Thailand Kingdom of Thailand Ratcha Anachak Thai Flag Emblem Anthem: Phleng Chat Thai Royal anthem: Phleng Sansoen Phra Barami Location of Thailand (green) in Southeast Asia (dark grey) — [Legend] Capital Bangkok1 (and largest city) 13°45′N 100°29′E / 13.75°N 100.483°E Official language(s) Thai Official scripts Thai alphabet Demonym Thai Parliamentary democracy and Government Constitutional monarchy - Monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) - Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Legislature National Assembly - Upper House Senate - Lower House House of Representatives Formation - Sukhothai 1238 - 1448 Kingdom - Ayutthaya 1351 - 1767 Kingdom - Thonburi Kingdom 1768 - 1782 - Rattanakosin 6 April 1782 Kingdom - Constitutional 24 June 1932 Monarchy - Later 24 August 2007 Constitution Area - 513,120 km2 (50th) Total 198,115 sq mi - Water (%) 0.4 (2,230 km2) Population - 2010 estimate 63,525,062 (21st) - 2000 census 60,606,947 - 132.1/km2 (88th) Density 342/sq mi GDP (PPP) 2009 estimate - Total $539.871 billion - Per capita $8,060 GDP (nominal) 2009 estimate - Total $263.889 billion - Per capita $3,939 Gini (2002) 42 HDI (2007) ▲0.783 (medium) (87th) Currency Baht (฿) (THB) Time zone (UTC+7) Drives on the left Internet TLD .th Calling code +66 Thailand (pronounced /ˈtaɪlænd/ TYE-land or /ˈtaɪlənd/; Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย Ratcha Anachak Thai, IPA: [râːtɕʰa ʔaː tɕɑ naː k tʰɑj]( (formerly Siam listen)) Thai: สยาม) is an independent country that lies in the heart of Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, 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 the southern extremity of Burma. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast and Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea to the southwest. The country is a kingdom, a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, who has reigned since 1946, making him the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. The king is officially titled Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, an Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and the Defender of all Faiths. The largest city in Thailand is Bangkok, the capital, which is also the country's center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. Thailand is the world's 50th largest country in terms of total area (slightly smaller than Yemen and slightly larger than Spain), with a surface area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), and the 21st most-populous country, with approximately 64 million people. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thai, 14% is of Chinese origin, and 3% is ethnically Malay; the rest belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers and various hill tribes. There are approximately 2.2 million legal and illegal migrants in Thailand. Thailand has also attracted a number of expatriates from developed countries. The country's official language is Thai. Its primary religion is Buddhism, which is practiced by around 95% of all Thais. Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1995 and is a newly industrialized country with tourism, due to well-known tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Ko Samui, and exports contributing significantly to the economy. Etymology: The country's official name was Siam (Thai: สยาม RTGS: Sayam, pronounced [sàˈjǎːm]) until June 23, 1939, when it was changed to Thailand. It was then renamed Siam from 1945 to May 11, 1949, after which it was again renamed Thailand. Also spelled Siem, Syâm or Syâma, it has been identified with the Sanskrit Śyâma (ˈˈˈˈˈ , meaning "dark" or "brown"). The names Shan and A- hom seem to be variants of the same word, and Śyâma is possibly not its origin but a learned and artificial distortion. The word Thai (ไทย) is not, as commonly believed, derived from the word Tai (ไท) meaning "freedom" in the Thai language; it is, however, the name of an ethnic group from the central plains (the Thai people). A famous Thai scholar argued that Tai (ไท) simply means "people" or "human being" since his investigation shows that in some rural areas the word "Tai" was used instead of the usual Thai word "khon" (คน) for people. The Thai use the phrase "land of the free" to express pride in the fact that Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never colonized by a European power. While the Thai people will often refer to their country using the polite form Prathet Thai (Thai: ประเทศไทย), they most commonly use the more colloquial word Mueang Thai (Thai: เ ไทย) or simply Thai (Thai: ไทย); the word mueang (Thai: เ ) meaning nation but most commonly used to refer to a city or town. Ratcha Anachak Thai (Thai: ราช อาณาจักรไทย) means "Kingdom of Thailand" or "Kingdom of Thai". Etymologically, its components are: -Ratcha- (from Sanskrit raja, meaning "king, royal, realm") ; -ana- (from Pāli āṇā, "authority, command, power", itself from Sanskrit ājñā, same meaning) -chak (from Sanskrit cakra or cakraṃ meaning "wheel", a symbol of power and rule). The Thai National Anthem (Thai: เพลงชาติ) refers to the Thai nation as: prathet-thai (Thai: ประเทศไทย). The first line of the national anthem is: prathet thai ruam lueat nuea chat chuea thai (Thai: ประเทศไทยร เ เน เ ไทย) and was translated in 1939 by Colonel Luang Saranuprabhandi as: ―Thailand is the unity of Thai blood and body.‖ History: Main articles: History of Thailand and People of Thailand An example of pottery discovered near Ban Chiang in Udon Thani province, the earliest dating to 2100 BCE. The region known as Thailand has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic period, about 10,000 years ago. Similar to other regions in Southeast Asia, it was heavily influenced by the culture and religions of India, starting with the kingdom of Funan around the 1st century CE. Kosa Pan presents King Narai's letter to Louis XIV at Versailles, 1 September 1686 Pope Innocent XI receives the Siamese envoys, led by Father Tachard who reads the translation of the message from King Narai, December 1688 Chevalier de Chaumont presents a letter from Louis XIV to King Narai Siamese embassy to Louis XIV in 1686, by Nicolas Larmessin. After the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 13th century, various states thrived there, such as the various Tai, Mon, Khmer and Malay kingdoms, as seen through the numerous archaeological sites and artifacts that are scattered throughout the Siamese landscape. Prior to the 12th century however, the first Thai or Siamese state is traditionally considered to be the Buddhist kingdom of Sukhothai, which was founded in 1238. King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) with Tsar Nicholas II of Russia in Saint Petersburg 1897. Buddhist images at Wat Mahathat built during the Sukhothai period. Following the decline and fall of the Khmer empire in the 13th–14th century, the Buddhist Tai kingdoms of Sukhothai, Lanna and Lan Chang were on the ascension. However, a century later, the power of Sukhothai was overshadowed by the new kingdom of Ayutthaya, established in the mid-14th century in the lower Chao Phraya River or Menam area. Ayutthaya's expansion centered along the Menam while in the northern valley the Lanna Kingdom and other small Tai city-states ruled the area. In 1431, the Khmer abandoned Angkor after the Ayutthaya forces invaded the city. Thailand retained a tradition of trade with its neighbouring states, from China to India, Persia and Arab lands. Ayutthaya became one of the most vibrant trading centres in Asia. European traders arrived in the 16th century, beginning with the Portuguese, followed by the French, Dutch and English. After the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767 to the Burmese, King Taksin the Great moved the capital of Thailand to Thonburi for approximately 15 years. The current Rattanakosin era of Thai history began in 1782, following the establishment of Bangkok as capital of the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I the Great. A quarter to a third of the population of some areas of Thailand were slaves. Despite European pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation that has never been colonized. Two main reasons for this were that Thailand had a long succession of very able rulers in the 19th century and that it was able to exploit the rivalry and tension between French Indochina and the British Empire. As a result, the country remained a buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia that were colonized by the two powers, Great Britain and France. The ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram at Ayutthaya, the city was burned and sacked in 1767 by a Burmese army under the Alaungpaya Dynasty. Western influence nevertheless led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions, most notably being the loss of a large territory on the east side of the Mekong to the French and the step-by-step absorption by Britain of the Shan (Thai Yai) States (now in Burma) and the Malay Peninsula. 