The Kingdom of Thailand is an independent country that lies in the heart of Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Laos and Myanmar, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and Myanmar. By the maritime boundary, the country is bordered to the southeast by Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, to the southwest by Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea.
The capital and largest city of Thailand is Bangkok. It is also the country's center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. Bangkok is known in Thai as Krung Thep Mahanakorn,"" or, more colloquially, ""Krung Thep.""","Thailand is the world's 51st-largest country in terms of total area, with a surface area of approximately 513,000 km2, and the 20th most-populous country, with approximately 63 million people. About 80% of the population is ethnically Thais, 10% is of Chinese origin, and 3% is ethnically Malay. The rest belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers, and various hill tribes. The country's official language is Thai.
Thailand is one of the most devoutly Buddhist countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism which is practiced by more than 95% of all Thais. The cultures and traditions in Thailand are significantly influenced by those of India, China and many western countries.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, as the ruling monarch. The King has reigned for more than half a century, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch. The King is recognized as the Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, the Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and Defender of the Faith. Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has never been ruled by a European power. However, during the Second World War, and while claiming neutrality, Thailand was occupied by the armed forces of the Empire of Japan who built the infamous 'Death Railway' using captured Allied Prisoners of War and slave Asian labourers.
Area: 513,115 sq. km. (198,114 sq. mi.); equivalent to the size of France, or slightly smaller than Texas.
Cities: Capital--Bangkok (population 9,668,854); Nakhon Ratchasima (pop. 437,386 for Muang district and 2,565,685 for the whole province), Chiang Mai (pop. 247,672 for Muang district and 1,595,855 for the whole province).
Terrain: Densely populated central plain; northeastern plateau; mountain range in the west; southern isthmus joins the land mass with Malaysia.
Climate: Tropical monsoon.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Thai.
Population (July 2011 est., CIA World Factbook): 66.7 million.
Labor force (2010 est.): 38.6 million.
Annual population growth rate (2011 est.): 0.5%.
Ethnic groups: Thai 89%, other 11%.
Religions: Buddhist 94%, Muslim 5%, Christian 1%, Hindu, Brahmin, other.
Languages: Thai (official language); English is the second language of the elite; Malay and regional languages and dialects.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--94.9% male, 90.5% female.
Health (2011 est.): Infant mortality rate--16.39/1,000. Life expectancy--71.24 years male, 76.08 years female.
Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Constitution: Thailand adopted its current constitution following an August 19, 2007 referendum.
Independence: Never colonized; traditional founding date 1238.
Branches: Executive--King (chief of state), Prime Minister (head of government). Legislative--bicameral, with a fully-elected House of Representatives and a partially-elected Senate. Judicial--composed of the Constitutional Tribunal, the Courts of Justice, and the Administrative Courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 77 provinces, including Bangkok municipality, subdivided into 877 districts, 7,255 tambon administration, and 74,944 villages.
Political parties: Multi-party system; Communist Party is prohibited.
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at 18 years of age.
GDP (2011 est.): $323.6 billion.
Annual GDP growth rate (2011 est.): 1.5%.
Inflation rates (as of November 2011): 4.2% (headline) and 0.5% (excluding energy and food prices).
Per capita income (2010 prelim.): $4,716.
Unemployment rate (2011 est.): 1.0% of total labor force.
Natural resources: Tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, fish, gypsum, lignite, fluorite.
Agriculture (12% of GDP): Products--rice, tapioca, rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, soybeans.
Industry: Types--tourism, textiles, garments, agricultural processing, cement, integrated circuits, jewelry, electronics, petrochemical, and auto assembly.
Trade (2010 est.): Merchandise exports--$193.5 billion. Products--automatic data processing machines and parts, automobiles and parts, precious stones and jewelry, refined fuels, rubber, electronic integrated circuits, polymers of ethylene and propylene, rice, iron and steel and their products, rubber products, chemical products. Major markets--ASEAN, EU, China, U.S., Japan, and Hong Kong. Merchandise imports--$161.3 billion. Products--crude oil, machinery and parts, electrical machinery and parts, chemicals, iron and steel and their products, electrical circuits panels, computers and parts, other metal ores and metal waste scrap, ships and boats and floating structure, jewelry including silver and gold. Major suppliers--Japan, ASEAN, China, U.A.E., EU, and U.S.
-All 2011 statistics are estimates and subject to change as a result of widespread flooding in Thailand from July to November 2011.
Thailand (previously Siam) has always been a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional society. More than 85% speak a variant of Thai and share a common culture, though there is a strong sense of regional identity and pride in many areas of Thailand. Roughly one-third of the population is in central Thailand, including Bangkok; one-third in the northeast, with significant Lao and Khmer heritage; 20% in the north; and 15% in the south. Ethnic Malay Muslims comprise a majority in the three southernmost provinces.
