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Thailand Essay

Thailand, formerly Siam, officially Kingdom of Thailand, kingdom in SoutheastAsia, bounded by Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) on the north and west, byLaos on the northeast, by Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand (Siam) on thesoutheast, by Malaysia on the south, and by the Andaman Sea and Myanmar on thesouthwest. The total area of Thailand is 513,115 sq km (198,115 sq mi). Bangkokis the capital and largest city. IILAND AND RESOURCES Thailand lies within theIndochinese Peninsula (see Indochina), except for the southern extremity, whichoccupies a portion of the Malay Peninsula. The country’s extreme dimensions areabout 1770 km (about 1100 mi) from north to south and about 800 km (about 500mi) from east to west. The physiography is highly diversified, but the mountainsystems are the predominant feature of the terrain.

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A series of parallel ranges,with a north-south trend, occupy the northern and western portions of thecountry. Extreme elevations occur in the westernmost ranges, which extend alongthe Myanmar frontier and rise to 2595 m (8514 ft) atop Doi Inthanon, the highestpoint in Thailand. The peninsular area, which is bordered by narrow coastalplains, reaches a high point of 1790 m (5860 ft) atop Khao Luang. Anothermountain system projects, in a northern and southern direction, through centralThailand. At its southern extremity, the system assumes an east-west trend andextends to the eastern frontier.

Doi Pia Fai (1270 m/4167 ft) is its highestpeak. The region to the north and east of this system consists largely of a low,barren plateau, called the Khorat Plateau. Making up about one-third of thecountry, the plateau is bordered by the Mekong River valley. Between the centraland western mountains is a vast alluvial plain traversed by the Chao Phraya, thechief river of Thailand. This central plain, together with the fertile deltaformed by the Chao Phraya near Bangkok, is the richest agricultural and mostdensely populated section of the kingdom.

AClimate Thailand has a moist,tropical climate, influenced chiefly by monsoon winds that vary in directionaccording to the season. From April to October the winds are mainly from thesouthwest and are moisture laden; during the rest of the year they blow from thenortheast. Temperatures are higher, ranging from about 26? to 37? C (about 78?to 98? F), while the country is under the influence of the southwestern winds. During the remainder of the year the range is from about 13? to 33? C (about56? to 92? F).

Temperatures are somewhat higher inland than they are along thecoast, except at points of great elevation. Annual rainfall is about 1520 mm(about 60 in) in the northern, western, and central regions, about 2540 mm(about 100 in) or more on the Thai portion of the Malay Peninsula, and about1270 mm (about 50 in) or less on the Khorat Plateau. Most rain falls in summer(June through October). BNatural Resources. Thailand is rich in naturalresources.

Among the known mineral deposits are coal, gold, lead, tin, tungsten,manganese, zinc, and precious stones. The rich alluvial soil along the ChaoPhraya and other rivers constitutes another important resource. Natural gasdeposits were discovered offshore in the 1970s, reducing Thailand’s reliance onimported petroleum. CPlants and Animals Jungles and swamps, scattered throughthe coastal areas of Thailand, have extensive tracts of tropical trees,including mangrove, rattan, ironwood, sappanwood, ebony, and rosewood. Theupland areas are also heavily wooded, the most valuable species being teak,agalloch, and oak. In addition, a wide variety of tropical plants and fruittrees, including orchid, gardenia, hibiscus, banana, mango, and coconut, occurin Thailand.

Many species of animal inhabit the jungles and forests. Elephants,widely used as beasts of burden, are abundant. Other large animals include therhinoceros, tiger, leopard, gaur, water buffalo, and gibbon. The Siamese cat is,as its name implies, indigenous to Thailand. Thailand has more than 50 speciesof snakes, including several poisonous varieties.

Crocodiles are numerous, asare various species of fishes and birds. IIIPOPULATION About 75 percent of theinhabitants of Thailand are Thai. The largest minority group consists of theChinese, who make up about 14 percent of the total population, and most are Thainationals. Other minority groups include the Malay-speaking Muslims in thesouth, the hill tribes in the north, and Cambodian (Khmer) and Vietnameserefugees in the east. The population of Thailand is 80 percent rural. APopulation Characteristics The population of Thailand is about 59,450,818 (1997estimate), yielding an overall population density of 116 persons per sq km (300per sq mi).

The population is unevenly distributed, however, with the greatestconcentration of people in the central region. BPolitical Divisions Thailand isdivided into 76 provinces ( changwats). The provinces are further subdividedinto districts (amphurs), subdistricts (king amphurs), communes (tambons),villages ( moobans), municipalities (tesabans), and sanitation districts (sukhaphibans). CPrincipal Cities Bangkok is the capital, chief seaport, and largest city(population, 1992 estimate, Bangkok Metropolis, 5,562,141). Other importanttowns include Chiang Mai (170,269), the largest in northern Thailand; Songkhla(80,881), on the Malay Peninsula; and Nakhon Si Thammarat (79,447), also on theMalay Peninsula. DReligion Buddhism is the prevailing religion of Thailand.

About 95 percent of all Thai are Buddhist, and the country has approximately18,000 Buddhist temples and 140,000 Buddhist priests. Nearly all Buddhist men inThailand enter a wat (monastery) for at least a few days or months. Muslims, themajority of whom live in the area just north of Malaysia, constituteapproximately 4 percent of the population, and the country also has some smallChristian and Hindu communities. ELanguage Thai, a member of the Tai languagefamily, is the chief language. Four regional dialects are in use. Lao, Chinese,Malay, and Mon-Khmer are also spoken in Thailand.

English is taught in secondaryschools and colleges and is also used in commerce and government. FEducationEducation in Thailand is free and compulsory for all children between the agesof 6 and 12, and 87 percent of the children are enrolled in either publicprimary schools or those operated by Buddhist monasteries. Only 55 percent ofall eligible children attend secondary schools. Children are officially requiredto receive six years of education, and the government has announced itsintention to increase that number to nine years. The literacy rate is 94percent, higher than that of most other countries of Southeast Asia.

F1Elementary and Secondary Schools In the 1995-1996 school year 6. 0 millionstudents received primary education. Some 3. 8 million students attended eitherlower- or upper-level secondary schools. F2Universities and Colleges In theearly 1990s there were more than 600,000 students enrolled in institutions ofhigher education in Thailand, including more than 300,000 students enrolled attwo open universities.

Thailand has 17 universities, the largest of whichinclude Chulalongkorn University (1917) in Bangkok and Chiang Mai University(1964) in the north. In addition, the Asian Institute of Technology (1959), inBangkok, offers graduate degrees. In the early 1990s about 38,500 studentsattended 36 teacher-training colleges, which also offer four-year degreeprograms. GCulture Thailand is unique in Southeast Asia in that the country hasnever been a dependency of another nation. Another notable difference is thatThai women, unlike women of some other East Asian countries, are active inbusiness affairs, the professions, and the arts. No single culture has everdominated the entire area.