20th century: The losses initially included Penang and eventually culminated in the loss of four predominantly ethnic-Malay southern provinces, which later became Malaysia's four northern states, under the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909. In 1932, a bloodless revolution carried out by the Khana Ratsadon group of military and civilian officials resulted in a transition of power, when King Prajadhipok was forced to grant the people of Siam their first constitution, thereby ending centuries of absolute monarchy. During World War II, the Empire of Japan demanded the right to move troops across Thailand to the Malayan frontier. Japan invaded the country and engaged the Thai Army for six to eight hours before Plaek Pibulsonggram ordered an armistice. Shortly thereafter Japan was granted free passage, and on December 21, 1941, Thailand and Japan signed a military alliance with a secret protocol wherein Tokyo agreed to help Thailand regain territories lost to the British and French. Subsequently, Thailand undertook to 'assist' Japan in its war against the Allies, while at the same time maintaining an active anti-Japanese resistance movement known as the Seri Thai. About 200,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied POWs worked on the Thailand–Burma Death Railway. Grand Palace in Bangkok built in 1782, is the official residence of the King of Thailand. After the war, Thailand emerged as an ally of the United States. As with many of the developing nations during the Cold War, Thailand then went through decades of political instability characterised by coups d'état as one military regime replaced another, but eventually progressed towards a stable prosperity and democracy in the 1980s. The Southern region: See also: South Thailand insurgency This section contains information which may be of unclear or questionable importance or relevance to the article's subject matter. Please help improve this article by clarifying or removing superfluous information. (June 2009) The neutrality of this section is disputed. Please see the discussion on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved. (August 2008) The Malay Peninsula was once known as Tanah Melayu (Malay Land). It extends from Singapore to the Isthmus of Kra bordering Burma, Thailand and Malay Land. Phuket is Bukit (hill) in Malay, "Satun" is "Setol" (a tropical fruit) was the Province of "Kedah" under the Malay Sultanate and Patani (Land of Farmers) was also part of the Malay Sultanate. In these areas people once spoke both English as well as Sam-sam, a local version of the Siamese language. The majority of residents were Muslims. Thailand pushed to dominate the peninsula as far as Malacca in the 1400s and held much of the peninsula for the next few centuries, including Tumasek (Singapore) some of the Andaman Islands and a colony on Java, but eventually failed when the British used force to guarantee their suzerainty over the sultanate. All the states of the Malay Sultanate presented annual gifts to the Thai king in the form of a golden flower, which understood the gesture to be tribute and an acknowledgement of vassalage. The British intervened in the Malay State and with the Anglo-Siamese Treaty tried to build a railway from the south to Bangkok, Thailand relinquished sovereignty over what are now the northern Malay provinces of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu to the British. Satun and Pattani provinces were given to Thailand. The Malay peninsula provinces were infiltrated by the Japanese during World War II, and by the Malayan Communist Party (CPM) from 1942 to 2008, when they decided to sue for peace with the Malaysian and Thai governments after the CPM lost its support from Vietnam and China subsequent to the Cultural Revolution. Recent insurgent uprisings may be a continuation of separatist fighting which started after World War II with Sukarno's support for the PULO, and the intensification. Most victims since the uprisings have been Buddhist and Muslim bystanders. History: Bangkok's Democracy Monument: a representation of the 1932 Constitution sits on top of two golden offering bowls above a turret. Since the political reform of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has had 17 constitutions and charters. Throughout this time, the form of government has ranged from military dictatorship to electoral democracy, but all governments have acknowledged a hereditary monarch as the head of state. 28th of June 1932: Prior to 1932, the Kingdom of Siam did not possess a legislature, as all legislative powers were vested within the person of the monarch. This has been the case since the foundation of the Sukhothai Kingdom in the 12th century: as the king was seen as a ―Dharmaraja‖ or ―King who rules in accordance with Dharma‖ (the Buddhist law of righteousness). However on the 24 June 1932 a group of civilians and military officers, calling themselves the Khana Ratsadon (or People‘s Party) carried out a bloodless revolution, in which the 150 years of absolute rule of the House of Chakri was ended. In its stead the group advocated a constitutional form of monarchy with an elected legislature. The "Draft Constitution" of 1932 signed by King Prajadhipok, created Thailand‘s first legislature, a People’s Assembly with 70 appointed members. The assembly met for the first time on the 28 June 1932, in the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. The Khana Ratsadon decided that the people were not yet ready for an elected assembly; however they later changed their minds. By the time the "permanent" constitution came into force in December of that year, elections were scheduled for the 15 November 1933. The new constitution also changed the composition of the assembly to 78 directly elected and 78 appointed (by the Khana Ratsadon) together compromising 156 members. 1997 to 2006: See also: 1997 Constitution of Thailand Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall the old meeting place of the National Assembly, now only the State Opening is held there. Parliament House the meeting place of the two chambers of the National Assembly of Thailand. The 1997 Constitution was the first constitution to be drafted by popularly elected Constitutional Drafting Assembly, and was popularly called the "People's Constitution". The 1997 Constitution created a bicameral legislature consisting of a 500-seat House of Representatives ( แทนร ฎร, sapha phutaen ratsadon) and a 200-seat Senate ( , wuthisapha). For the first time in Thai history, both houses were directly elected. Many human rights are explicitly acknowledged, and measures were established to increase the stability of elected governments. The House was elected by the first past the post system, where only one candidate with a simple majority could be elected in one constituency. The Senate was elected based on the province system, where one province can return more than one senator depending on its population size. The two houses of the National Assembly have two different terms. In accordance with the constitution the Senate is elected to a six year term, while the House is elected to a four year term. Overall the term of the National Assembly is based on that of the House. The National Assembly each year will sit in two sessions an "ordinary session" and a "legislative session". The first session of the National Assembly must take place within thirty days after the general election of the House of Representatives. The first session must be opened by the king in person by reading a Speech from the Throne; this ceremony is held in the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. He may also appoint the crown prince or a representative to carry out this duty. It is also the duty of the king to prologue sessions through a Royal Decree when the House term expires. The king also has the prerogative to call extraordinary sessions and prolong sessions at his discretion. The National Assembly may host a "Joint-sitting" of both Houses under several circumstances. These include: The appointment of a regent, any alteration to the 1924 Palace Law of Succession, the opening of the first session, the announcement of policies by the Cabinet of Thailand, the approval of the declaration of war, the hearing of explanations and approval of a treaty and the amendment of the Constitution. Members of the House of Representatives served four-year terms, while senators served six-year terms. The 1997 People's Constitution also promoted human rights more than any other constitutions. The court system (ศ , saan) included a constitutional court with jurisdiction over the constitutionality of parliamentary acts, royal decrees, and political matters. The January 2001 general election, the first election under the 1997 Constitution, was called the most open, corruption-free election in Thai history. The subsequent government was the first in Thai history to complete a four-year term. The 2005 election had the highest voter turnout in Thai history. Despite efforts to clean up the system, vote buying and electoral violence remained problems of electoral quality in 2005. The PollWatch Foundation, Thailand's most prominent election watchdog, declared that vote buying in this election, specifically in the North and the Northeast, was more serious than in the 2001 election. The organization also accused the government of violating the election law by abusing state power in presenting new projects in a bid to seek votes. 2006 coup d'état: See also: 2006 Thai coup d'état Armoured vehicles parked inside the compound of the Headquarters of the 1st Army Without meeting much resistance, a military junta overthrew the interim government of Thaksin Shinawatra on 19 September 2006. The junta abrogated the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court, detained and later removed several members of the government, declared martial law, and appointed one of the king's Privy Counselors, General Surayud Chulanont, as the Prime Minister. The junta later wrote a highly abbreviated interim constitution and appointed a panel to draft a permanent constitution. The junta also appointed a 250-member legislature, called by some critics a "chamber of generals" while others claimed that it lacks representatives from the poor majority. In this interim constitution draft, the head of the junta was allowed to remove the prime minister at any time. The legislature was not allowed to hold a vote of confidence against the cabinet and the public was not allowed to file comments on bills. This interim constitution was later surpassed by the permanent constitution on 24 August 2007. Martial law was partially revoked in January 2007. The ban on political activities was lifted in July 2007, following the 30 May dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai party. The new constitution has been approved by a referendum on 19 August, which led to a return to democratic elections on 23 December 2007. Political crisis: See also: 2008–2010 Thai political crisis Royal Thai Policemen at the ready during the 2008 political crisis. Soldiers waiting on the corner of Sathorn soi 1 and Sathorn, near Withayu intersection . The red shirt barricades at Lumpini Park on the corner of Rama 4 road and Silom road. The demonstration of March 20, 2010, on Rama 4 road, Bangkok . The People's Power Party (Thailand), led by Samak Sundaravej formed a government with five smaller parties. Following several court rulings against him in a variety of