Central Thai is the language taught in schools and used in government. Lao, as well as "Isaan dialect", is spoken widely in northeastern Thailand; "Gam Muang" or northern dialect is spoken in the north; and a southern Thai dialect in the mid-south. Several other Tai dialects are spoken among smaller groups, such as the Shan (Tai Yai), Lue, and Phutai.
Up to 12% of Thai are of significant Chinese heritage, but the Sino-Thai community is the best integrated in Southeast Asia. Other groups include the Khmer in border provinces with Cambodia; the Mon, who are substantially assimilated with the Thai; and the Vietnamese. Smaller mountain-dwelling tribes, such as the Hmong, Mein, and the Karen, number about 788,024.
The population is mostly rural, concentrated in the rice-growing areas of the central, northeastern, and northern regions. However, as Thailand continues to industrialize, its urban population--31.6% of total population, principally in the Bangkok area--is growing.
Thailand's highly successful government-sponsored family planning program has resulted in a dramatic decline in population growth from 3.1% in 1960 to less than 1% today. Life expectancy also has risen, a positive reflection of Thailand's public health efforts. Thailand's model intervention programs in the 1990s also averted what could have been a major AIDS epidemic. Even so, today, approximately 1.4% of the adult population lives with HIV/AIDS.
The constitution mandates at least 12 years of free education; however, only 9 years are compulsory. In early 2009, the government put into effect a program to provide 15 years of free education (3 years in preschool and grades 1-12). Education accounts for approximately 18.0% of total government expenditures.
Theravada Buddhism is the major religion of Thailand, practiced by about 90% of its people. The government permits religious diversity, and other major religions are represented, with Muslim communities scattered throughout Thailand, and in larger numbers in the southern region. Spirit worship/animism and Hindu-Brahmic rituals are widely practiced.
Southeast Asia has been inhabited for more than half a million years. Archaeological studies suggest that by 4000 BC, communities in what is now Thailand had emerged as centers of early bronze metallurgy. This development, along with the cultivation of wet rice, provided the impetus for social and political organization. Research suggests that these innovations may actually have been transmitted from there to the rest of Asia, including to China.
The Thai are related linguistically to Tai groups originating in southern China. Migrations from southern China to Southeast Asia may have occurred in the 6th and 7th centuries. Malay, Mon, and Khmer civilizations flourished in the region prior to the arrival of the ethnic Tai.
The Thai traditionally date the founding of their nation to the 13th century, though kingdoms of Thai peoples existed in the north and in the south before then. According to tradition, in 1238, Thai chieftains overthrew their Khmer overlords at Sukhothai and established a Thai kingdom. After its decline, a new Thai kingdom emerged in 1350 on the Chao Praya River at Ayutthaya. At the same time, there was the equally important Tai kingdom of Lanna, centered in Chiang Mai, which for centuries rivaled Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, and still defines northern Thai identity; a southern kingdom centered in Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south also pre-dated Sukhothai.
The first ruler of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, King Rama Thibodi, made two important contributions to Thai history: the establishment and promotion of Theravada Buddhism as the official religion--to differentiate his kingdom from the neighboring Hindu kingdom of Angkor--and the compilation of the Dharmashastra, a legal code based on Hindu sources and traditional Thai custom. The Dharmashastra remained a tool of Thai law until late in the 19th century. Beginning with the Portuguese in the 16th century, Ayutthaya had some contact with the West, but until the 1800s, its relations with neighboring kingdoms and principalities, as well as with China, were of primary importance.
After more than 400 years of power, in 1767, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was brought down by invading Burmese armies and its capital burned. After a single-reign capital established at Thonburi by Taksin, a new capital city was founded in 1782, across the Chao Phraya at the site of present-day Bangkok, by the founder of the current Chakri dynasty. The first Chakri king was crowned Rama I. Rama I's heirs became increasingly concerned with the threat of European colonialism after British victories in neighboring Burma in 1826.
The first Thai recognition of Western power in the region was the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United Kingdom in 1826. In 1833, the United States began diplomatic exchanges with Siam, as Thailand was called until 1938. However, it was during the later reigns of Rama IV (or King Mongkut, 1851-68), and his son Rama V (King Chulalongkorn, 1868-1910), that Thailand established firm rapprochement with Western powers. The Thais believe it was the diplomatic skills of these monarchs, combined with the modernizing reforms of the governments, that made Siam the only country in South and Southeast Asia to avoid European colonization.
In 1932, a bloodless coup transformed Thailand from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) initially accepted this change but later surrendered the kingship to his 10-year-old nephew. Upon his abdication, King Prajadhipok said that the obligation of a ruler was to reign for the good of the whole people, not for a select few.