The first time a national identity is thought to havebeen developed was during the Sukhothai kingdom. Formed in the first half of the13th century when several Thai municipalities united, the kingdom survived untilthe late 14th to early 15th century, when it was absorbed by the Ayutthayakings. During its short existence, however, the Sukhothai kingdom established anew Thai alphabet, which became the basis for modern Thai, and codified the Thaiform of Theravada Buddhism. HLibraries and Museums The largest library inThailand is the National Library in Bangkok.

In addition, important technicalcollections are maintained in Bangkok at the United Nations Economic and SocialCommission for Asia and the Pacific, the Asian Institute of Technology Library,and the Thai National Documentation Center. Thailand has a National Museum inBangkok, which houses a large collection of ancient artifacts illustrating thedevelopment of Thai culture. Another important collection of Thai art wasassembled by Jim Thompson, an American businessman who lived in Bangkok from thelate 1940s to the 1960s. His reconstructed Thai house, filled with art,furniture, and ceramics, is now a museum.

ILiterature Classic Thai literature isbased on tradition and history. The Ramakien, the Thai version of the Hindu epicRamayana, is the leading classic on which Thai art and music are based. The maintheme remains the same in the Thai version, although the Ramakien is about 25percent longer than the original Hindu version. Modern writing is more Westernin style. Thailand has many women among its authors of popular writing.

KukritPramoj is one of Thailand’s most famous novelists. In addition to his career asa writer, he was Thailand’s prime minister in 1975. JArt Among the mostcelebrated works of architecture in Thailand are the wats in Bangkok. Thaisculpture, dating from the 14th century, is a mixture of Chinese, Myanmar,Hindu, and Khmer influences and is best seen in the temples and representationsof Buddha.

Thai religious paintings have been less well preserved; paintings arerarely older than 150 years. Thailand is known for producing beautiful silktextiles. KMusic and Dance Thai music is very intricate and is a usualaccompaniment of Thai drama. The instruments, primarily woodwind and percussion,are usually grouped in five- or ten-piece ensembles. Musicians sit on the floorto play, and generally play by ear.

The dance in Thailand is equally intricate,following or deriving from Indian dancing and involving a series of gestures andswaying that interpret a story. Even the smallest movements reflect importantstory threads, carefully woven by performers dressed in elaborate costumes andheadgear. IVECONOMY The cultivation, processing, and export of agriculturalproducts, especially rice, was traditionally the mainstay of the Thai economy. Although Thailand has long been among the most prosperous of the Asian nations,its dependence on a single crop rendered it exceedingly vulnerable tofluctuations in the world price of rice and to variations in the harvest. Thegovernment has diminished this vulnerability by instituting a number ofdevelopment programs aimed at diversifying the economy and by promotingscientific methods of farming, particularly controlled flooding of the ricefields, so that the rice harvest might remain stable even in years of scantrainfall. Spurred largely by Japanese investment, Thailand industrializedrapidly during the 1980s and early 1990s; however, the economy experienced adownturn in the mid-1990s that worried both investors and the Thai people.

Theestimated national budget in 1995 included revenue of $31. 3 billion andexpenditure of $26. 6 billion. In 1997 Thailand suffered an economic crisis whenit became clear that a number of the country’s financial institutions were nearbankruptcy. Many had acquired bad debts during the economic boom years of the1980s and early 1990s. Investors lost confidence in the value of the baht (theThai currency), which began to fall sharply against the United States dollar.

Asthe crisis developed, many businesses failed, unemployment rose, and thecurrencies and stock markets of other Southeast Asian nations were affected. TheInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) provided an aid package of loans to helpThailand weather the crisis. To obtain the loans, Thailand agreed to take stepsto stabilize its economy, including making budget cuts, raising taxes, andclosing unstable financial institutions. AAgriculture Thailand is one of theworld’s leading producers of rice, despite the fact that the yield per hectareis low.

In 1997 Thailand produced 21. 8 million metric tons of rice, up fromabout 11. 3 million metric tons per year in the 1960s. The second most importantcrop in value is rubber, which is raised mainly on plantations on the MalayPeninsula. Thailand produced 2. 3 million metric tons of natural rubber in 1997.

Other important crops included cassava (17. 2 million metric tons), sugarcane(60. 0 million), maize (4. 4 million), and fruits such as pineapples and coconuts(6. 9 million).

Thailand is also a significant producer of kenaf, a fiber used inmaking canvas. Livestock totaled 8. 0 million cattle, 4. 8 million buffalo, 4. 0million pigs, and 131 million poultry.

BForestry and Fishing Forests cover 23percent of Thailand’s total land area. The most valuable forest product ishardwood. The timber harvest in 1995 totaled 39. 3 million cu m (1. 4 billion cuft), nearly all of which was burned for fuel.

Thailand was a major exporter ofteak until a ban on uncontrolled logging was instituted in 1989, followingsevere flooding as a result of deforestation. Fishing is rapidly growing inimportance to the Thai economy. In 1995 the annual catch included 3. 3 millionmetric tons of prawns, fish, and shellfish.

In the early 1990s exports of oceanproducts, particularly prawns, accounted for about 10 percent of exportearnings. CMining The development of extensive natural gas reserves hasdecreased Thailand’s dependence on energy imports. Production in 1996 was 13. 2billion cu m (468 billion cu ft), 5 percent of the proven reserves. Gemstones,particularly diamonds, are the principal mineral export of Thailand, producing3. 3 percent of export revenues.

The country’s chief mineral products included(with annual output in the early 1990s) lignite (14. 5 million metric tons), zincore (496,000), lead concentrates (65,500), tin (14,200), gypsum (7. 2 million)and iron ore (240,100). DManufacturing Thailand’s increasingly diversifiedmanufacturing sector is a central component of the nation’s economic expansion,growing by 9. 4 percent annually during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Industry,which includes manufacturing, construction, and mining, employs 14 percent ofthe labor force. Food-processing industries, especially rice milling and sugarrefining; textile and clothing manufacture; and the electronics industrypredominate. Other important manufactured goods included cement (18 millionmetric tons), motor vehicles (318,000 units), cigarettes (38. 3 billion units),and various chemicals and petroleum products.

EEnergy In 1996 Thailand produced82 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up from about 3 billion kilowatt-hoursin 1968. Generating plants fueled by hydrocarbons produced 91 of theelectricity. FCurrency and Banking The basic unit of currency of Thailand is thebaht, which is divided into 100 satang. In 1996 25.

34 baht equaled U. S. $1. After the onset of the 1997 economic crisis, the baht fell against the dollar byas much as 25 percent before making a partial recovery in the first quarter of1998. The Bank of Thailand, established in 1942, issues all currency. Thailandalso has many commercial bank branches, as well as several foreign banks.

GForeign Trade and Tourism In 1995 Thai exports were valued at $56. 4 billion,and imports were valued at $73. 7 billion. Principal exports were agriculturalproducts, electronics, clothing and footwear, and rubber. Thailand’s primarytrading partners were Japan, the United States, Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong,and South Korea.

