Situated at the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand is a hub of transportation and commerce. Extending 1,006.62 miles from north to south and 481.56 miles from east to west, it covers an area of 198,115 square miles. This makes Thailand slightly smaller than Texas. 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.
Capital: Bangkok (Population 8,249,117 persons, 14,565,520 persons in metropolitan area)
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 multiparty National Assembly and an independent Judiciary. The National Assembly or Parliament comprises two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The monarchy is hereditary. According to 2007 constitution, the prime minister is elected from among members of House of Representatives; following national elections for House of Representatives, the leader of the party positioned to organize a majority coalition usually becomes prime minister by appointment by the king. The prime minister is limited to two four-year terms.
Ethnic Groups: Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, 3% ethnic Malay, other 8%.
Religion: Buddhist 94.6%, Muslim 4.6%, Christian 0.7%, other 0.1% (2000 census).
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. It now appears that the 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.”