Although nominally a democracy with a constitutional monarchy after 1932, Thailand was ruled by a series of military governments interspersed with brief periods of democracy. Following the 1932 revolution that imposed constitutional limits on the monarchy, Thai politics was dominated for a half-century by the military and bureaucratic elite. Changes of government were effected primarily by means of a long series of mostly bloodless coups. Thailand was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War until Japan's defeat in 1945.
Beginning with a brief experiment in democracy during the mid-1970s (the so-called "October generation" between 1973-76), civilian democratic political institutions slowly gained greater authority, culminating in 1988 when Chatichai Choonhaven--leader of the Thai Nation Party--assumed office as the country's first democratically elected Prime Minister in more than a decade. In 1991, yet another bloodless coup ended his term. After a year-long largely civilian interim government and inconclusive elections, former army commander Suchinda Kraprayoon was appointed Prime Minister. The military violently suppressed demonstrations in May 1992, with at least 50 protesters killed. Reaction to the violence, including a televised meeting with King Bhumibol, forced Suchinda to resign, leading to new elections in September 1992.
Political parties that had opposed the military in May 1992 won by a narrow majority, and Democrat Party leader Chuan Leekpai served as Prime Minister until May 1995. The Thai Nation Party won the largest number of parliamentary seats in subsequent elections, with party leader Banharn Silpa-Archa serving as Prime Minister for little more than a year. New Aspiration Party leader Chavalit Youngchaiyudh formed a coalition government after November 1996 elections. The onset of the Asian financial crisis caused a loss of confidence in the Chavalit government, led to a new constitution, and returned Chuan Leekpai to power in November 1997.
In January 2001, telecommunications billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra and his new Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party won a decisive plurality victory on a populist platform of economic growth and development. Thaksin's premiership was marked by a confident foreign policy, implementation of his populist policies, and accusations of anti-democratic actions, including undermining independent bodies, limiting freedom of the press, and a 2003 war on drugs which led to 1,300 unsolved murders. In February 2005, Thaksin was re-elected by an overwhelming majority, sweeping 377 out of 500 parliamentary seats for Thailand's first-ever single-party outright electoral victory. Soon after Prime Minister Thaksin's second term began, allegations of corruption emerged against his government. Peaceful anti-government mass demonstrations grew, and hundreds of thousands marched in the streets to demand Thaksin's resignation. Prime Minister Thaksin dissolved the parliament in February 2006 and called snap elections in April. The main opposition parties boycotted the polls, and the judiciary subsequently annulled the elections.
Before new elections could be held, in September 2006 a group of top military officers overthrew the caretaker Thaksin administration in a non-violent coup d'etat, repealed the 1997 constitution, and dissolved both houses of parliament. The coup leaders promulgated an interim constitution and appointed Surayud Chulanont as interim Prime Minister. In a national referendum in August 2007, a majority of Thai voters approved a new constitution drafted by an assembly appointed by the coup leaders. The interim government held multi-party elections under provisions of the new constitution in December 2007, and the pro-Thaksin People's Power Party (PPP) won a plurality of 233 of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament. PPP leader Samak Sundaravej formed a coalition government and formally took office as Prime Minister in February 2008.
Samak was forced from office in September 2008 by a Constitutional Court ruling that he had violated the constitution's conflict of interest provisions by hosting a televised cooking show. His successor, Somchai Wongsawat, PPP leader and brother-in-law of former Prime Minister Thaksin, also was forced from office by the Constitutional Court when it dissolved the PPP and two other coalition parties on December 2, 2008 for election law violations in the December 2007 elections. A split among ex-PPP members of parliament paved the way for parliament's election of Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as Prime Minister on December 15, 2008.
Efforts by the two PPP leaders to amend the 2007 constitution and provide amnesty to banned politicians, including ex-Prime Minister Thaksin, led to a renewal of street protests in mid-2008, some of which resulted in violence between security forces and protesters and between pro- and anti-government demonstrators. In 2008, anti-government "yellow-shirt" protesters occupied Government House from late August until early December; blockaded parliament in October; and occupied and forced the closure of Bangkok's airports for several days in late November through early December. "Red-shirt" protests against the Abhisit government commenced in early 2009, leading to the disruption of a major Asian summit in Pattaya and riots in Bangkok in April 2009.
The "red-shirts" continued to hold short demonstrations through 2009 and into 2010 and intensified their protests on March 12, 2010, 2 weeks after the Supreme Court directed the government to seize $1.4 billion of Thaksin's assets. The tense standoff between government security forces and protesters came to a head on April 10; 25 people were killed in street clashes, 5 of them security personnel.