Tourism is Thailand’s chief source of foreign capital. HTransportation The Thai railroad system, which totals 3870 km (2405 mi) oftrack, is owned and operated by the state. Consisting of a network of linesradiating from Bangkok, the system extends as far north as Chiang Mai, southwardto the frontier of Malaysia, eastward to Ubon Ratchathani, and northeastwardthrough Udon Thani to Nong Khai near the Laos border. Another line extendsnorthwestward to the Myanmar frontier. The Chao Phraya, navigable for about 80km (about 50 mi) from its mouth, is an important inland waterway.

The highwaysystem was improved in the 1970s and now includes 64,600 km (40,100 mi) ofroads. Thai Airways operates both domestic and international services. Don MuangInternational Airport in northern metropolitan Bangkok is the largest airport. In addition, there are more than 20 smaller airports located throughout thecountry.

Thailand is also planning a second international airport for theBangkok area; it is expected to be completed around 2000. The port of Bangkok,one of the most modern in Southeast Asia, also serves neighboring landlockedLaos. ICommunications In 1995 Thailand had 189 radio receivers and 189television sets for every 1000 residents. Bangkok has 19 daily newspapers,including 2 in English and 5 in Chinese, which have a combined circulation ofmore than 2. 9 million. Periodicals are published in Thai, English, and Chinese,and several weekly papers serve the provinces.

A press censorship law wasrepealed in Thailand in 1991. JLabor In 1996 the labor force totaled 34. 7million. Agriculture engaged 64 percent of the workers.

Organized labor isrepresented by more than 530 unions with a combined total of nearly 300,000members. VGOVERNMENT A revolution in 1932 transformed Thailand into aconstitutional monarchy after centuries of rule by absolute monarchs, but untilrecently the country was largely controlled by the military. Although KingPhumiphon Adunyadet has little direct power, he exercises considerable influenceon political leaders. The nation’s 16th constitution took effect in 1997. It isthe first of Thailand’s constitutions to be drafted by a process involvingpublic debate, and the first to include a bill of rights guaranteeing equalityto all citizens. AExecutive Under the constitution the king is Thailand’s headof state and commander in chief of the armed forces.

A cabinet is headed by aprime minister, who is the country’s chief executive official. BLegislatureLegislative power in Thailand is vested in the bicameral National Assembly,which consists of a 500-member House of Representatives and a 245-member Senate. Representatives are directly elected to four-year terms. Prior to the 1997constitution, senators were appointed by the military; however, under the newconstitution they too will be directly elected to four-year terms.

CJudiciaryThai citizens are guaranteed due process and equal justice under the law. Thehighest court is the Sarn Dika (Supreme Court), sitting in Bangkok, which is thecourt of final appeal in all civil, criminal, and bankruptcy cases. A singlecourt of appeals (Sarn Uthorn) has appellate jurisdiction in all cases. Courtsof first instance include magistrates’ courts with limited civil and criminaljurisdiction, provincial courts with unlimited jurisdiction, and civil andcriminal courts with exclusive jurisdiction in Bangkok proper and Thon Buri. Thailand’s constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary. DLocalGovernment Each of Thailand’s 76 provinces, called changwats, are under thecontrol of a governor appointed by the Ministry of Interior, except BangkokMetropolis, where the governor is elected by popular vote.

District (amphur)officials are also appointed. Larger towns are governed by elected and appointedofficials, and elected heads hold power at local levels. EHealth and Welfare TheMinistry of Public Health is charged with disaster relief, child welfare,protection of the disabled and destitute, and development programs for northernhill tribes. Special programs were initiated in the 1980s to assist refugeesfrom Vietnam and Cambodia in the east.

The spread of Human ImmunodeficiencyVirus (HIV), which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), is aserious public health problem in Thailand. According to the Thai Ministry ofPublic Health, the number of estimated HIV-infected people in Thailand was about600,000 in 1994. Thailand’s anti-AIDS campaign, launched in 1991, was among thefirst in Southeast Asia. The campaign includes AIDS awareness programs,encouraging Thai to avoid brothels and use condoms. Clinics offer anonymoustesting for HIV infection. Thailand has one physician for every 4288 residentsand one hospital bed for every 586 people.

FDefense Military service iscompulsory for two years for all able-bodied men between the ages of 21 and 30. In 1997 the armed forces included an army of 150,000 members, an air force of43,000, and a navy of 73,000. VIHISTORY Present-day Thai are believed to be thedescendants of Tai-speaking people who lived in the Black River (S?ng D?)valley of northern Vietnam, the extreme northeastern section of Laos, andneighboring sections of China around the 5th to 8th century AD. These Tai peoplemay have spread into Thailand between the 7th to 13th century. By the end of the13th century the Tai had formed a political entity and emerged as a nationafterward known as the Thai. In 1350 a unified Thai kingdom was established by aruler known posthumously as Rama Tibodi.

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He founded the kingdom of Ayutthaya andmade the city of Ayutthaya his capital. Despite intermittent warfare with theCambodians and the Burmans, the Ayutthaya kingdom flourished during the nextfour centuries, conquering Cambodia and the surviving states in the north. Meanwhile, the Thai had come into contact that was not always friendly withvarious European and Asian nations, including Portugal, the Netherlands, theUnited Kingdom, and China. ASovereignty Embattled In 1767, following a two-yearsiege, Myanmar troops captured and destroyed Ayutthaya. The rule of Myanmaroverlords in Thailand was shortly terminated when General Pya Taksin proclaimedhimself king.

When Taksin was executed by his ministers, the crown passed toGeneral Pya Chakri, founder of the present dynasty of Thai kings, who ruled from1782 to 1809 as Rama I. The British and Thai governments concluded a commercialtreaty in 1826. Because of the rights and privileges obtained by this agreement,British influence increased in Thailand throughout the remainder of the 19thcentury. Owing to the statesmanship of two rulers, however, Thailand was sparedthe fate of colonization that befell its neighbors. Interested in Westernscience and civilization, King Mongkut (Rama IV), who reigned from 1851 to 1868,invited many European advisers to assist him in modernizing the country.

Hisson, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who reigned during the height of the onslaughtof European colonization, continued the vigorous modernization efforts of hisfather and managed to maintain the country’s independence, albeit atconsiderable cost in territorial concessions. For example, in 1893 Thailandbecame embroiled in a boundary dispute with France, then the dominant power inCochin China, Annam, Tonkin, and Cambodia. The French dispatched warships toBangkok and forced the Thai to yield Cambodia and all of Laos east of the MekongRiver. Additional Thai territory, situated west of the Mekong, was acquired byFrance in 1904 and 1907.

Thailand gave up control over four states in the MalayPeninsula to the United Kingdom in 1909. In exchange, the British relinquishedmost of their extraterritorial rights in the rest of the kingdom. The Thaigovernment entered World War I (1914-1918) on the side of the Allies in July1917. Thailand subsequently became a founding member of the League of Nations. In June 1932, during the reign of King Prajadhipok, a small group of Thaimilitary and political leaders organized a successful revolt against thegovernment, until then an absolute monarchy. The insurgents, led by PridiPhanomyong and Colonel Phibun Songgram, proclaimed a constitutional monarchy onJune 27.