scandals, and surviving a vote of no confidence, and protesters blockading government buildings and airports, in September 2008, Sundaravej was found guilty of conflict of interest by the Constitutional Court of Thailand (due to being a host in a TV cooking program), and thus, ended his term in office. He was replaced by PPP member Somchai Wongsawat. As of October 2008, Wongsawat was unable to gain access to his offices, which were occupied by protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy. On December 2, 2008, Thailand's Constitutional Court in a highly controversial ruling found the Peoples Power Party  guilty of electoral fraud, which led to the dissolution of the party according to the law. It was later alleged in media reports that at least one member of the judiciary had a telephone conversation with officials working for the Office of the Privy Council and one other. The phone call was taped and has since circulated on the Internet. In it, the callers discuss finding a way to ensure the ruling PPP party would be disbanded. Accusations of judicial interference were levelled in the media but the recorded call was dismissed as a hoax. However, in June 2010, supporters of the eventually disbanded PPP were charged with tapping a judge's phone. Immediately following what many media described as a "judicial coup", a senior member of the Armed Forces met with factions of the governing coalition to get their members to join the opposition and the Democrat Party was able to form a government, a first for the party since 2001. The leader of the Democrat party, and former leader of the opposition, Abhisit Vejjajiva was appointed and sworn-in as the 27th Prime Minister, together with the new cabinet on 17 December 2008. Thailand remains an active member of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations). As of April 2010, a set of new violent protests by the Red Shirt opposition movement, possibly backed financially by fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have resulted in 87 deaths (mostly civilian and some military) and 1,378 injured. When the army tried to disperse the protesters on April 10, 2010, the army was met with automatic gunfire, grenades, and fire bombs from the opposition faction in the army, known as the "watermelon". This resulted in the army returning fire with rubber bullets and some live ammunition. During the time of the "red shirt" protests against the government, there have been numerous grenade and bomb attacks against government offices and the homes of government officials. Grenades were fired at protesters, that were protesting against the "red shirts" and for the government, by unknown gunmen killing one pro-government protester, the government stated that the Red Shirts protesters were firing the weapons at civilians. However, the police later stated the path of the grenades and amunitions was from the Chulalongkorn Hospital, which the army was occupying. Armed forces: Royal Thai Navy HTMS Chakri Naruebet aircraft carrier F-16 Block 15OCUs in flight, Royal Thai Air Force Main article: Royal Thai Armed Forces The Royal Thai Armed Forces (Thai: กองทัพไทย: Kongthap Thai) is the name of the military of the Kingdom of Thailand. It consists of the following branches: Royal Thai Army ( ท ไทย) Royal Thai Navy ( ท เร ไทย, ร น ไทย) Royal Thai Air Force ( ท ศไทย) Other Paramilitary Forces Today the Royal Thai Armed Forces comprises about 1,025,640 personnel. The Head of the Thai Armed Forces ( ท ไทย: Chomthap Thai) is His Majesty King  Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), however this position is only nominal. The Armed Forces is managed by the Ministry of Defence of Thailand, which is headed by the Minister of Defence (a member of the Cabinet of Thailand) and commanded by the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, which in turn is headed by the Chief of Defence Forces of Thailand. According to the Constitution of the Kingdom, serving in the Armed Forces is a duty of all Thai citizens. However only males over the age of 21, who have not gone through reserve training (Ror Dor) are given the option of whether they want to volunteer for the armed forces, or pick the random draft. The candidates are subjected to varying lengths of training from 6 months to 2 years of fulltime service depending on their education, whether they have partially completed the reserve training course, and whether they volunteered prior to the drafting date (usually April 1 every year). Candidates with a recognized bachelor's degree will be subjected to 1 year of full- time service if they picked the random draft, or 6 months if they volunteer at their respective district office (Sasadee). Likewise, the training length is also reduced for those who have partially completed the 3-year reserve training course (Ror Dor). A person who completed 1 year out of 3 will only have to serve full-time for 1 year. Those completed 2 years of reserve training will only have to do 6 months of full-time training. While those who complete 3 years or more of reserve training will be exempted. The Royal Thai Armed Forces Day is celebrated on January 18 to commemorate the victory of King Naresuan the Great in battle against the Crown Prince of Burma in 1593. Education: Main article: Education in Thailand Primary school students in Thailand Thailand enjoys a high level of literacy, and education is provided by a well- organized school system of kindergartens, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools, numerous vocational colleges, and universities. The private sector of education is well developed and significantly contributes to the overall provision of education which the government would not be able to meet through the public establishments. Education is compulsory up to and including grade 9, and the government provides free education through to grade 12. Thailand has never been colonized, and its teaching relies heavily on rote rather than on student-centred methodology. Education in a modern sense is therefore relatively recent and still needs to overcome some major cultural hurdles to ensure further development and improvement to its standards. The establishment of reliable and coherent curricula for its primary and secondary schools is subject to such rapid changes that schools and their teachers are not always sure what they are supposed to be teaching, and authors and publishers of textbooks are unable to write and print new editions quickly enough to keep up with the volatile situation. Chulalongkorn University, established in 1917 is the oldest university in Thailand. The issue concerning university entrance has therefore also been in constant upheaval for a number of years. Nevertheless, education has seen its greatest progress in the years since 2001. Most of the present generation of students are computer literate, and knowledge of English is on the increase at least in quantity if not in quality. There has been concern in recent years regarding the low IQ scores of many Thai youth. A study in the Nation newspaper reported that the "Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health will (make) an effort to combat low intelligence, after it found the average IQ level among many youths was lower than 80." In 2006, the Vice Minister for Education Watchara Phanchet reported that "the average intelligence quotient (IQ) of Thai children, somewhere between 87 and 88 points, remains in the "low average" category when ranked internationally. Further, with the exception of the well-educated wealthy class, the level of English speaking remains quite low. Science and technology: Main article: Science and technology in Thailand Eastern Water Resources Development and Management Public Company Limited, a water technology and wholesale supply company in Bangkok, Thailand 14" telescope Astronomical Seeing Test project National Astronomical Research Institute, Ministry of Science & Technology The National Science and Technology Development Agency is an agency of the government of Thailand which supports research in science and technology and their application in the Thai economy. From the agency's website: The National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) reflects the Thai government‘s deep commitment to apply scientific and technological capabilities to promote and sustain the nation‘s economic, social development and growth through the promotion of linkage and collaboration between the public and private sectors. Since its inception in 1991, NSTDA has grown into an active organization with a diverse program focusing on cutting-edge S&T research, design, development and engineering. NSTDA offers a full potential and opportunity for cooperative challenges and investment. Through such a convergence, the organization brings a layered, multi-faceted approach to the scholarly and most practical description of scientific and technological discoveries and advancement to serve national needs and maintain a sustained linkage with the international community. L‘Oreal (Thailand) with the support of the Thai National Commission for UNESCO announced the presentation of the ―L‘OREAL for Women in Science 2009‖ fellowship at Pullman Bangkok King Power Hotel. The fellowship awarded is presented annually to women working in doctoral and post-doctoral research who have already distinguished themselves in the life sciences. Dr. Nitsara Karoonuthaisiri, Head of BIOTEC Microarray Laboratory is one of the recipients of the fellowship L‘Oreal Thailand "For Women in Science 2009". Her research paper entitled ―Applications of Microarray Technology in Research and Development in Thailand‖ attracted the interest of the L‘Oreal Thailand judging. Oréal Thailand fellowships are divided into two categories of ‗Life Science‘ and ‗Material Science‘. This year‘s fellowships in the Life Science category were granted to Dr Nitsara Karoonuthaisiri from BIOTEC and Associate Professor Dr Artiwan Shotipruk from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University. In the Material Science category, fellowships were granted to Assistant Professor Dr Anongnat Somwangthanaroj from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, and Assistant Professor Dr Joongjai Panpranot