Government efforts to negotiate a settlement with "red-shirt" leaders ultimately failed, and on May 14 troops began to seal off the protest site. A week of street battles ensued, climaxing on May 19 when "red-shirt" leaders surrendered to police. In the immediate aftermath several buildings, including Thailand's largest shopping mall, were torched by elements of the "red-shirt" demonstrators. Protesters also set fire to government offices in several provinces. In total, 92 people were killed and over 1,800 injured during the 2-month protest. Roughly half of the "red-shirt" leaders were arrested or surrendered, while others fled abroad. Many of those leaders later returned to Thailand to face legal charges. "Red-shirt" protests continued at regular intervals throughout the rest of 2010 and into the 2011 election season, though they remained nonviolent.
In July 2011, the Thaksin-affiliated Puea Thai Party--led by Thaksin's youngest sister, Yingluck Shinawatra--claimed a decisive electoral victory, obtaining 265 out of 500 parliamentary seats in general elections. Yingluck was endorsed as the Prime Minister on August 10, 2011. Although Yingluck and her governing coalition enjoy a strong political mandate, political tensions persist. The most divisive issue relates to the potential return of former Prime Minister Thaksin, which the Puea Thai-led government raised as a possibility several times during the second half of 2011. Many of Yingluck's campaign promises echoed the populist platform of the Thaksin era--crop subsidies for farmers, a minimum wage increase, tablet computers for schools. However, following devastating floods in the latter half of 2011 that claimed more than 600 lives and caused billions in economic damage, the Yingluck administration had to redirect resources to focus on recovery and notably pushed back the minimum wage implementation to April 2012.
Thailand's southern border provinces have long been host to an ethno-nationalist Malay Muslim separatist movement rallying around a regional "Patani" identity. Since 2004, separatists have conducted an increasingly violent insurgency in the provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, and Songkhla against symbols and representatives of central government authority, as well as against civilians, both Buddhist and Muslim, which has resulted in thousands of deaths.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. From 1992 and until the 2006 coup, the country was considered a functioning democracy with constitutional changes of government. Generally free and fair multi-party elections held in 2007 subsequently restored democratic governance 1 year after the coup, and the 2011 election preceded a stable transition of power between parties. The King has little direct power under Thailand's constitution but is a symbol of national identity and unity. King Bhumibol (Rama IX)--who has been on the throne since 1946--commands enormous popular respect and moral authority, which he has used on occasion to resolve political crises that have threatened national stability.
Under the 2007 constitution, the National Assembly consists of two chambers--the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is a non-partisan body with 150 members, 76 of whom are directly elected (one per province). The remaining 74 are appointed by a panel comprised of judges and senior independent officials from a list of candidates compiled by the Election Commission. The House has 500 members, 375 of whom are directly elected from constituent districts and the remainder drawn proportionally from party lists.
Thailand's legal system blends principles of traditional Thai and Western laws. Under the constitution, the Constitutional Court is the highest court of appeals, though its jurisdiction is limited to clearly defined constitutional issues. Its members are nominated by a committee of judges, leaders in parliament, and senior independent officials, whose nominees are confirmed by the Senate and appointed by the King. The Courts of Justice have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases and are organized in three tiers: Courts of First Instance, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Justice. Administrative courts have jurisdiction over suits between private parties and the government, and cases in which one government entity is suing another. In Thailand's southern border provinces, where Muslims constitute the majority of the population, Provincial Islamic Committees have limited jurisdiction over probate, family, marriage, and divorce cases.
Thailand's 77 provinces include the metropolis of greater Bangkok. Bangkok's governor is popularly elected, but those of the remaining provinces are career civil servants appointed by the Ministry of Interior.
Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Prime Minister--Yingluck Shinawatra
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Surapong Tovichakchaikul
Ambassador to the U.S.--Kittiphong Na Ranong
Ambassador to the UN--Norachit Sinhaseni
Thailand maintains an embassy in the United States at 1024 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington DC 20007 (tel. 202-944-3600). Consulates are located in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
The Thai economy is export-dependent, with exports of goods and services equivalent to nearly 70% of GDP in 2010. Thailand's recovery from the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis (which brought a double-digit drop in GDP) relied largely on external demand from the United States and other foreign markets. From 2001-2006, the administration of former Prime Minister Thaksin embraced a "dual track" economic policy that combined domestic stimulus programs with Thailand's traditional promotion of open markets and foreign investment. Real GDP growth strengthened sharply from 2.2% in 2001 to 7.1% in 2003 and 6.3% in 2004. In 2005-2007, economic expansion moderated, averaging 4.9% real GDP growth, due to domestic political uncertainty, rising violence in Thailand's three southernmost provinces, and repercussions from the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. Thailand's economy in 2007 relied heavily on resilient export growth (at an 18.2% annual rate), particularly in the automobile, petrochemicals, and electronics sectors.