Royalist opposition was finally overcome in October 1933. KingPrajadhipok, increasingly unhappy with the new government and in ill health,abdicated in March 1935 in favor of his nephew, Prince Ananda Mahidol. Thailandinvalidated all of its treaties with foreign nations in November 1936. Under theprovisions of new treaties negotiated in the following year, the governmentobtained complete autonomy over its internal and external affairs. BWorld War IIWith Japanese encouragement and support, Phibun’s government made demands onFrance, beginning in 1940, for the return of the territory ceded in and after1893. The dispute was settled, with Japanese mediation, in May 1941.

By theterms of the settlement, Thailand received about 54,000 sq km (about 21,000 sqmi) of territory, including part of western Cambodia and all of Laos west of theMekong River. The relations between Japan and Thailand became increasinglyfriendly thereafter. On December 8, 1941, a few hours after the Japanese attackon Pearl Harbor, the Thai government granted Japan the right to move troopsacross the country to the Malayan frontier. Thailand declared war on the UnitedStates and the United Kingdom on January 25, 1942. Phibun’s pro-Japanesegovernment, however, was overthrown in July 1944; Pridi took over, and under hisleadership considerable sympathy for the Allied cause developed among the Thaipeople. Thailand concluded a treaty with the United Kingdom and India in January1946, renouncing, among other things, its claims to Malayan territory obtainedduring the war.

Diplomatic relations with the United States were resumed in thesame month. In November 1946 Thailand reached an agreement with France providingfor the return to France of the territory obtained in 1941. Thailand wasadmitted to the United Nations (UN) on December 15, 1946, becoming the 55thmember. Meanwhile, on June 9, 1946, King Ananda Mahidol had died undermysterious circumstances.

A regency was appointed to rule during the minority ofhis brother and successor, King Rama IX. CDomestic Instability On November 9,1947, a military junta led by Phibun seized control of the government. Exceptfor a brief interlude early in 1948, Phibun thereafter retained control of thegovernment until 1957. His regime, essentially a dictatorship, based its foreignpolicy on maintaining close relations with the United States and the UnitedKingdom.

King Rama IX assumed the throne on May 5, 1950. After the outbreak ofthe Korean War in June 1950, Thailand assigned approximately 4000 men to the UNforces. On November 29, 1951, a group of army officers seized control of thegovernment in a bloodless coup d’?tat and reestablished the authoritarianconstitution of 1932, with some changes. Phibun was retained as premier.

Meanwhile, a Free Thai movement, supported by the Chinese Communists andnominally headed by Pridi, had been formed in China. Thai representatives tookpart in the Geneva Conference of April 1954, which temporarily ended the war inIndochina. In September 1954, Thailand was a founding member and Bangkok becamethe headquarters of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). In September1957, Phibun’s government was overthrown by a military coup d’?tat led byMarshall Sarit Thanarat, commander in chief of the Thai armed forces.

Acoalition government was formed in January 1958 under the premiership ofLieutenant General Thanom Kittikachorn. Another coup in October 1958, againheaded by Sarit, overthrew the Thanom government. The constitution wassuspended, a state of martial law was proclaimed, and all political parties werebanned. In the early 1960s the government showed increasing concern over arapidly growing Communist guerrilla movement in the north. The increase interrorist attacks was one of the major problems faced by Thanom, who becameprime minister again on Sarit’s death in December 1963. The new government wasalso concerned about the deteriorating position of the pro-Western government inneighboring Laos and about the Vietnam War (1959-1975).

DStruggle for DemocracyOn the political front, the government took gradual steps toward the restorationof political rights suspended in 1958. Elections to municipal councils were heldfor the first time in a decade in December 1967. A permanent constitution waspromulgated in June 1968. Parliamentary elections were held in February 1969, inwhich the United Thai People’s Party won a plurality of 75 seats in the house ofrepresentatives. The largest opposition group, the Democratic Party, won 56seats. Beginning about 1969, the United States changed its role in SoutheastAsia by gradually withdrawing its forces from Vietnam and by seeking friendlyrelations with China.

These developments caused Thailand to establish a moreflexible foreign policy, especially toward China and North Vietnam. At the sametime, Thailand continued to face guerrilla activities in the north and along theborder with Malaysia. The U. S.

withdrawal from Southeast Asia had an adverseeffect on the Thai economy. The declining economy and guerrilla activities weregiven as reasons for the establishment of a military government in November1971. The military, led by General Thanom, abolished the constitution anddissolved parliament. In December 1972 a new constitution was proclaimed. In1973 a series of student-led demonstrations against the military governmentresulted in Thanom’s resignation in October and the appointment of a civiliancabinet. In late 1974 a new constitution was approved, and a freely electedgovernment was formed in early 1975.

Stability, however, remained elusive, andnew elections in April 1976 made little difference. In September of that yearthe return of former Prime Minister Thanom from exile in Singapore led to bloodybattles in Bangkok between leftist students and his right-wing supporters. Inearly October, as disorder was spreading, a military group led by Admiral Sa-ngadChaloryu seized control of the country and installed a conservative government. A year later, however, that government also was brought down by Sa-ngad and hisgroup.

Sa-ngad instructed a new cabinet to try to bridge the divisions of Thaisociety and improve relations with the neighboring Communist regimes. Yetanother constitution was promulgated in December 1978, and in April 1979elections were held for a new House of Representatives. The military-installedgovernment, however, remained in power until March 1980, when it was replaced bya new cabinet, headed by General Prem Tinsulanonda. Elections in 1983 leftGeneral Prem as head of a new coalition government. He dissolved the NationalAssembly in 1986 and called new elections. His party won, without a majority,and he again formed a coalition government.

After elections in July 1988,Chatichai Choonhavan became prime minister. A military junta ousted him inFebruary 1991 and installed an interim civilian government. After pro-militaryparties won the elections of March 1992, demonstrations in Bangkok calling fordemocratic reforms were violently suppressed. New elections in Septemberresulted in another coalition government, with a veteran politician, ChuanLeekpai, as prime minister. In February 1995 the government passed a sweepingpackage that amended almost all the articles of the 1991 constitution.

Theprodemocracy changes included lowering the voting age from 20 to 18 years andchanging the number of representatives from a fixed number to one based onpopulation. In addition, Thai citizens were guaranteed due process and equaljustice under the law. In May 1995 the Chuan Leekpai government collapsed amidaccusations of wrongdoing in a government land reform project. In July 1995,after new elections, the leader of Chart Thai (Thai Nation Party), BanharnSilpa-archa, became prime minister. Less than a year into Silpa-archa’sgovernment, accusations emerged of corruption among his appointees, promptinginvestigation into bribes, abuse of authority, and questionable bank loans. In1996, after a no confidence debate in parliament, Silpa-archa resigned as primeminister.

New elections secured a slim victory for the New Aspiration Party(NAP); its leader Chavalit Yongchaiyudh became the next Thai prime minister. In1997 Thailand’s economy experienced a significant setback as the baht fellsharply against the dollar, many financial institutions and other businessesfailed, and unemployment rose. The crisis then spread, affecting the economiesof other Southeast Asian nations. To prevent the crisis from spreading further,the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to provide an aid package of loansto Thailand.

