Situated at the heart of the Southeast Asian mainland, Thailand is a hub of transportation and commerce. Extending 1,620 kilometers from north to south and 775 kilometers from east to west, it covers an area of 513,115 sq. km. It borders the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on the north, the Union of Myanmar to the west, the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand to the East, and Malaysia to the south.
Historical Background: There are conflicting opinions as to the origins of the Thais. Three decades ago it could be said with presumed certainty that the Thais originated in Northwestern Szechuan in China about 4,500 years ago and later migrated down to their present homeland. However, this theory has been altered by the discovery of remarkable prehistoric artifacts in the village of Ban Chiang in the Nong Han District of Udon Thani Province in the Northeast. These include evidence of bronze metallurgy going back 3,500 years, as well as other indications of a far more sophisticated culture than any previously suspected by archaeologists. It now appears that the a Thais might have originated here in Thailand and later scattered to various parts of Asia, including some parts of China. Siam is the name by which the country was known to the world until 1939 and again between 1945 and 1949. On May 11, 1949, an official proclamation changed the name of the country to “Prathet Thai“, or “Thailand“, by which it has since been known. The word “Thai” means “free“, and therefore “Thailand” means “Land of the Free.”
Population: 64.6 million.
Capital: Bangkok, (5.66 million people)
Major Cities: North: Chiang Mai; South: Songkhla; Central Plains: Ayutthaya and Chonburi; Northeast: Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen.
National Flag: Thailand’s national flag comprises five horizontal bands of red, white, and blue. The central blue band of the Thai flag represents the Monarchy. It is hemmed by two white bands (religion) and two red bands (the nation).
Government: Constitutional Monarchy with a multi-party National Assembly and an independent Judiciary. The National Assembly or Parliament comprises two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Citizens elect members of political parties to the House of Representatives; the political parties form a majority government and select a Prime Minister. Voters also elect Senators.
Economy: GDP -per capita $8,300
GDP composition by sector – agriculture 9.3%, industry 38.7%, services 52%
Exports $102.3 billion
Imports $100.9 billion
Foreign exchange reserves $53.7 billion
Climate: Warm and humid, a tropical country with monsoonal climate. High temperatures in March and April average of 28 degrees Celsius to 38 degrees Celsius. Humidity averages between 82.8 percent to 73 percent.
Seasons: Dry: March to May; Rainy: June to October; Cool: November to February.
Language: The national and official language is Thai. English is widely spoken and understood in major cities, particularly in Bangkok.
Business Hours: Government and business offices are open from 8:30 to 16:30 hours, Monday to Friday.
Electricity: 220 volts 50 cycles throughout the country.
Banks: The country’s central bank is the Bank of Thailand. Major Thai commercial banks include the Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Krung Thai Bank, and Kasikorn Bank. Banking hours are 08:30 – 15:30 hours, Monday to Friday. Several international banks also have offices in Thailand.
Currency: The Baht is the standard currency unit. 1 Baht = 100 satangs. Bank Notes: 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000 baht. Coins: 1, 2, 5, and 10 baht.
Newspaper & Media: There are over 100 radio stations in Bangkok. All are state-owned but private companies are given air time concessions for their programmes. Broadcasting is done in both Thai and English, with news broadcasting every hour. There are over 20 Thai morning dailies in Bangkok. Some of the leading Thai papers include Thai Rath, Daily News, Siam Rath, Matichon, Naew Na, Siam Post, Ban Muang, Krung Thep Turakij, Wattachak and the Manager. Two major English-language dailies are the Bangkok Post and The Nation. There are numerous English-language magazines and local publications in Japanese, Chinese and other European languages. Many major international newspapers, magazines and books are also widely available.
There are 6 general television stations, Channels 3, 5, 7, 9 ,11 and TITV broadcast local variety shows, newscasts and live coverage of special events. Cable TV is also available by subscription.There are over 100 radio stations in Bangkok. All are state-owned but private companies are given air time concessions for their programmes. Broadcasting is done in both Thai and English, with news broadcasting every hour.
Thailand’s freedom of the press is considered the strongest in Southeast Asia as evidenced by hundreds of Thai-language publications on virtually every subject.
Health and Medical Facilities: Bangkok has numerous clinics and hospitals catering to a variety of needs. Major public and private hospitals are equipped with the latest medical technology and internationally qualified specialists. Almost all pharmaceuticals are widely available.