Political uncertainty and the global financial crisis in 2008 weakened Thailand's economic growth by reducing domestic and international demand for both its goods and services (including tourism). Due to minimum exposure to toxic assets, Thai banks experienced limited direct impact from the global financial crisis. Nonetheless, Thai economic growth slowed to 2.5% in 2008, with fourth-quarter growth dropping below zero. In 2009, the contraction continued, with an average year-on-year economic growth of minus 2.3% in 2009.
The Thai economy posted a recovery in 2010, growing at 7.8% on the strength of its exports, which surged by 28%, in spite of the March-May political protests that took place in Bangkok. Going into 2011, the government anticipated moderate growth in the range of 3%-5%. The economy achieved 3.1% growth over the first three quarters of 2011 despite supply chain disruptions caused by Japan's tsunami and an overall slowdown in the global economy. October and November flooding in Thailand's central region, however, inundated several key industrial estates on Bangkok's periphery and halted economic activity in affected areas. Industrial production bore the brunt of flood damages, with manufacturing output declining 36% year-on-year for October. As a result, the Thai economy was expected to achieve only 1.5% annual growth for 2011. Unemployment, which had hovered around 1% since 2010, was expected to reach as high as 2.3% in 2011's fourth quarter as a direct result of flooding. Core and headline inflation as of November 2011 were running at 2.9% and 4.19%, respectively. The Bank of Thailand has forecast an economic recovery in 2012 with GDP growth of 4.8%, driven by domestic demand largely in the form of government spending and investment on flood reconstruction. Estimates for 2012 GDP growth range significantly: the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has forecast 3.8% and the World Bank 4%, and in November 2011 Deputy Prime Minister Kittirat estimated that growth could reach as high as 7%.
The Thai Government welcomes foreign investment, and investors who are willing to meet certain requirements can apply for special investment privileges through the Board of Investment. U.S. investors may qualify for additional privileges under the Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations.
The organized labor movement remains weak and divided in Thailand. Less than 2% of the total work force is unionized, although nearly 10% of industrial workers and more than 59% of state enterprise workers are unionized. In 2009, efforts to restructure the State Railway authority met resistance from the powerful railways union, including a short strike that halted trains nationwide, showing that organized labor still has potential political clout. As a result of the global financial crisis and business restructuring, employers hired large numbers of short-term contract workers. While employers claimed to have done this in order to maintain business flexibility for greater competitiveness during financially uncertain times, labor advocates viewed these actions as reducing job security and attempts to weaken the organized labor movement.
Roughly 40% of Thailand's labor force is employed in agriculture, although agriculture accounts for only 12% of GDP (data based on the Thai National Statistics Office). Rice is the country's most important crop; Thailand is the largest exporter in the world rice market. Other agricultural commodities produced in significant amounts include fish and fishery products, tapioca, rubber, corn, and sugar. Exports of processed foods such as canned tuna, canned pineapples, and frozen shrimp are also significant.
Thailand's increasingly diversified manufacturing sector is the largest contributor to growth. Industries registering rapid increases in production have included computers and electronics, furniture, wood products, canned food, toys, plastic products, gems, and jewelry. High-technology products such as integrated circuits and parts, hard disc drives, electrical appliances, vehicles, and vehicle parts are now leading Thailand's growth in exports. With stronger exports and a rise in inflationary pressure, the Bank of Thailand started to tighten its monetary policy in mid-July 2010 after having followed a low interest rate policy since April 2009. Large surpluses in both the current and capital accounts contributed to the Thai baht's appreciation relative to the dollar throughout 2009 and 2010. Machinery and parts, vehicles, electronic integrated circuits, chemicals, crude oil and fuels, and iron and steel are among Thailand's principal imports.
Through 2010, the United States was Thailand's third-largest single-country export market after China and Japan, and the third-largest supplier after Japan and China. Thailand's traditional major markets have been the United States, Japan, Europe, and ASEAN member countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam). Growing export markets include China, Hong Kong, Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, and India. Thailand is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters.
Tourism contributes significantly to the Thai economy (approximately 6%). The tourism industry was on track for a record year in 2011 before the October-November flooding, the traditional start of the industry's peak season. International tourist arrivals declined significantly during both months, but remained up by 15% year-on-year through October.
Bangkok and its environs are the most prosperous part of Thailand, and the seasonally barren northeast is the poorest. An overriding concern of successive Thai governments has been to reduce these regional income differentials, which have been exacerbated by rapid economic growth in and around Bangkok. The government has tried to stimulate provincial economic growth with programs such as the Eastern Seaboard project and various populist and crop price support policies.