In return, Thailand agreed to adopt a series of measures intendedto stabilize its economy. In October 1997 Thailand adopted a new constitution,with provisions aimed at controlling political corruption and expanding civilliberties. Facing criticism for his handling of the economy, Yongchaiyudhresigned as prime minister in November, and Chuan Leekpai was appointed to thepost a second time. IINTRODUCTION Thailand, formerly Siam, officially Kingdom ofThailand, kingdom in Southeast Asia, bounded by Myanmar (formerly known asBurma) on the north and west, by Laos on the northeast, by Cambodia and the Gulfof Thailand (Siam) on the southeast, by Malaysia on the south, and by theAndaman Sea and Myanmar on the southwest. The total area of Thailand is 513,115sq km (198,115 sq mi).

Bangkok is the capital and largest city. IILAND ANDRESOURCES Thailand lies within the Indochinese Peninsula (see Indochina), exceptfor the southern extremity, which occupies a portion of the Malay Peninsula. Thecountry’s extreme dimensions are about 1770 km (about 1100 mi) from north tosouth and about 800 km (about 500 mi) from east to west. The physiography ishighly diversified, but the mountain systems are the predominant feature of theterrain. A series of parallel ranges, with a north-south trend, occupy thenorthern and western portions of the country.

Extreme elevations occur in thewesternmost ranges, which extend along the Myanmar frontier and rise to 2595 m(8514 ft) atop Doi Inthanon, the highest point in Thailand. The peninsular area,which is bordered by narrow coastal plains, reaches a high point of 1790 m (5860ft) atop Khao Luang. Another mountain system projects, in a northern andsouthern direction, through central Thailand. At its southern extremity, thesystem assumes an east-west trend and extends to the eastern frontier. Doi PiaFai (1270 m/4167 ft) is its highest peak.

The region to the north and east ofthis system consists largely of a low, barren plateau, called the KhoratPlateau. Making up about one-third of the country, the plateau is bordered bythe Mekong River valley. Between the central and western mountains is a vastalluvial plain traversed by the Chao Phraya, the chief river of Thailand. Thiscentral plain, together with the fertile delta formed by the Chao Phraya nearBangkok, is the richest agricultural and most densely populated section of thekingdom.

AClimate Thailand has a moist, tropical climate, influenced chiefly bymonsoon winds that vary in direction according to the season. From April toOctober the winds are mainly from the southwest and are moisture laden; duringthe rest of the year they blow from the northeast. Temperatures are higher,ranging from about 26? to 37? C (about 78? to 98? F), while the country isunder the influence of the southwestern winds. During the remainder of the yearthe range is from about 13? to 33? C (about 56? to 92? F).

Temperatures aresomewhat higher inland than they are along the coast, except at points of greatelevation. Annual rainfall is about 1520 mm (about 60 in) in the northern,western, and central regions, about 2540 mm (about 100 in) or more on the Thaiportion of the Malay Peninsula, and about 1270 mm (about 50 in) or less on theKhorat Plateau. Most rain falls in summer (June through October). BNaturalResources. Thailand is rich in natural resources.

Among the known mineraldeposits are coal, gold, lead, tin, tungsten, manganese, zinc, and preciousstones. The rich alluvial soil along the Chao Phraya and other riversconstitutes another important resource. Natural gas deposits were discoveredoffshore in the 1970s, reducing Thailand’s reliance on imported petroleum. CPlants and Animals Jungles and swamps, scattered through the coastal areas ofThailand, have extensive tracts of tropical trees, including mangrove, rattan,ironwood, sappanwood, ebony, and rosewood. The upland areas are also heavilywooded, the most valuable species being teak, agalloch, and oak.

In addition, awide variety of tropical plants and fruit trees, including orchid, gardenia,hibiscus, banana, mango, and coconut, occur in Thailand. Many species of animalinhabit the jungles and forests. Elephants, widely used as beasts of burden, areabundant. Other large animals include the rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, gaur,water buffalo, and gibbon. The Siamese cat is, as its name implies, indigenousto Thailand.

Thailand has more than 50 species of snakes, including severalpoisonous varieties. Crocodiles are numerous, as are various species of fishesand birds. IIIPOPULATION About 75 percent of the inhabitants of Thailand areThai. The largest minority group consists of the Chinese, who make up about 14percent of the total population, and most are Thai nationals. Other minoritygroups include the Malay-speaking Muslims in the south, the hill tribes in thenorth, and Cambodian (Khmer) and Vietnamese refugees in the east.

The populationof Thailand is 80 percent rural. APopulation Characteristics The population ofThailand is about 59,450,818 (1997 estimate), yielding an overall populationdensity of 116 persons per sq km (300 per sq mi). The population is unevenlydistributed, however, with the greatest concentration of people in the centralregion. BPolitical Divisions Thailand is divided into 76 provinces ( changwats). The provinces are further subdivided into districts (amphurs), subdistricts(king amphurs), communes (tambons), villages ( moobans), municipalities (tesabans),and sanitation districts (sukhaphibans). CPrincipal Cities Bangkok is thecapital, chief seaport, and largest city (population, 1992 estimate, BangkokMetropolis, 5,562,141).

Other important towns include Chiang Mai (170,269), thelargest in northern Thailand; Songkhla (80,881), on the Malay Peninsula; andNakhon Si Thammarat (79,447), also on the Malay Peninsula. DReligion Buddhism isthe prevailing religion of Thailand. About 95 percent of all Thai are Buddhist,and the country has approximately 18,000 Buddhist temples and 140,000 Buddhistpriests. Nearly all Buddhist men in Thailand enter a wat (monastery) for atleast a few days or months.

Muslims, the majority of whom live in the area justnorth of Malaysia, constitute approximately 4 percent of the population, and thecountry also has some small Christian and Hindu communities. ELanguage Thai, amember of the Tai language family, is the chief language. Four regional dialectsare in use. Lao, Chinese, Malay, and Mon-Khmer are also spoken in Thailand.

English is taught in secondary schools and colleges and is also used in commerceand government. FEducation Education in Thailand is free and compulsory for allchildren between the ages of 6 and 12, and 87 percent of the children areenrolled in either public primary schools or those operated by Buddhistmonasteries. Only 55 percent of all eligible children attend secondary schools. Children are officially required to receive six years of education, and thegovernment has announced its intention to increase that number to nine years.

The literacy rate is 94 percent, higher than that of most other countries ofSoutheast Asia. F1Elementary and Secondary Schools In the 1995-1996 school year6. 0 million students received primary education. Some 3. 8 million studentsattended either lower- or upper-level secondary schools.

F2Universities andColleges In the early 1990s there were more than 600,000 students enrolled ininstitutions of higher education in Thailand, including more than 300,000students enrolled at two open universities. Thailand has 17 universities, thelargest of which include Chulalongkorn University (1917) in Bangkok and ChiangMai University (1964) in the north. In addition, the Asian Institute ofTechnology (1959), in Bangkok, offers graduate degrees. In the early 1990s about38,500 students attended 36 teacher-training colleges, which also offerfour-year degree programs. GCulture Thailand is unique in Southeast Asia in thatthe country has never been a dependency of another nation.