from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University. "L'Oreal was founded by a chemist, and more than half of our 3,000 researchers today are women. We feel a close bond with science and want to raise the profile of the women who are behind today's scientific advancements. We hope that the fellowship recipients will feel encouraged by the recognition their work has received, and that their stories will be an inspiration for other researchers," said Jean-Philippe Charrier, managing director of L'Oreal (Thailand). ―Microarray technology is still considered new to Thailand. Therefore, receiving this award will certainly help to promote the awareness to the importance and benefits that Microarray technology brings to the local research community. This will in turn help to increase the number of researchers in this field‖ said Dr. Kanyawim Kirtikara, Executive Director, BIOTEC. Administrative divisions: Main article: Subdivisions of Thailand Thailand is divided into 75 provinces ( , changwat), which are gathered into 5 groups of provinces by location. There are also 2 special governed districts: the capital Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) and Pattaya, of which Bangkok is at provincial level and thus often counted as a 76th province. Each province is divided into districts and the districts are further divided into sub-districts (tambons). As of 2006 there are 877 districts ( เ , amphoe) and the 50 districts of Bangkok (เข , khet). Some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are also referred to as Greater Bangkok (ปร , pari monthon). These provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Sakhon. The name of each province's capital city (เ , mueang) is the same as that of the province. For example, the capital of Chiang Mai province (changwat Chiang Mai) is Mueang Chiang Mai or Chiang Mai. The 76 provinces are as follows: Map of Thailand Wat Arun, in Bangkok Central 1. Ang Thong 2. Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon), Special Governed District of 3. Chai Nat 4. Kanchanaburi 5. Lopburi 6. Nakhon Nayok 7. Nakhon Pathom 8. Nonthaburi 9. Pathum Thani 10. Phetchaburi 11. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 12. Prachuap Khiri Khan 13. Ratchaburi 14. Samut Prakan 15. Samut Sakhon 16. Samut Songkhram 17. Saraburi 18. Sing Buri 19. Suphan Buri East 1. Chachoengsao 2. Chanthaburi 3. Chonburi 4. Prachinburi 5. Rayong 6. Sa Kaeo 7. Trat North 1. Chiang Mai 2. Chiang Rai 3. Kamphaeng Phet 4. Lampang 5. Lamphun 6. Mae Hong Son 7. Nakhon Sawan 8. Nan 9. Phayao 10. Phetchabun 11. Phichit 12. Phitsanulok 13. Phrae 14. Sukhothai 15. Tak 16. Uthai Thani 17. Uttaradit Wat Phra Sing, Chiang Mai Province Northeast (Isan) Main article: Isan 1. Amnat Charoen 2. Buri Ram 3. Chaiyaphum 4. Kalasin 5. Khon Kaen 6. Loei 7. Maha Sarakham 8. Mukdahan 9. Nakhon Phanom 10. Nakhon Ratchasima 11. Nong Bua Lamphu 12. Nong Khai 13. Roi Et 14. Sakon Nakhon 15. Si Sa Ket 16. Surin 17. Ubon Ratchathani Phra Borommathat Nakhon Si Thammarat Thailand 18. Udon Thani 19. Yasothon South 1. Chumphon 2. Krabi 3. Nakhon Si Thammarat 4. Narathiwat 5. Pattani 6. Phang Nga 7. Phatthalung 8. Phuket 9. Ranong 10. Satun 11. Songkhla 12. Surat Thani 13. Trang 14. Yala Largest Metropolitan Areas of Thailand Rank Metropolitan area Population 1 Bangkok 11,971,000 2 Pattaya-Chon Buri 1,183,604 3 Chiang Mai 960,906 Bangkok 4 Hat Yai-Songkhla 801,747 Chiang Mai Pattaya Beach 5 Nakhon Ratchasima 439,546 Hatyai Nakhon Ratchasima Foreign relations: Main article: Foreign relations of Thailand President Putin with Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra before the start of the APEC Summit Thaksin Shinawatra and Surakiart Sathirathai meeting with former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on 19 September 2005 Pimpen Vejjajiva, Michelle Obama, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and U.S. President Barack Obama on 23 September 2009, in New York Abhisit with Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama on November 8, 2009, in Tokyo U.S. President George W. Bush meets with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand in the Oval Office Dec. 14, 2001. The two leaders discussed economic issues and the war on terrorism The foreign relations of Thailand are handled by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand Thailand participates fully in international and regional organizations. It is a Major non-NATO ally of the United States. Thailand 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. Regional cooperation is progressing in economic, trade, banking, political, and cultural matters. In 2003, Thailand served as APEC host. Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, currently serves as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In 2005 Thailand attended the inaugural East Asia Summit. In recent years, Thailand has taken an increasingly active role on the international stage. When East Timor gained independence from Indonesia, Thailand, for the first time in its history, contributed troops to the international peacekeeping effort. Its troops remain there today as part of a UN peacekeeping force. 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. Thaksin initiated negotiations for several free trade agreements with China, Australia, Bahrain, India, and the US. The latter especially was criticized, with claims that high-cost Thai industries could be wiped out. Thailand joined the US-led invasion of Iraq, sending a 423-strong humanitarian contingent. It withdrew its troops on 10 September 2004. Two Thai soldiers died in Iraq in an insurgent attack. Thaksin announced that Thailand would forsake foreign aid, and work with donor countries to assist in the development of neighbors in the Greater Mekong Sub- region. Thaksin was repeatedly attacked for acting undiplomatically with foreign leaders and the international community. Besides his famous swipe at the UN (see The 'war on drugs' above), there were also allegations of gaffes at international meetings. Thaksin was ambitious to position Thailand as a regional leader, initiating various development projects in poorer neighbouring countries like Laos. More controversially, he established close, friendly ties with the Burmese dictatorship, including extending the impoverished country a 4 billion baht credit line so it could conclude a satellite telecom deal with his family business. Thaksin energetically supported his former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai's somewhat improbable campaign to become UN Secretary General. Politics of Thailand: The politics of Thailand are currently conducted within the framework of a constitutional monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government and a hereditary monarch is head of state. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislative branches. Thai kingdoms and late Kingdom of Siam were under absolute rule of the kings. However, after the 'democratic revolution' in 1932, led by westernized bureaucrats and traditional-oriented military, the country officially became under a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister as the head of government. The first written constitution was issued. Yet the politics became the arena of fighting factions among old and new elites, bureaucrats, and generals. Coups happened from time to time, often bringing the country under the rule of yet another junta. To date Thailand has had seventeen charters and constitutions, reflecting a high degree of political instability. After successful coups, military regimes have abrogated existing constitutions and promulgated interim charters. Negotiation among politicians, men of influence and generals has become the prime factor for restoration of temporary political stability. It is arguable, however, that stability was ever the objective, that instead elites used the government as an interim tool to 'officialize' its declarations and continued status. Politics of Constitutions: Before the Revolution of 1932, the kingdom had no written constitution. The monarch was the originator of all laws and the head of the government. In 1932 the first written constitution was promulgated, expected to be the most important guideline of the kingdom. However when political disputes took place among the elites, the first military coup was effected in 1933. The first official constitution was removed, a new one was promulgated. The constitution has traditionally been considered to be the symbol of 'democracy' in Thailand, and certainly the public has been indoctrinated to believe this. All of Thailand's charters and constitutions have recognized a unified kingdom with a constitutional monarchy, but with widely differing balances of power between the branches of government. Most Thai governments have stipulated parliamentary systems; however, several of them also called for dictatorships, e.g., the 1957 Constitution. Both unicameral and bicameral parliaments have been used, and members of parliament have been both elected and appointed. The direct powers of the monarch have also varied considerably. Thailand's 'popular Constitution', called the "People's Constitution" was successfully promulgated in 1997 after the 1992 Bloody Mayincident. Publicly, constitutional devices have often charged as the root of political turmoil. The 1997 Constitution was considered a landmark in terms of the degree of public participation involved in its drafting as well as the democratic nature of its articles. It stipulated a bicameral legislature, both houses of which are elected. Many civil rights were explicitly acknowledged, and measures were established to increase the stability of elected governments while new organs supervising the administrative power also emerged for the first time such as The Constitutional Court, The Administrative Court and The Ombudsman. These organs later became a threat for the politicians particularly when Thaksin Shinawatra, one of the most popular politicians in Thai history, was trialled with the case relating to his assets. However, following an army-led coup on 19 September 2006, the 1997 Constitution was abrogated. The junta ruled the country by martial law and executive decree for weeks, until it promulgated an interim constitution on 