Although the economy has demonstrated moderate positive growth in recent years, future performance depends on moving up on the value-added ladder away from low-wage industries where regional competition is growing. Key reforms are needed to open the financial sector; improve the foreign investment climate, including updating telecommunications capabilities; and stimulate domestic investment and consumption to balance reliance on exports. Logistics networks and electricity generation increasingly run the risk of bottlenecks and may pose a challenge to growth. Thailand's relative shortage of engineers and skilled technical personnel may limit its future technological creativity and productivity, even as the government is pushing for an increase in the proportion that creative industries contribute to GDP from 12% to 20% by 2015.
Thailand Foreign Relations
Thailand's foreign policy includes a close and longstanding security relationship with the United States. It also strongly supports ASEAN's efforts to promote economic development, social integration, and stability throughout the region. Relations with China are steadily increasing across the board. Thailand served as the chair of ASEAN from July 2008 to December 2009 and served as host to the ASEAN Summit (heads of government meeting) in February 2009, as well as the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, Post Ministerial Conference, and Regional Forum in July 2009. At the July 2009 meeting in Phuket, the United States acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN.
Thailand participates fully in international and regional organizations. It has developed increasingly close ties with other ASEAN members--Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and Vietnam--whose foreign and economic ministers hold annual meetings. Despite skirmishes with Cambodia in early 2011 over border disputes, Thailand's regional cooperation is progressing in economic, trade, banking, political, and cultural matters.
On the international stage, Thailand contributed troops and UN force commanders to the international peacekeeping effort in East Timor; in late 2010, it sent naval ships to the anti-piracy task force off the coast of Somalia and troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Thailand has also increased its foreign humanitarian assistance efforts, with most foreign aid going to Laos, but also to other countries such as neighboring Burma (following Cyclone Nargis in 2008) and Haiti (following the January 2010 earthquake). As part of its effort to increase international ties, Thailand has reached out to such regional organizations as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Thailand has contributed troops to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. In May 2010 Thailand was chosen to serve on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for a 3-year term; it completed a 1-year term as UNHRC chair in June 2011.
Thailand Additionalal Political Information
On March 20, 1833, the United States and Thailand, then Siam, signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, the United States' first treaty with a country in Asia.
Since World War II, the United States and Thailand have significantly expanded diplomatic and commercial relations, as reflected in several bilateral treaties and by both countries' participation in UN multilateral activities and agreements. Thailand and the U.S. became treaty allies in 1954 (Manila Pact). The 1966 Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations, the most recent iteration of the 1833 Treaty of Amity and Commerce, is the principal bilateral arrangement; the 1966 treaty facilitates U.S. and Thai companies' economic access to one another's markets. Other important agreements address civil uses of atomic energy, sales of agricultural commodities, investment guarantees, and military and economic assistance. In June 2004, the United States and Thailand initiated negotiations on a free trade agreement but these negotiations were suspended in September 2006 following the military-led coup against the government of then-Prime Minister Thaksin.
The United States and Thailand are among the signatories of the 1954 Manila Pact of the former Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Article IV(1) of this treaty provides that, in the event of armed attack in the treaty area (which includes Thailand), each member would "act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes." Despite the dissolution of the SEATO in 1977, the Manila Pact remains in force and, together with the Thanat-Rusk communique of 1962, constitutes the basis of U.S. security commitments to Thailand. Thailand continues to be a key security ally in Asia, along with Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. In December 2003, Thailand was designated a Major Non-NATO Ally.
Thailand's stability and growth are important to the maintenance of peace in the region. The Thai-U.S. Creative Partnership builds on existing public-private and intergovernmental relationships, seeking to emphasize innovative industry and to identify new opportunities for collaborative ingenuity between the two countries. In alignment with the Thai Government's Creative Economy policies, this formal partnership effort intends to spur increased productivity while re-emphasizing the beneficial aspects of American presence in Thailand.
Economic assistance has been extended in various fields, including rural development, health, family planning, education, and science and technology. The formal U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) bilateral program, ended in 1995, was rejuvenated in 2010. There are also a number of targeted assistance programs which continue in areas of mutually defined importance, including: health and HIV/AIDS programming, civil society capacity-building, reconciliation efforts in southern Thailand, refugee assistance, and combating trafficking in persons.
The U.S. Peace Corps in Thailand began operating in 1962 and has had over 5,000 volunteers since that time. Peace Corps currently has approximately 100 volunteers in country, focused on primary education, with an integrated program involving teacher training, health education, and environmental education. In late 2003, the Peace Corps also established an organizational development program aimed at promoting sustainable rural development in Thai communities. The United States and Thailand, through programs with USAID, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medial Sciences (AFRIMS), cooperate closely on a range of public health initiatives, including efforts to fight malaria, tuberculosis, dengue, HIV/AIDS, and avian/pandemic influenza.