Another notabledifference is that Thai women, unlike women of some other East Asian countries,are active in business affairs, the professions, and the arts. No single culturehas ever dominated the entire area. The first time a national identity isthought to have been developed was during the Sukhothai kingdom. Formed in thefirst half of the 13th century when several Thai municipalities united, thekingdom survived until the late 14th to early 15th century, when it was absorbedby the Ayutthaya kings.

During its short existence, however, the Sukhothaikingdom established a new Thai alphabet, which became the basis for modern Thai,and codified the Thai form of Theravada Buddhism. HLibraries and Museums Thelargest library in Thailand is the National Library in Bangkok. In addition,important technical collections are maintained in Bangkok at the United NationsEconomic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the Asian Institute ofTechnology Library, and the Thai National Documentation Center. Thailand has aNational Museum in Bangkok, which houses a large collection of ancient artifactsillustrating the development of Thai culture. Another important collection ofThai art was assembled by Jim Thompson, an American businessman who lived inBangkok from the late 1940s to the 1960s. His reconstructed Thai house, filledwith art, furniture, and ceramics, is now a museum.

ILiterature Classic Thailiterature is based on tradition and history. The Ramakien, the Thai version ofthe Hindu epic Ramayana, is the leading classic on which Thai art and music arebased. The main theme remains the same in the Thai version, although theRamakien is about 25 percent longer than the original Hindu version. Modernwriting is more Western in style.

Thailand has many women among its authors ofpopular writing. Kukrit Pramoj is one of Thailand’s most famous novelists. Inaddition to his career as a writer, he was Thailand’s prime minister in 1975. JArt Among the most celebrated works of architecture in Thailand are the wats inBangkok. Thai sculpture, dating from the 14th century, is a mixture of Chinese,Myanmar, Hindu, and Khmer influences and is best seen in the temples andrepresentations of Buddha. Thai religious paintings have been less wellpreserved; paintings are rarely older than 150 years.

Thailand is known forproducing beautiful silk textiles. KMusic and Dance Thai music is very intricateand is a usual accompaniment of Thai drama. The instruments, primarily woodwindand percussion, are usually grouped in five- or ten-piece ensembles. Musicianssit on the floor to play, and generally play by ear. The dance in Thailand isequally intricate, following or deriving from Indian dancing and involving aseries of gestures and swaying that interpret a story. Even the smallestmovements reflect important story threads, carefully woven by performers dressedin elaborate costumes and headgear.

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IVECONOMY The cultivation, processing, andexport of agricultural products, especially rice, was traditionally the mainstayof the Thai economy. Although Thailand has long been among the most prosperousof the Asian nations, its dependence on a single crop rendered it exceedinglyvulnerable to fluctuations in the world price of rice and to variations in theharvest. The government has diminished this vulnerability by instituting anumber of development programs aimed at diversifying the economy and bypromoting scientific methods of farming, particularly controlled flooding of therice fields, so that the rice harvest might remain stable even in years of scantrainfall. Spurred largely by Japanese investment, Thailand industrializedrapidly during the 1980s and early 1990s; however, the economy experienced adownturn in the mid-1990s that worried both investors and the Thai people. Theestimated national budget in 1995 included revenue of $31. 3 billion andexpenditure of $26.

6 billion. In 1997 Thailand suffered an economic crisis whenit became clear that a number of the country’s financial institutions were nearbankruptcy. Many had acquired bad debts during the economic boom years of the1980s and early 1990s. Investors lost confidence in the value of the baht (theThai currency), which began to fall sharply against the United States dollar. Asthe crisis developed, many businesses failed, unemployment rose, and thecurrencies and stock markets of other Southeast Asian nations were affected.

TheInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) provided an aid package of loans to helpThailand weather the crisis. To obtain the loans, Thailand agreed to take stepsto stabilize its economy, including making budget cuts, raising taxes, andclosing unstable financial institutions. AAgriculture Thailand is one of theworld’s leading producers of rice, despite the fact that the yield per hectareis low. In 1997 Thailand produced 21. 8 million metric tons of rice, up fromabout 11. 3 million metric tons per year in the 1960s.

The second most importantcrop in value is rubber, which is raised mainly on plantations on the MalayPeninsula. Thailand produced 2. 3 million metric tons of natural rubber in 1997. Other important crops included cassava (17.

2 million metric tons), sugarcane(60. 0 million), maize (4. 4 million), and fruits such as pineapples and coconuts(6. 9 million). Thailand is also a significant producer of kenaf, a fiber used inmaking canvas.

Livestock totaled 8. 0 million cattle, 4. 8 million buffalo, 4. 0million pigs, and 131 million poultry. BForestry and Fishing Forests cover 23percent of Thailand’s total land area.

The most valuable forest product ishardwood. The timber harvest in 1995 totaled 39. 3 million cu m (1. 4 billion cuft), nearly all of which was burned for fuel. Thailand was a major exporter ofteak until a ban on uncontrolled logging was instituted in 1989, followingsevere flooding as a result of deforestation.

Fishing is rapidly growing inimportance to the Thai economy. In 1995 the annual catch included 3. 3 millionmetric tons of prawns, fish, and shellfish. In the early 1990s exports of oceanproducts, particularly prawns, accounted for about 10 percent of exportearnings. CMining The development of extensive natural gas reserves hasdecreased Thailand’s dependence on energy imports. Production in 1996 was 13.

2billion cu m (468 billion cu ft), 5 percent of the proven reserves. Gemstones,particularly diamonds, are the principal mineral export of Thailand, producing3. 3 percent of export revenues. The country’s chief mineral products included(with annual output in the early 1990s) lignite (14. 5 million metric tons), zincore (496,000), lead concentrates (65,500), tin (14,200), gypsum (7. 2 million)and iron ore (240,100).

DManufacturing Thailand’s increasingly diversifiedmanufacturing sector is a central component of the nation’s economic expansion,growing by 9. 4 percent annually during the 1980s and early 1990s. Industry,which includes manufacturing, construction, and mining, employs 14 percent ofthe labor force. Food-processing industries, especially rice milling and sugarrefining; textile and clothing manufacture; and the electronics industrypredominate. Other important manufactured goods included cement (18 millionmetric tons), motor vehicles (318,000 units), cigarettes (38. 3 billion units),and various chemicals and petroleum products.

EEnergy In 1996 Thailand produced82 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up from about 3 billion kilowatt-hoursin 1968. Generating plants fueled by hydrocarbons produced 91 of theelectricity. FCurrency and Banking The basic unit of currency of Thailand is thebaht, which is divided into 100 satang. In 1996 25. 34 baht equaled U.

S. $1. After the onset of the 1997 economic crisis, the baht fell against the dollar byas much as 25 percent before making a partial recovery in the first quarter of1998. The Bank of Thailand, established in 1942, issues all currency. Thailandalso has many commercial bank branches, as well as several foreign banks.