2006-10-01. The Interim Constitution allowed the junta to appoint a Prime Minister, legislature, and drafting committee for a permanent constitution. Though decrees on mass media control were declared, the political skirmishes and rally happened. The critics on the papers were seen. With the changing political atmosphere, seemingly, pressed the junta to comply, local and municipal elections were held as usual. In 2007 the new constitution was eventually issued, said 'junta-support constitution' for many critics. The King of Thailand has little direct power under the constitution but is a symbol of national identity and unity. King Bhumibol — who has been on the throne since 1946 — commands enormous popular respect and moral authority, which he has used on occasion to attempt to resolve political crises that have threatened national stability. Thailand and Democracy after 1932: Thailand had been a kingdom under absolute monarchy for over seven centuries before 1932. As a result of imperialism, the kings began a reform at some degrees. The king was the president of the government, consulted with his counsillors, mainly his relatives. Though the significant reform happened in the Rama V 's reign, the kingdom still had no national assembly. The men of the royal blood held the positions in the government as ministers. The situation became tense after the World War I. The economic crisis attacked the country. The young generation of students and intellectuals studying in Europe began criticizing the crown's government as backward, corrupt, and ineffective. On June 24, 1932, troops in Bangkok seized government buildings and some key ministers. The so-called 1932 Revolution took place. Its leaders were both bureaucrats and young military officers, crying for the national reform, including the first written constitution. After negotiation with the king, Rama VII, and the kingdom's elite, the changes took place, ending absolute rule by the king. The king remained the titular head of state, but the constitutional government ruled the country with the prime minister as its head. The general election was held with the birth of the first national assembly. Despite the efforts of previous kings, western, democratic style of the government was alien to the kingdom. Thailand had insufficient time to educate its population in preparation for western political, industrial and economic changes, albeit female vote was granted since the first general election. Since becoming a western style constitutional democratic monarchy in 1932, for most of the time the country has been ruled by military governments. The disputes and struggles among the elites; old and new, civilian, politicians, and military happened from times to time since 1932. The first military coup staged by the 1932 revolutionary, military 'wing' itself, occurred in 1933. The military mean has become a necessary tool for political stability. Political freedom, freedom of speech and basic human rights were strongly compromised in the first three quarters of the twentieth century. Due to the pressure of outside events during the Vietnam War, the politics of the kingdom became even more tense. The military government, with support of the US, tightened its control over the country's politics, while intellectuals and leftist students strongly opposed the junta. The Communist insurgency led by the Communist Party of Thailand staged armed struggle in the countryside in the 60s. Communist and radical ideas attracted a handful of intellectuals. The communist movement was seen collateral with the independent movement in the Indochinese countries, waging war against the US. As a result, military junta expanded its grip. Intellectual as well as violent clashes between the junta and the intellectual sparked in the urban and the countryside respectively. Student-led uprisings in October 1973 led to a new vision of liberating the country from military government for a short period. The media received more freedom to criticize politicians and governments, while revolutionary and socialist movements became more apparent. The new civilian government officially shut the U.S. bases amid the fear of the communist victory in the Indochinese countries in 1975. In 1976, Admiral Sa-ngad Chaloryu, the armed forces commander, staged a massacre and coup that brought hardline anti-communists to power and reversed these reforms. At the end of the Indochina War, investment by foreign businesses helped alleviate poor infrastructure and social problems. The middle classes constituted only ten per cent of the sixty million population; they enjoyed wealth and increasing freedom, leaving the majority poor in the rural areas and slums. The system of rule fluctuated between unstable civilian governments and interludes of military takeover. During democratic periods, the middle-class in the cities ignored the poor in the rural areas. The media accepted bribes. To corrupt bureaucrats and politicians became well accepted business practice. The military would take over as a measure of ultima ratio. Every time a coup was staged, some scapegoats or excuses were always found to justify it. Eventually, the ensuing junta government would hand the government back to elected officials. As a result, there have been 18 coups and resultant 18 constitutions in the history of Thai politics. From 1932, bureaucrats, generals, and businessmen have run most of the political parties. While the 'grassroots' are always the target of the political parties, no 'grassroot' party has ever led the country. Money seems to be the major factor of gaining power in the country. Political power means control over the national resource. The Black May uprising, in 1992, lead to more reform when promulgating the 1997 constitution - "The People's Constitution" - aiming to create checks and balance of powers between strengthened government, separately elected senators and anti- corruption institutes. Administrative courts, Constitutional Courts and election- control committee were established to strengthen the checks and balance of politics. The 2007 constitution, following Thaksin's ouster, was particularly designed to be tighter in its control of corruptions and conflicts of interests while reducing the authority of the government. Government of Thailand: Main article: Government of Thailand According to the constitution, the three major independent authorities holding the balance of power are executive, legislative, and judicial. The King has little direct power under the constitution but is a symbol of national identity and unity. The present monarch has a great deal of popular respect and moral authority, which has been used to attempt to resolve political crises. The head of government is the Prime Minister. Under the present constitution, the Prime Minister must be a Member of Parliament. Cabinet members do not have to be Members of Parliament. The legislature can hold a vote of no-confidence against the Premier and members of his Cabinet if it has sufficient votes. Foreign relations of Thailand: Main article: Foreign relations of Thailand Thailand's foreign policy includes support for ASEAN - in the interest of regional stability - and emphasizes a close and longstanding security relationship with the United States. 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. Regional cooperation is progressing in economic, trade, banking, political, and cultural matters. In 2003, Thailand served as APEC host. Supachai Panitchpakdi, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, currently serves as Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In 2005 Thailand attended the inaugural East Asia Summit. Political parties and elections: e•d Summary of the 23 December 2007 House of Representatives of Thailand Thai general election results Party Constituency Proportional TOTAL Votes % Seats Votes % Seats People's Power Party 26,293,456 36.63 199 14,071,799 39.60 34 233 Democrat Party 21,745,696 30.30 132 14,084,265 39.63 33 165 Thai Nation Party 6,363,475 8.87 33 1,545,282 4.35 4 37 For the Motherland 6,599,422 9.19 17 1,981,021 5.57 7 24 Thais United National 3,395,197 4.73 8 948,544 2.67 1 9 Development Party Neutral Democratic 3,844,673 5.36 7 528,464 1.49 0 7 Party Royalist People's Party 1,632,795 2.27 4 750,158 2.11 1 5 Others 1,897,953 2.64 — 1,626,234 4.58 — 0 Valid votes 71,772,667* 100 400 35,535,767 100 80 480 No Votes 906,216 2.32 Invalid Votes 2,539,429 6.51 Total Turnout 38,981,412 85.38 Source: The Nation * As constituencies elect between one and three MPs, some people have votes of 2or 3. Political history of the democratic era: Transition to Democracy after 1932 Following the 1932 revolution which imposed constitutional limits on the monarchy, Thai politics were dominated for a half century by a military and bureaucratic elite, with support of businessmen and big entrepreneurs. Changes of government were effected primarily by means of a long series of mostly bloodless coups. Beginning with a brief experiment in democracy during the mid-1970s, civilian democratic political institutions slowly gained greater authority, culminating in 1988 when Chatichai Choonhavan — leader of the Chart Thai Party (Thai Nation Party) — assumed office as the country's first democratically elected prime minister in more than a decade. Three years later, yet another bloodless coup ended his term. Shortly afterward, the royally appointed Anand Panyarachun, a businessman and former diplomat, headed a largely civilian interim government and promised to hold elections in the near future. However, following inconclusive elections, former army commander Suchinda Kraprayoon was appointed prime minister. Thais reacted to the appointment by demanding an end to military influence in government. Demonstrations were violently suppressed by the military; in May 1992. According to eyewitness reports of action near the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, soldiers may have killed seven hundred and fifty protesters after only two days of protests. Domestic and international reaction to the violence forced Suchinda to resign, and the nation once again turned to Anand Panyarachun, who was appointed interim prime minister until new elections in September 1992. In those elections, political