Thailand has received U.S. military equipment, essential supplies, training, and assistance in the construction and improvement of facilities and installations for much of the period since 1950; since then more Thai personnel have been trained under the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program than any other country. Over recent decades, U.S. security assistance included military training programs carried out in the United States and elsewhere. A small U.S. military advisory group in Thailand oversees the delivery of equipment to the Thai Armed Forces and the training of Thai military personnel in its use and maintenance. As part of the mutual defense cooperation over the last three decades, Thailand and the United States have developed a vigorous joint military exercise program, which engages all the services of each nation and averages 40 joint exercises per year.
Thailand and the United States have longstanding cooperation in international law enforcement efforts. The large-scale production and shipment of opium and heroin shipments from Burma of previous years have largely been replaced by widespread smuggling of methamphetamine tablets, although heroin is still seized along the border. The United States and Thailand continue to work closely together and with the United Nations on a broad range of programs to halt illicit drug trafficking and other criminal activity, such as trafficking in persons. Thailand cooperates fully in efforts to return to the United States felons fleeing justice. In addition to bilateral civil law enforcement and security capacity-building through the Transnational Crime Affairs Section and the Regional Security Office, the United States supports the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, which provides counter-narcotics and anti-crime capacity-building programs to law enforcement and judicial officials from a number of regional countries.
Trade and Investment
The United States is Thailand's third-largest trading partner, after Japan and China, with more than $30 billion in trade. The United States is also one of the largest investors in Thailand. Exports to the U.S. were $23 billion in 2010, representing 10.3% of total Thai exports. Thai imports from the U.S., such as computer and electronic products, chemicals, and machinery, were $9 billion in 2010. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Thailand dropped sharply between 2007 and 2010, due to the impact of the global economic downturn and domestic political uncertainty. U.S. FDI inflows were $9.1 billion in 2010 with the manufacturing sector remaining the largest recipient, accounting for 47.5% of total FDI inflows in 2010. FDI was particularly targeted to export-oriented industries such as electrical appliances and machinery and transport equipment.
Many U.S. businesses enjoy investment benefits through the U.S.-Thailand Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations (AER), originally signed in 1833. The 1966 iteration of the treaty allows U.S. citizens and businesses incorporated in the United States, or in Thailand that are majority-owned by U.S. citizens, to engage in business on the same basis as Thai companies, exempting them from most of the restrictions on foreign investment imposed by the Foreign Business Act. Under the treaty, Thailand restricts American investment only in the fields of communications, transport, fiduciary functions, banking involving depository functions, the exploitation of land or other natural resources, and domestic trade in agricultural products. Notwithstanding their treaty rights, many Americans choose to form joint ventures with Thai partners, allowing the Thai side to hold the majority stake because of the advantages that come from familiarity with the Thai economy and local regulations. In recent decades, Thailand has been a major destination for foreign direct investment, and hundreds of U.S. companies have operated there successfully.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Kristie A. Kenney
Deputy Chief of Mission--Judith B. Cefkin
Management Counselor--Gregory Stanford
Political Affairs Counselor--Raymond Richhart
Economic Affairs Counselor--Julie Chung
Public Affairs Counselor--Kenneth Foster
Consul General--Elizabeth Pratt
Commercial Counselor--Michael McGee
Chiang Mai Consul General--Todd Bate-Poxon, Acting
The U.S. Embassy in Thailand is located at 120/22 Wireless Road, Bangkok (tel. 66-2-205-4000). There is a Consulate General in Chiang Mai, 387 Wichayanond Road (tel. 66-53-107-700).
