One of the most original places on earth to visit and often the last.
It is said that you should not visit Thailand until you have seen the rest of the world since Thailand is the place you will keep returning to. The reason is that it is singularly the most amazing place you will discover on earth. The unique identity of Thailand, warm climate and the attractiveness of the people make it irresistibly unique to millions of foreigners.
Partly the cause of this, is that Thailand, formerly the Kingdom of Siam, is the one place in South East Asia that as never been colonised by a European power. The extraordinary culture and tradition of the country is shaped by Buddhism and is also very much alive in everyday Thai life. Thai people speak their own language and their quiet, friendly manner has led some to label the country as the ‘Land of Smiles.’
Thailand is the 20th largest country in the world, in terms of population, with over 63 million people. 90% are Thai while about 10% are of Chinese origin. 95% of the population are Buddhist with nearly 4.5% being Muslim.
From 1985 to 1996, Thailand was the fastest growing economy in the world. The Asian financial crisis in 1997 resulted in severe economic collapse resulting in the effective de-valuation of the Thai currency, the baht. Since then, however, Thailand has remained an emerging economy with an impressive export performance despite political turmoil which erupted in 2006.
If you are considering a trip to Thailand or want to know more about the country, the following pointers may be helpful:
- A constitutional monarchy since 1932, the King of Thailand is widely revered within the country. King Bhumibol, the ninth in the Chakri dynasty which has ruled Thailand since 1782, is the nation’s longest serving monarch. The love felt by Thai people towards the King is difficult for most foreigners to comprehend.
- Thailand has a very high level of participation in education with a flourishing system of public and private institutions. The Thai tradition of respect for elders and learning contributes to an impressive commitment to education within the country.
- Thailand is well known for its nightlife and vice trade. It is estimated that out of 10 million or so people living in Bangkok (or Krung Thep) that nearly 400,000 are sex workers. A complex set of economic and social factors has brought about this situation.
- In 2006, Thailand was plunged into political crisis beginning with protests and then an army coup which deposed elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Despite a new constitution and successful elections in 2007, the political problems, which led to the 2006 coup, still exist.
- Anti-government protestors occupied Government buildings and Thailand’s main airport in 2008 protesting against the then Prime Minister, a brother-in-law of Mr. Shinawatra. This government was subsequentlydissolved by the constitutional court and a new government installed.
- A new wave of anti-government riots broke out in 2008 in Bangkok, this time in support of Mr. Shinawatra. These culminated in 2010 with violent confrontations between the ‘Red Shirt’ and the army resulting in loss of life and fire being set to commercial shopping centres throughout Bangkok and in some other parts of Thailand
- The protests were against the government led by Prime Minister Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva which was elected after the previous governing party was dissolved by court order.This government oversaw a country which was making some economic progress but faced a tense standoff against the ‘Red Shirt’ movement aligned with former Prime Minister Thaksin but including a broad range of groups opposed to the 2006 coup.This movement claimed that the government was not democratic and called for reforms to Thailand’s constitution adopted after the 2006 coup.
- On the 3rd July 2011 Yingluck Shiniwatra sister of ThaksinShinawatra became Thailand’s first female Prime Minister and the youngest in sixty years. Her government faces stiff opposition from the same forces that led the political movement against her brother.