parties that had opposed the military in May 1992 won by a narrow majority, and Chuan Leekpai, a leader of the Democrat Party, became prime minister at the head of a five-party coalition. Following the defection of a coalition partner, Chuan dissolved Parliament in May 1995, and the Chart Thai Party won the largest number of parliamentary seats in the subsequent election. Party leader Banharn Silpa- archa became Prime Minister but held the office for only little more than a year. Following elections held in November 1996, Chavalit Youngchaiyudh formed a coalition government and became Prime Minister. The onset of the Asian financial crisis caused a loss of confidence in the Chavalit government and forced him to hand over power to Chuan Leekpai in November 1997. Chuan formed a coalition government based on the themes of economic crisis management and institution of political reforms mandated by Thailand's 1997 constitution. It collapsed just days before its term was scheduled to end. 2001–2006, the Tenure of Thaksin Shinawatra See also: 2005–2006 Thai political crisis In the January 2001 elections, telecommunications 'multimillionaire' Thaksin Shinawatra, who had relation with the 1990s junta, and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party won an overwhelming victory on a populist platform of economic growth and development. Thaksin also marginally escaped (8:7) a guilty verdict in the Constitutional Court where he was charged by the Board of Anti-Corruption of hiding hundreds-of- million-baht-worth of shares with several of his employees. A decade later, a Supreme Court ruling in another case accepted a possibility of bribery in the Constitutional Court case. After absorbing several smaller parties, TRT gained an absolute majority in the lower house of the Parliament, controlling 296 of 500 seats. In a cabinet reshuffle of October 2002, the Thaksin administration further put its stamp on the government. A package of bureaucratic reform legislation created six new ministries in an effort to streamline the bureaucratic process and increase efficiency and accountability. The general election held on 6 February 2005 resulted in another landslide victory for Thaksin and TRT, which controlled 374 seats in Parliament's lower house. Thaksin's populist policies found great favour in rural areas which aided him. Thaksin introduced government programs which greatly benefited rural areas of the country. These programs included debt relief for farmers still reeling from the Asian Financial Crisis and a new health care program which brought coverage to all Thais for 30-baht per visit(about 1 dollar). Despite the majority and surging popularity amongst rural Thais, Thaksin came under severe questioning for selling telecommunication shares to Temasek, a Singapore investor for about 70,000 million baht without paying any tax. More complex and high-level corruption and conspiracies were discovered and exposed by Sonthi Limthongkul, Manager Media Group owner, who reached the middle class in the capital and the cities through the only small satellite and internet media channel, ASTV. Thaksin refused to publicly answer PAD's questions. Because of failure to clear himself in the alleged corruptions, Thaksin's regime fell apart during public protests led by the People's Alliance for Democracy which led to widespread calls for his resignation and impeachment. The People's Alliance for Democracy, a large group of the middle class and a coalition of anti-Thaksin protesters, led by Sonthi Limthongkul, gathered in Bangkok, demanded that Thaksin resign as prime minister so that the King could directly appoint someone else. Thaksin refused and protests continued for weeks. Thaksin dissolved parliament on 24 February 2006 and called a snap election for 2 April 2006. The election was boycotted by the opposition parties, leading to unopposed TRT candidates for 38 seats failing to get the necessary quorum of 20% of eligible votes. As the Thai constitution requires all seats be filled from the beginning of parliament, this produced a constitutional crisis. After floating several suggestions, on 4 April 2006, Thaksin announced that he would step down as prime minister as soon as parliament had selected a successor. In a televised speech to senior judges, King Bhumibol requested them to execute their duty justly. Criminal charges and allegations of administrative abuse cases were brought against the Election Committee. The courts voided the election results, jailed the committee for abuse of power, and ordered a new round of elections for 15 October 2006. Thaksin continued to work as caretaker prime minister. Civil movements in Thailand were active in 2000s, with some groups perceiving the Thaksin government as authoritarian, citing extrajudicial killings in his War on Drugs, special security laws passed by the administration, and the government's increasingly hardline responses to the insurgency in the southern provinces. Thaksin's government was facing mounting opposition from the urban middle classes, while continuing to remain popular in the predominantly poor and rural North and Northeastern regions. However, the most severe critic of Thaksin seemed to be Sondhi Limthongkul, a media tycoon and former colleague. 2006 coup The neutrality of this section is disputed. Please see the discussion on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved. (October 2008) This section does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2008) Main article: 2006 Thailand coup d'état While Thaksin was in New York City to make a speech at UN Headquarters, there was a conspiracy to create a violent clash to brutally end the month-long PAD protest. Just in time to prevent the alleged clash, the military seized power on 19 September 2006. The Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) led by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin was formed. Political activities were banned by the junta after the coup on 19 September 2006. The 1997 Constitution was abrogated, although most of the institutions of government remained intact. A new constitution was drafted and promulgated in late 2007. One month after the coup, an interim civilian government was formed, including an appointed House of Representatives from a variety of professions and an appointed Constitutional Court. Freedom of speech was restored. During 2006 and 2007, organized underground terrorist activities took place, burning numerous schools in rural areas of the north and the northeast of Thailand and bombs planted in ten locations in Bangkok killed and injured several people on the New Year's Eve of 2006. A national referendum for the 2007 constitution was called by the military and the 2007 constitution was accepted by the majority of the voters. The junta promised a democratic general election which was finally held on 23 December 2007, sixteen months after the coup. The constitutional court unanimously dissolved the populist Thai Rak Thai party following a punishment according to the 1997 constitution, banning 111 TRT members from politics for five years. The military drafted a controversial new constitution following allegation of Thaksin's corruption and abuse of power was particularly designed to be more tighter in control of corruptions and conflicts of interests of politicians while decreasing the previously strengthened authority of the government. A national referendum accepted the 2007 constitution with significant disapproval in the Thaksin's stronghold, the north and northeast. On 23 December 2007 national parliamentary election was held, based on the new constitution, and People Power Party (Thai Rak Thai's and Thaksin's proxy party), led by former Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej, began taking the reins of government. Thailand's new Parliament convened on January 21, 2008. The People Power Party (PPP) which is Thaksin's proxy party, gained the majority, yet under the half of the total seats in the Parliament, the general election by a solid margin after five minor parties joined it to form a coalition government. A complaint was filed against PPP in the Thai Supreme Court, charging PPP of being the TRT nominee party. Moreover, in 2008, one of its leading members was charged with electoral fraud. The Election Committee also proposed that the PPP should be dissolved due to the violation of the constitution. 2008 political crisis During 2008, Thailand saw increasing political turmoil, with the PPP government facing pressure to step down amid mounting civil disobedience and unrest lead by the PAD. The conflict centred on the constitution. The PPP supports the amendment of the 2007 constitution while anti-government protesters considered it as the political amnesty of Thaksin and his followers verdicted previously. The anti-government protesters were, said, mostly better educated, more affluent, urban Thais criticizing that the a Western-style electoral system corrupted by rich politicians, Thaksin was blasted as having exploited to buy votes, bureaucrats, policemen, military officers and even political factions. Thaksin became the example of the businessman autocrat, launching so-called populist projects which some were controversial such as the War on Drugs. Hundreds of killings and murder cases were said by the police, as the fighting among the drug traffickers. No further investigation carried on. Judicial process was seen as useless, instead, the decisive justice should be in the hands of the police. As the anti-government movement had criticized Thaksin as an example of corrupted politician, it discredited the present election system. They once suggested a system in which part of representatives in the national assembly ;'are chosen by certain professions and social groups. The anti-Thaksin protesters are vastly outnumbered by Thaksin's supporters in the rural majority, who delivered his party two resounding election victories. Their loyalty was rewarded by generous social and economic welfare programs for previously neglected provincial areas. The anti-government forces were well organized, and had been criticized that the behind-the-scenes support of elements of the military, the country's most influential institution, seeing Thaksin supported