|1. Changwat Uthai Thani|
2. Changwat Trang
3. Changwat Tak
4. Changwat Surat Thani
5. Changwat Sukhothai
6. Changwat Ratchaburi
7. Changwat Ranong
8. Changwat Prachuap Khiri Khan
9. Phuket Province
10. Changwat Phetchaburi
11. Changwat Phangnga
12. Changwat Mae Hong Son
13. Changwat Lamphun
14. Changwat Lampang
15. Changwat Krabi
16. Changwat Kanchanaburi
17. Changwat Kamphaeng Phet
18. Changwat Chumphon
19. Changwat Chiang Rai
20. Changwat Chiang Mai
21. Changwat Yasothon
22. Changwat Yala
23. Changwat Uttaradit
24. Changwat Trat
25. Changwat Surin
|26. Changwat Suphan Buri|
27. Changwat Songkhla
28. Changwat Sisaket
29. Changwat Sing Buri
30. Changwat Satun
31. Changwat Sara Buri
32. Changwat Samut Songkhram
33. Changwat Samut Sakhon
34. Changwat Samut Prakan
35. Changwat Sakon Nakhon
36. Changwat Roi Et
37. Changwat Rayong
38. Changwat Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
39. Changwat Phrae
40. Changwat Phitsanulok
41. Changwat Phichit
42. Changwat Phetchabun
43. Changwat Phayao
44. Changwat Phatthalung
45. Changwat Pattani
46. Changwat Pathum Thani
47. Changwat Nonthaburi
48. Changwat Nong Khai
49. Changwat Narathiwat
50. Changwat Nan
|51. Changwat Nakhon Si Thammarat|
52. Changwat Nakhon Sawan
53. Changwat Nakhon Ratchasima
54. Changwat Nakhon Phanom
55. Changwat Nakhon Pathom
56. Changwat Nakhon Nayok
57. Changwat Mukdahan
58. Changwat Maha Sarakham
59. Changwat Lop Buri
60. Changwat Loei
62. Changwat Khon Kaen
63. Changwat Kalasin
64. Changwat Chon Buri
65. Changawat Chanthaburi
66. Changwat Chaiyaphum
67. Changwat Chai Nat
68. Changwat Chachoengsao
69. Changwat Buriram
70. Changwat Ang Thong
71. Changwat Udon Thani
72. Changwat Prachin Buri
73. Changwat Ubon Ratchathani
74. Changwat Amnat Charoen
75. Changwat Nong Bua Lamphu
76. Changwat Sa Kaeo
|1. Bangkok 5,104,476|
2. Samut Prakan 388,920
3. Mueang Nonthaburi 291,555
4. Udon Thani 247,231
5. Chon Buri 219,164
6. Nakhon Ratchasima 208,781
7. Chiang Mai 200,952
8. Hat Yai 191,696
9. Pak Kret 182,926
10. Si Racha 178,916
11. Phra Pradaeng 171,333
12. Lampang 156,139
13. Khon Kaen 147,579
14. Surat Thani 127,201
15. Ban Rangsit 123,382
16. Ubon Ratchathani 122,533
17. Nakhon Si Thammarat 120,836
18. Khlong Luang 118,551
19. Nakhon Pathom 117,927
20. Rayong 106,737
21. Phitsanulok 103,427
22. Chanthaburi 99,819
23. Phatthaya 97,296
24. Yala 93,558
25. Ratchaburi 92,448
26. Nakhon Sawan 91,802
27. Phuket 89,072
28. Ban Mai 86,899
29. Songkhla 84,264
30. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 81,962
31. Chiang Rai 78,756
32. Bang Kruai 78,305
33. Sakon Nakhon 76,237
|34. Krathum Baen 72,819|
35. Saraburi 67,763
36. Trang 66,713
37. Sattahip 65,444
38. Kanchanaburi 63,699
39. Nong Khai 63,609
40. Samut Sakhon 63,498
41. Ban Lam Luk Ka 60,700
42. Kamphaeng Phet 58,787
43. Chaiyaphum 58,350
44. Uttaradit 58,313
45. Lop Buri 57,761
46. Ban Pong 57,559
47. Phra Phutthabat 57,008
48. Chumphon 55,835
49. Klaeng 55,619
50. Kalasin 55,102
51. Suphan Buri 53,399
52. Tha Maka 52,907
53. Ban Talat Yai 52,192
54. Maha Sarakham 51,584
55. Phetchabun 50,656
56. Hua Hin 50,456
57. Chachoengsao 49,741
58. Cha-am 49,375
59. Pak Chong 48,999
60. Narathiwat 47,771
61. Pran Buri 47,293
62. Surin 46,673
63. Phetchaburi 46,601
64. Chum Phae 46,335
65. Sadao 46,236
66. Si Sa Ket 44,751
|67. Mae Sot 44,563|
68. Pattani 43,690
69. Phatthalung 43,522
70. Lamphun 43,196
71. Warin Chamrap 43,102
72. Su-ngai Kolok 42,776
73. Tha Yang 42,602
74. Ban Phaeo 41,904
75. Bang Bua Thong 41,567
76. Nong Khae 41,067
77. Mukdahan 40,480
78. Ban Na 40,174
79. Ko Samui 39,681
80. Bang Lamung 39,620
81. Roi Et 39,328
82. Wichian Buri 39,272
83. Wichit 38,701
84. Phrae 38,538
85. Mae Chan 37,672
86. Sam Phran 37,115
87. Sukhothai 37,000
88. Kantharalak 36,621
89. Photharam 36,248
90. Phichit 35,760
91. Det Udom 35,669
92. Ban Phai 35,583
93. Tha Bo 35,292
94. Loei 35,273
95. Samut Songkhram 35,065
96. Kathu 34,835
97. Amnat Charoen 34,769
98. Nakhon Phanom 34,595
99. Satun 34,544
100. Nong Bua Lamphu 34,401