GForeign Trade and Tourism In 1995 Thai exports were valued at $56. 4 billion,and imports were valued at $73. 7 billion. Principal exports were agriculturalproducts, electronics, clothing and footwear, and rubber. Thailand’s primarytrading partners were Japan, the United States, Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong,and South Korea. Tourism is Thailand’s chief source of foreign capital.

HTransportation The Thai railroad system, which totals 3870 km (2405 mi) oftrack, is owned and operated by the state. Consisting of a network of linesradiating from Bangkok, the system extends as far north as Chiang Mai, southwardto the frontier of Malaysia, eastward to Ubon Ratchathani, and northeastwardthrough Udon Thani to Nong Khai near the Laos border. Another line extendsnorthwestward to the Myanmar frontier. The Chao Phraya, navigable for about 80km (about 50 mi) from its mouth, is an important inland waterway. The highwaysystem was improved in the 1970s and now includes 64,600 km (40,100 mi) ofroads.

Thai Airways operates both domestic and international services. Don MuangInternational Airport in northern metropolitan Bangkok is the largest airport. In addition, there are more than 20 smaller airports located throughout thecountry. Thailand is also planning a second international airport for theBangkok area; it is expected to be completed around 2000.

The port of Bangkok,one of the most modern in Southeast Asia, also serves neighboring landlockedLaos. ICommunications In 1995 Thailand had 189 radio receivers and 189television sets for every 1000 residents. Bangkok has 19 daily newspapers,including 2 in English and 5 in Chinese, which have a combined circulation ofmore than 2. 9 million.

Periodicals are published in Thai, English, and Chinese,and several weekly papers serve the provinces. A press censorship law wasrepealed in Thailand in 1991. JLabor In 1996 the labor force totaled 34. 7million. Agriculture engaged 64 percent of the workers.

Organized labor isrepresented by more than 530 unions with a combined total of nearly 300,000members. VGOVERNMENT A revolution in 1932 transformed Thailand into aconstitutional monarchy after centuries of rule by absolute monarchs, but untilrecently the country was largely controlled by the military. Although KingPhumiphon Adunyadet has little direct power, he exercises considerable influenceon political leaders. The nation’s 16th constitution took effect in 1997. It isthe first of Thailand’s constitutions to be drafted by a process involvingpublic debate, and the first to include a bill of rights guaranteeing equalityto all citizens. AExecutive Under the constitution the king is Thailand’s headof state and commander in chief of the armed forces.

A cabinet is headed by aprime minister, who is the country’s chief executive official. BLegislatureLegislative power in Thailand is vested in the bicameral National Assembly,which consists of a 500-member House of Representatives and a 245-member Senate. Representatives are directly elected to four-year terms. Prior to the 1997constitution, senators were appointed by the military; however, under the newconstitution they too will be directly elected to four-year terms. CJudiciaryThai citizens are guaranteed due process and equal justice under the law. Thehighest court is the Sarn Dika (Supreme Court), sitting in Bangkok, which is thecourt of final appeal in all civil, criminal, and bankruptcy cases.

A singlecourt of appeals (Sarn Uthorn) has appellate jurisdiction in all cases. Courtsof first instance include magistrates’ courts with limited civil and criminaljurisdiction, provincial courts with unlimited jurisdiction, and civil andcriminal courts with exclusive jurisdiction in Bangkok proper and Thon Buri. Thailand’s constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary. DLocalGovernment Each of Thailand’s 76 provinces, called changwats, are under thecontrol of a governor appointed by the Ministry of Interior, except BangkokMetropolis, where the governor is elected by popular vote. District (amphur)officials are also appointed.

Larger towns are governed by elected and appointedofficials, and elected heads hold power at local levels. EHealth and Welfare TheMinistry of Public Health is charged with disaster relief, child welfare,protection of the disabled and destitute, and development programs for northernhill tribes. Special programs were initiated in the 1980s to assist refugeesfrom Vietnam and Cambodia in the east. The spread of Human ImmunodeficiencyVirus (HIV), which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), is aserious public health problem in Thailand. According to the Thai Ministry ofPublic Health, the number of estimated HIV-infected people in Thailand was about600,000 in 1994. Thailand’s anti-AIDS campaign, launched in 1991, was among thefirst in Southeast Asia.

The campaign includes AIDS awareness programs,encouraging Thai to avoid brothels and use condoms. Clinics offer anonymoustesting for HIV infection. Thailand has one physician for every 4288 residentsand one hospital bed for every 586 people. FDefense Military service iscompulsory for two years for all able-bodied men between the ages of 21 and 30. In 1997 the armed forces included an army of 150,000 members, an air force of43,000, and a navy of 73,000. VIHISTORY Present-day Thai are believed to be thedescendants of Tai-speaking people who lived in the Black River (S?ng D?)valley of northern Vietnam, the extreme northeastern section of Laos, andneighboring sections of China around the 5th to 8th century AD.

These Tai peoplemay have spread into Thailand between the 7th to 13th century. By the end of the13th century the Tai had formed a political entity and emerged as a nationafterward known as the Thai. In 1350 a unified Thai kingdom was established by aruler known posthumously as Rama Tibodi. He founded the kingdom of Ayutthaya andmade the city of Ayutthaya his capital. Despite intermittent warfare with theCambodians and the Burmans, the Ayutthaya kingdom flourished during the nextfour centuries, conquering Cambodia and the surviving states in the north. Meanwhile, the Thai had come into contact that was not always friendly withvarious European and Asian nations, including Portugal, the Netherlands, theUnited Kingdom, and China.

ASovereignty Embattled In 1767, following a two-yearsiege, Myanmar troops captured and destroyed Ayutthaya. The rule of Myanmaroverlords in Thailand was shortly terminated when General Pya Taksin proclaimedhimself king. When Taksin was executed by his ministers, the crown passed toGeneral Pya Chakri, founder of the present dynasty of Thai kings, who ruled from1782 to 1809 as Rama I. The British and Thai governments concluded a commercialtreaty in 1826. Because of the rights and privileges obtained by this agreement,British influence increased in Thailand throughout the remainder of the 19thcentury. Owing to the statesmanship of two rulers, however, Thailand was sparedthe fate of colonization that befell its neighbors.

Interested in Westernscience and civilization, King Mongkut (Rama IV), who reigned from 1851 to 1868,invited many European advisers to assist him in modernizing the country. Hisson, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who reigned during the height of the onslaughtof European colonization, continued the vigorous modernization efforts of hisfather and managed to maintain the country’s independence, albeit atconsiderable cost in territorial concessions. For example, in 1893 Thailandbecame embroiled in a boundary dispute with France, then the dominant power inCochin China, Annam, Tonkin, and Cambodia. The French dispatched warships toBangkok and forced the Thai to yield Cambodia and all of Laos east of the MekongRiver. Additional Thai territory, situated west of the Mekong, was acquired byFrance in 1904 and 1907. Thailand gave up control over four states in the MalayPeninsula to the United Kingdom in 1909.

In exchange, the British relinquishedmost of their extraterritorial rights in the rest of the kingdom. The Thaigovernment entered World War I (1914-1918) on the side of the Allies in July1917. Thailand subsequently became a founding member of the League of Nations. In June 1932, during the reign of King Prajadhipok, a small group of Thaimilitary and political leaders organized a successful revolt against thegovernment, until then an absolute monarchy. The insurgents, led by PridiPhanomyong and Colonel Phibun Songgram, proclaimed a constitutional monarchy onJune 27.

