The Kingdom of Thailand, covering an area of 514,000 square
kilometres, lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, roughly
equidistant between India and China. It shares borders with Burma
to the west and north, Laos to the northeast. Kampuchea to east
and Malaysia to the south. Topographically the country 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's capital sits beside the banks of the Chao
Phraya, the mighty 'River of Kings'. First impressions
are of a typical bustling modern metropolis, but look
closer and you'll find a magical eastern city hidden away
among the highrises and shopping centers.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. Since 1932, Thai
kings including the present monarch, H.M. King Bhumipol
Adulyadaj, have exercised their legislative powers
through a national assembly, their executive powers
through a cabinet headed by a prime minister, and their
judicial powers through the law courts.
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.
The national religion is Theravada Buddhism, practiced by
more than 90 per cent of all Thais. The remainder of the
population adheres to Muslim, Christian, Hindu and other
faiths -- all of which are allowed full freedom of
expression. Buddhism continues to cast a strong
influences on daily life.