ceremonies and festivals that help make Thailand such a distinctive country.

Theravada  Buddhism  is  the  professed  religion  of  more  than 90% of  all Thais, and  casts  strong  influences  on  daily  life. Buddhism  first  appeared  in  Thailand  during  the  3rd  Century B.C.   at   Nakhon   Pathom, site  of  the  world’s   tallest  Buddhist monument, after  the  Indian  Buddhist  Emperor  Asoka  (267-227 B.C.) despatched missionaries to Southeast Asia to propagate the   newly  established  faith.   Besides  moulding  morality,  providing  social  cohesion and offering spiritual succour, Buddhism provided  incomparable  artistic  impetus.   In common  with medieval European cathedrals, Thailand’s innumerable multiroofed temples  inspired  major  artistic  creation.

Another reason for Buddhism’s strength is that there are few Thai Buddhist families in which at least one male member has not studied the Buddha’s teachings in a monastery. It has long been a custom for Buddhist males  over  twenty, once  in  their  lifetimes,  to  be  ordained  for  a  period  ranging  from s days to a months. This usually occurs daring the annual Rains  Retreat, a  a-month period  during  the Rains Season when all monks forego travel and stay inside their monasteries.

Besides sustaining monastic communities, Thai temples have traditionally served other purposes – – as the village hostelry, village  news, employment  and  information  agency,  a  school,  hospital,  dispensary and community centre – – to give them vital roles in Thai society. The Thais have always subscribed to the ideal of religious freedom. Thus sizeable minorities of Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs freely pursue their respective faiths

Time in Thailand is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+ 7).

His  Majesty  King  Bhumibol  Adulyadej  is  the  ninth  king  of   the  Chakri   Dynasty. Born  in  December  1927,  in Cambridge, Massachusetts  USA,  where  his  father,   Prince  Mahidol of  Songkhla  was  studying  medicine at Harvard University, H.M. King Bhumibol  ascended  the  throne  in  1946  and  is  already  the  longest  reigning  Thai  monarch.

As a constitutional monarch, he maintains  neutrality  in  times  of crisis. Thai people have a deep and traditional reverence for the Royal Family. To a very large degree, H.M.  King  Bhumibol’s  popularity  mirrors  his  deep  interest in his people’s welfare. He concerns himself intimately with every aspect  of  Thai  life. He and his wife, H.M. Queen Sirikit devote much of their time to inspect and improve the welfare of the people.

Thailand  means, “land of the free”,  and  throughout  its  800-year  history, Thailand  can boast the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. Its history is divided into five major periods:

  • Nanchao Period (650-1250 A.D.)

    The  Thai  people  founded  their  kingdom in  the southern part of China, which  are Yunnan, Kwangsi and Canton today. A great number  of  people  migrated   south   as  far  as  the  Chao  Phraya  Basin  and  settled  down  over  the  Central  Plain  under  the sovereignty  of  the  Khmer  Empire, whose culture they probably accepted.The Thai people founded their independent state of Sukhothai around 1238 A.D., which marks the beginning of the Sukhothai Period.

  • Sukhothai Period (1238-1378 A.D.)  

    Thais  began  to  emerge as a  dominant  force in the region in the13th century, gradually asserting independence from existing Khmer  and  Mon  kingdoms.Called by its rulers “the dawn of happiness”, this is often considered the golden era of Thai history, an ideal Thai  state  in  a  land  of  plenty  governed  by  paternal  and  benevolent  kings,  the  most  famous  of  whom  was King Ramkamhaeng the Great. However in 1350, the mightier state of Ayutthaya exerted its influence over Sukhothai.

  • Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767)

    The  Ayutthaya  kings  adopted  Khmer  cultural  influences  from  the  very beginning. No longer the paternal and accessible rulers that  the  kings  of  Sukhothai  had  been, Ayutthaya’s sovereigns were absolute monarchs and assumed the title devaraja (god-king).   The  early  part  o f this  period  saw  Ayutthaya  extend  its sovereignty  over  neighboring Thai  principalities and come into conflict  with  its  neighbors,   During the 17th century, Siam  started  diplomatic  and  commercial relations with western countries.
    In 1767, a  Burmese  invasion  succeeded  in  capturing  Ayutthaya.  Despite  their  overwhelming  victory,  the Burmese did not  retain  control  of  Siam  for long.  A  young  general  named  Phya  Taksin  and  his  followers  broke  through  the  Burmese encirclement and  escaped  to  Chantaburi.  Seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya, he and his forces sailed back to the capital and expelled the Burmese occupation garrison.

  • Thon Buri Period (1767-1772)

    General  Taksin,  as  he  is  popularly  known,  decided   to   transfer  the  capital  from  Ayutthaya  to  a  site  nearer to the sea which  would   facilitate  foreign  trade,  ensure  the  procurement of  arms, and  make defense and withdrawal easier in case of a renewed Burmese  attack . He  established  his  new  capital  at  Thon Buri on the West Bank of the Chao Phraya River. The rule of  Taksin  was  not  an  easy  one. The  lack of central authority  since  the  fall of  Ayutthaya  led to the rapid disintegration of the kingdom, and Taksin’s reign was spent reuniting the provinces.

  • Rattanakosin Period (1782 – the Present)  

    After  Taksin’s  death,  General  Chakri  became  the  first  king  of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, ruling from 1782 to 1809. His first  action  as  king  was  to  transfer the royal capital across the river from Thon Buri to Bangkok and build the Grand Palace. Rama II  (1809-1824)  continued   the  restoration  begun  by his predecessor. King Nang Klao, Rama III (1824-1851) reopened relations  with  Western  nations  and  developed   trade  with   China.  King  Mongkut, Rama IV, (1851-1868) of “The King and I” concluded treaties with   European   countries , avoided  colonialisation  and  established  modern  Thailand.  He made many social and economic reforms during his reign.
    King  Chulalongkorn,  Rama  V  (1869-1910)  continued  his  father’s  tradition  of  reform,  abolishing  slavery and improving the public  welfare  and  administrative  system.   Compulsory  education  and  other  educational  reforms  were  introduced  by  King  Vajiravudh,   Rama VI (1910-1925).    During  the   reign  of  King  Prajadhipok,   (1925-1935), Thailand   changed  from  an  absolute  monarchy   to  a  constitutional  monarchy. The  king  abdicated  in  1933  and  was  succeeded  by  his nephew, King Ananda Mahidol (1935-1946). The country’s name was changed from Siam to Thailand with the advent of a democratic government in 1939.

    Our present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is King Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty.




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