Royalist opposition was finally overcome in October 1933. KingPrajadhipok, increasingly unhappy with the new government and in ill health,abdicated in March 1935 in favor of his nephew, Prince Ananda Mahidol. Thailandinvalidated all of its treaties with foreign nations in November 1936. Under theprovisions of new treaties negotiated in the following year, the governmentobtained complete autonomy over its internal and external affairs. BWorld War IIWith Japanese encouragement and support, Phibun’s government made demands onFrance, beginning in 1940, for the return of the territory ceded in and after1893. The dispute was settled, with Japanese mediation, in May 1941.

By theterms of the settlement, Thailand received about 54,000 sq km (about 21,000 sqmi) of territory, including part of western Cambodia and all of Laos west of theMekong River. The relations between Japan and Thailand became increasinglyfriendly thereafter. On December 8, 1941, a few hours after the Japanese attackon Pearl Harbor, the Thai government granted Japan the right to move troopsacross the country to the Malayan frontier. Thailand declared war on the UnitedStates and the United Kingdom on January 25, 1942. Phibun’s pro-Japanesegovernment, however, was overthrown in July 1944; Pridi took over, and under hisleadership considerable sympathy for the Allied cause developed among the Thaipeople.

Thailand concluded a treaty with the United Kingdom and India in January1946, renouncing, among other things, its claims to Malayan territory obtainedduring the war. Diplomatic relations with the United States were resumed in thesame month. In November 1946 Thailand reached an agreement with France providingfor the return to France of the territory obtained in 1941. Thailand wasadmitted to the United Nations (UN) on December 15, 1946, becoming the 55thmember. Meanwhile, on June 9, 1946, King Ananda Mahidol had died undermysterious circumstances.

A regency was appointed to rule during the minority ofhis brother and successor, King Rama IX. CDomestic Instability On November 9,1947, a military junta led by Phibun seized control of the government. Exceptfor a brief interlude early in 1948, Phibun thereafter retained control of thegovernment until 1957. His regime, essentially a dictatorship, based its foreignpolicy on maintaining close relations with the United States and the UnitedKingdom. King Rama IX assumed the throne on May 5, 1950.

After the outbreak ofthe Korean War in June 1950, Thailand assigned approximately 4000 men to the UNforces. On November 29, 1951, a group of army officers seized control of thegovernment in a bloodless coup d’?tat and reestablished the authoritarianconstitution of 1932, with some changes. Phibun was retained as premier. Meanwhile, a Free Thai movement, supported by the Chinese Communists andnominally headed by Pridi, had been formed in China.

Thai representatives tookpart in the Geneva Conference of April 1954, which temporarily ended the war inIndochina. In September 1954, Thailand was a founding member and Bangkok becamethe headquarters of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). In September1957, Phibun’s government was overthrown by a military coup d’?tat led byMarshall Sarit Thanarat, commander in chief of the Thai armed forces. Acoalition government was formed in January 1958 under the premiership ofLieutenant General Thanom Kittikachorn. Another coup in October 1958, againheaded by Sarit, overthrew the Thanom government. The constitution wassuspended, a state of martial law was proclaimed, and all political parties werebanned.

In the early 1960s the government showed increasing concern over arapidly growing Communist guerrilla movement in the north. The increase interrorist attacks was one of the major problems faced by Thanom, who becameprime minister again on Sarit’s death in December 1963. The new government wasalso concerned about the deteriorating position of the pro-Western government inneighboring Laos and about the Vietnam War (1959-1975). DStruggle for DemocracyOn the political front, the government took gradual steps toward the restorationof political rights suspended in 1958. Elections to municipal councils were heldfor the first time in a decade in December 1967.

A permanent constitution waspromulgated in June 1968. Parliamentary elections were held in February 1969, inwhich the United Thai People’s Party won a plurality of 75 seats in the house ofrepresentatives. The largest opposition group, the Democratic Party, won 56seats. Beginning about 1969, the United States changed its role in SoutheastAsia by gradually withdrawing its forces from Vietnam and by seeking friendlyrelations with China. These developments caused Thailand to establish a moreflexible foreign policy, especially toward China and North Vietnam. At the sametime, Thailand continued to face guerrilla activities in the north and along theborder with Malaysia.

The U. S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia had an adverseeffect on the Thai economy. The declining economy and guerrilla activities weregiven as reasons for the establishment of a military government in November1971.

The military, led by General Thanom, abolished the constitution anddissolved parliament. In December 1972 a new constitution was proclaimed. In1973 a series of student-led demonstrations against the military governmentresulted in Thanom’s resignation in October and the appointment of a civiliancabinet. In late 1974 a new constitution was approved, and a freely electedgovernment was formed in early 1975. Stability, however, remained elusive, andnew elections in April 1976 made little difference.

In September of that yearthe return of former Prime Minister Thanom from exile in Singapore led to bloodybattles in Bangkok between leftist students and his right-wing supporters. Inearly October, as disorder was spreading, a military group led by Admiral Sa-ngadChaloryu seized control of the country and installed a conservative government. A year later, however, that government also was brought down by Sa-ngad and hisgroup. Sa-ngad instructed a new cabinet to try to bridge the divisions of Thaisociety and improve relations with the neighboring Communist regimes. Yetanother constitution was promulgated in December 1978, and in April 1979elections were held for a new House of Representatives. The military-installedgovernment, however, remained in power until March 1980, when it was replaced bya new cabinet, headed by General Prem Tinsulanonda.

Elections in 1983 leftGeneral Prem as head of a new coalition government. He dissolved the NationalAssembly in 1986 and called new elections. His party won, without a majority,and he again formed a coalition government. After elections in July 1988,Chatichai Choonhavan became prime minister. A military junta ousted him inFebruary 1991 and installed an interim civilian government. After pro-militaryparties won the elections of March 1992, demonstrations in Bangkok calling fordemocratic reforms were violently suppressed.

New elections in Septemberresulted in another coalition government, with a veteran politician, ChuanLeekpai, as prime minister. In February 1995 the government passed a sweepingpackage that amended almost all the articles of the 1991 constitution. Theprodemocracy changes included lowering the voting age from 20 to 18 years andchanging the number of representatives from a fixed number to one based onpopulation. In addition, Thai citizens were guaranteed due process and equaljustice under the law. In May 1995 the Chuan Leekpai government collap

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Thailand Essay
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Thailand, formerly Siam, officially Kingdom of Thailand, kingdom in SoutheastAsia, bounded by Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) on the north and west, byLaos on the northeast, by Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand (Siam) on thesoutheast, by Malaysia on the south, and by the Andaman Sea and Myanmar on thesouthwest. The total area of Thailand is 513,115 sq km (198,115 sq mi). Bangkokis the capital and largest city. IILAND AND RESOURCES Thailand lies within theIndochinese Peninsula (see Indoch
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Thailand Essay
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