by anti-royalists, former revolutionaries and ex-commnunists, aming at the regime change, purporting an autocratic government through the parliamentary system. Samak Sundaravej was elected Prime Minister of the first government under the 2007 constitution. Samak Sundaravej, who is an articulate politician, acknowledged being the "nominee" of fugitive Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, personally approved by him. In 1973, he ran a prominent month-long propaganda campaign, accusing democratic students' movements of being communist rebellions, traitors and spies. The event ended in a massacre of hundreds of students at Thammasat University on October 14, 1973, and a further military coup was conducted, giving him the interior minister position in the junta. While Prime Minister, PM Samak held daily national state television broadcasts with his own political messages. These were not well areceived by PAD. NBT, the National Broadcasting Television, the state-owned media enterprise, was openly used to counter the PAD's message, which emphasises the overturning of the current democratic system. Former PM Thaksin had welcomed the offers to come back to Thailand in February 2008 to face corruption charges and to get close control of the PPP party, successor of his Thai Rak Thai Party. The opposition forced a no-confidence vote on a constitutional amendment which may have resulted in the reinstatement of Thaksin's reputation. The failure to address dramatically rising food and energy prices, and a temple dispute with Cambodia damaged the coalition government's reputation. Street protests led by the PAD, the major opposition movement, began in late May after the ruling party agreed to amend the constitution. Their main objective was to block any constitutional amendment aimed chiefly at reinstating Thaksin's reputation and saving the PPP from dissolution after one of its leaders was charged with electoral fraud. Another of PAD's objectives was to support the courts and the judicial system in justly carrying out hearing Thaksin's cases. While PM Samak has been successful in controlling the police and civil service, various courts remain independent and have issued several independent verdicts. The Constitution Court concluded that PPP's second-in-command, Yongyuth Tiyapairat, who pressured the local officers to support his party in the previous election, would subject the party to dissolution. Both the Constitution Court. The Administrative Court also ruled that his government seriously violated the constitution and might have prejudiced national sovereignty in negotiating over the sovereignty of the Preah Vihear Temple with Cambodia. The case brought the resignation of his first foreign minister, Nopadon Patama. Several other ministers found wrongfully informing the Anticorruption Board or Election Governing Board of important information, were discharged when this was discovered. Previously Thaksin and Pojaman's three lawyers were caught red-handedly attempting to bribe Supreme Court judges and were given jail sentences.. That was an ominous sign for Thaksin. Later a criminal court returned a verdict against Pojaman, of tax evasion, to be jailed for three years. Days later, Thaksin and Pojaman jumped bail and issued a statement from London announcing through Thai TVs his decision to seek political asylum in the UK in an attempt to avoid what he called "biased" treatment under Thailand's current judicial system. Thaksin and his family fled to Great Britain on August 11, 2008, to apply for political asylum after his wife was convicted of tax evasion. PM Samak Sundaravej, through his parliamentary, was able to complete budget bills for megaprojects which cost so much that the King of Thailand spoke out to protest and to thank the head of the National Bank of Thailand (under threats from the government) that the country was on the brink of disaster because of too high and careless expenditure. From August 26, 2008, 30'000 protesters, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, occupied Sundaravej's Government House compound in central Bangkok, forcing him and his advisers to work at Don Muang International Airport, Bangkok's old international airport. Thai riot police entered the occupied compound and delivered a court order for the eviction of PAD protesters. Chamlong Srimuang, a leader of the PAD, ordered 45 PAD guards to break into the main government building on Saturday. 3 regional airports were closed for a short period and 35 trains between Bangkok and the provinces were canceled. Protesters raided the Phuket International Airport tarmac on the resort island of Phuket Province resulting to 118 flights canceled or diverted, affecting 15,000 passengers. Protesters also blocked the entrances of the airports in Krabi and Hat Yai (which were later re-opened). Police issued arrest warrants for Sondhi Limthongkul and the 8 other PAD leaders on charges of insurrection, conspiracy, unlawful assembly and refusing orders to disperse. Meanwhile, General Anupong Paochinda stated: "The army will not stage a coup. The political crisis should be resolved by political means." Samak and the ruling coalition called for an urgent parliamentary debate and session for August 31. PM Samak Sundaravej tried using legal means involving through civil charges, criminal charges and violent police force to remove the PAD protesters from the government office on August 29. However, the PAD managed to get temporary reliefs from courts enabling them to legally continue the siege of the government office. One person died and forty people were wounded in a clash, which occurred when the DAAD (NohPohKoh) protesters, supported by Thaksin and the PPP party moved toward PAD at about 3am of September 2 without adequate police intervention. By the second of half of September 2008, PM Samak Sundaravej was the subject of several court cases for his past actions. An Appeal Court verdict upon a long- standing criminal charge of slander may jail him. A Constitutional Court will return verdict upon whether he has a conflict of interest by being a private employee while holding a PM position. The Anti-Corruption Board may bring a charge of abuse of power in the Preah Vihear case to the Constitutional Court. These instantaneously terminated PM Samak's political role. While fugitive ex-PM Thaksin and Pojaman would also face verdicts from the Supreme Court. People Power Party's deputy spokesman Kuthep Suthin Klangsang, on September 12, 2008, announced: "Samak has accepted his nomination for prime minister. Samak said he is confident that parliament will find him fit for office, and that he is happy to accept the post. A majority of party members voted on Thursday to reappoint Samak. Samak is the leader of our party so he is the best choice." Despite objections from its five coalition partners, the PPP, in an urgent meeting, unanimously decided to renominate Samak Sundaravej. 5 coalition parties, namely Chart Thai, Matchima Thipataya, Pracharaj, Puea Pandin and Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana, unanimously agreed to support the People Power party (PPP) to set up the new government and vote for the person who should be nominated as the new prime minister. Chart Thai deputy leader Somsak Prissananantakul and Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana leader Chettha Thanajaro said the next prime minister was nominated. Caretaker prime minister Somchai Wongsawat said PPP secretary- general Surapong Suebwonglee will notify the 5 parties who the PPP nominated, to take office again. Some lawmakers, however, said they will propose an alternate candidate. Meanwhile, Thailand's army chief General Anupong Paochinda said he backed the creation of a national unity government that would include all the country's parties, and he also asked for the lifting of a state of emergency that Samak imposed in September 2. Embattled Samak Sundaravej abandoned his bid to regain his Thailand Prime Minister post, and he also resigned the People's Power Party (PPP) leadership. Meanwhile, PPP's chief party spokesman Kudeb Saikrachang and Kan Thiankaew announced on September 13 that caretaker prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, caretaker justice minister Sompong Amornwiwat and PPP Secretary-General Surapong Suebwonglee were PPP's candidates for premiership post. However, Suriyasai Katasila of People's Alliance for Democracy (a group of royalist businessmen, academics and activists), vowed to continue its occupation of Government House if a PPP candidate would be nominated: "We would accept anyone as prime minister, as long as he is not from the People's Power Party." On September 14 the state of emergency was lifted. The ruling People Power Party, on September 15, 2008, named Somchai Wongsawat, candidate for prime minister to succeed Samak Sundaravej. The PPP will endorsed Somchai, and his nomination will be set for a parliamentary vote on Wednesday. Meanwhile the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a corruption case against Thaksin and his wife, to be promulgated after the parliament vote for the new prime minister. On October 4, 2008, Chamlong Srimuang and rally organiser, Chaiwat Sinsuwongse of the People's Alliance for Democracy, were detained by the Thai police led by Col. Sarathon Pradit, by virtue of August 27 arrest warrant for insurrection, conspiracy, illegal assembly and refusing orders to disperse (treason) against him and 8 other protest leaders. At the Government House, Sondhi Limthongkul, however, stated demonstrations would continue: "I am warning you, the government and police, that you are putting fuel on the fire. Once you arrest me, thousands of people will tear you apart." Srimuang's wife, Ying Siriluck visited him at the Border Patrol Police Region 1, Pathum Thani. Other PAD members still wanted by police include Sondhi, activist MP Somkiat Pongpaibul and PAD leaders Somsak Kosaisuk and Pibhop Dhongchai. On October 7, 2008, Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh resigned and admitted partial responsibility for violence due to police tear gas clearance of the blockade of the parliament, causing injuries to 116 protesters, 21, seriously injured. His resignation letter stated: "Since this action did not achieve what I planned, I want to show my responsibility for this operation." But after dispersal, 5'000 demonstrators returned and blocked all 4 entries to the parliament building. The protesters attempted to hold 320 MPs and senators as hostages inside the Parliament building, cutting off the power supply, and forcing Somchai Wongsawat to escape by jumping a back fence after his policy address. But other trapped MPs failed to leave and flee from the mob. The siege on the area beside the near prime minister‘s office forced the government to transfer its activities to Don Muang International Airport, Bangkok's former international airport. On November 26, 2008, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued a statement saying that the current crisis is a watershed moment for democracy and rule of law in Thailand. It contains harsh critique of PAD and the criminal justice system of Thailand. This critique should not be seen as one-sided as AHRC have a history of also being critical of the current government (per nov 2008), the Thai Supreme Court, the earlier military junta and the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. 2009-2010 Disturbances Main article: 2008–2010 Thai political crisis Since the rise of the new government of Abhisit, Thaksin's loyalists vowed to oppose it. In April 2009, Thaksin's supporters, known as 'The Red Shirts', began its huge anti-government demonstration aiming at the resignation of the prime minister and the dissolution of the House of the Representatives. The major site of the demonstration was in Bangkok. From April 8, the demonstrators spread their activities to significant location such as main intersections. The streets were also blocked and barricaded. The demonstration took place at the same time of the ASEAN summit in Pattaya. The demonstrators also moved to protest, aiming at barring the summit. Eventually a handful of protesters stormed the hotel, the site of the summit, causing the cancellation of the summit. In Bangkok, the protest became fiercer because of the arrest of the leaders of the Pattaya protest. The protesters blocked the entrances of the Criminal Court, urging the release of their leaders. In the afternoon, the premier Abhisit, at The Ministry of Interior, declared the State of Emergency. The protesters blocked the entrance of the Ministry, aiming at 'seizing' the premier and other ministers. However the premier could escape. In the late afternoon, the government briefed the situation. The government began to deploy anti-riot troops. The armor vehicles were seen in downtown Bangkok without a clear reason. However the anti-riot action took place in the early morning of the next day. The anti-riot troops, armed with shields, batons and M-16 guns, said with paper bullets, started dispersing the protesters on the Bangkok's streets. Clashes were seen in major streets. In some areas, the rioters in red shirts also clashed with the people as the rioters attempted to storm their living area, leaving two people living in the area killed. The protesters also claimed that some of the protesters were killed while the government denied the charge. Although two bodies of men were found, no evidence related the case with the anti-riot action. On the major avenues and streets in the metropolitan, burning buses were seen as well as wounded people were carried to the hospitals, no serious cases were reported however. In the afternoon of April 14, the anti-riot troops controlled all main streets. The leaders of the protest decided to give up their activity. During their protest, Thaksin video-linked to support the protesters, urging them to 'bring him home'. Thaksin clearly vowed to topple the government, calling for 'revolution'. The Thai politics after the pro-Thaksin Protest has yet been the stage of the two opposing factions; Democrat Party-led government allied with their coalition partners, who also have the tacet support of the PAD, the military, and the police, against the Thaksin loyalists, the UDD. Both sides have claimed the fighting as the struggle for democracy, and the nation. Resolution to conflict Further information: Thai general election, 2010 On May 3, the Thai Prime Minister announced he was willing to hold elections on November 14 should the opposition red shirts accept the offer. The following day red shirt leaders accepted the proposal to leave the occupied parts of Bangkok in return for election on the scheduled date. However, one week later, May 10, protesters had yet to disband despite accepting the 'road map' proposed by the prime minister for early 2010 November elections. They placed new demands upon the Prime minister that Deputy Prime Minster Suthep Thaugsuban, who was in charge of security operations on the clash of April 10th, must first turn himself in for prosecution before they willingly disperse. May 11 Suthep presented himself to the Department of Special Investigation. The red-shirt protesters however were not satisfied and demanded Suthep be formally charged instead by police. The red shirts failure to disperse was taken as a decline of the conciliatory 'road map' and Prime minister Abhisit's proposal of early parliamentary elections were withdrawn. This was followed by a warning issued from the Prime minister that protesters must disperse or face imminent military action. Furthermore the 'red shirts' led another protest on the 19th May. 40 people were killed and over 600 injured. The protest took place next to the UK Embassy and near the US Embassy Royal Thai Police The Royal Thai Police Seal of The Royal Thai Police. Agency overview Formed 1933 Jurisdiction National Headquarters Bangkok Annual budget 62,510,611,700 Baht (2008) Police General Patheep Tanprasert, Agency Acting Commissioner-General of executive the Royal Thai Police The Royal Thai Police (Thai: สานักงานตารวจแห่งชาติ) are the national police of Thailand. Police Organization Royal Thai Police officer Thai Police car in maroon and white Thai Police car in maroon and white Thai Police car in brown and white. Tuk-tuk used by the police in Chiangmai, Thailand Gong Prab Pram police force sign, a police force especially working against drug trafficking - shown on a police car. Logo of the Thai Tourist Police. The Thai police are subdivided into several regions and services, each enjoying their own powers. Royal Thai Police Headquarters - Bangkok o Director-General of Police Border Patrol Police Division 40,000 paramilitary force o BPP General Staff Division o BPP Tactical Training Division o BPP Support Division o BPP Nawut Sondetya Hospital o BPP Village Scout Center o BPP Counter-Insurgency Training Center o BPP Districts 1 through 4 o Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit (PARU) Airborne Training Naresuan 261 Counter-Terrorism Unit (formerly the 4th Company PARU) Sea Air Rescue Unit Bangkok Metropolitan Police Central Investigation Bureau - national coordinating headquarters which assist provincial and metropolitan components in preventing and suppressing criminal activity and in minimizing threats to national security. o Crime Suppression Division, Responsible for investigating and enforcing Thai criminal laws Emergency Unit(s) - a mobile unit used to suppress riots and public disorders, combat sabotage, counterfeiting, fraud, illegal gambling, narcotics trafficking, secret societies, and organized crime. o Forestry Police Division o Highway Police Division o Marine Police Division o Railroad Police Division o Special Branch Division o Licenses Division - registers and licenses all of the following: firearms, explosives, vehicles, aircraft, boats, gambling establishments, and various other items and organizations. o Criminal Records Office o Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory Office of Immigration Bureau Narcotics Suppression Bureau Office Of Logistics o Aviation Division Office of Royal Court Security Police o Crown Prince's Royal Protective Unit Crown Prince Royal Protective Unit 'Dechochai Knight 3' Provincial Police Division - divided into 9 regions covering the 75 Provinces of Thailand except metropolitan Bangkok and the border areas. o Region 1 Ayuthaya o Region 2 Chonburi o Region 3 Nakhon Ratchasima o Region 4 Khon Kaen o Region 5 Chiang Mai o Region 6 Phitsanulok o Region 7 Nakhon Pathom o Region 8 Surat Thani o Region 9 Songkhla o Chaiya Training o Special Operations Units 191 Special Branch Police o Arintharat 26 Special Operations Unit Training Division Tourist Police - uniformed personnel who lack police powers and are largely responsible for writing out reports for insurance companies for victims of theft. In more serious cases, they will translate reports to be passed on the normal police in Bangkok. Recently recruiting foreign nationals living in Thailand. o Training Immigration Police Division Marine Police Division Metropolitan Police Division, Bangkok Narcotics Supression Division Provincial Police Division Police Conduct: Recently, Thai Police and justice system in the holiday island of Phuket have been accused of corruption, and over-reaction by tourist to the island. In one case an Australian woman was arrested and accused of stealing a bar mat. She spent four nights in jail and had her passport confiscated. Then she faced a wait of another 14 weeks on bail until the next phase of her prosecution. This is despite a friend of her confessing to the police and providing a sworn statement that she had placed the bar mat in the woman's bag as a joke.  Eventually the case was resolved after the intervention of governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-nob, after being contacted by Thailand's Ministry of Tourism and the Foreign Ministry. A deal was done under which she would plead guilty, she would be fined, and governor Wichai Praisa-nob would pay the fine and give an apology. After this her passport was returned and she was allowed to return to Australia. In another case an American couple were arrested upon returning to Thailand and accused of being responsible of burning down a house in which they resided on a previous stay at Phuket. The fire had previously been investigated and found to have been caused by an electrical fault. To recover their passports and being allowed to depart Thailand they had to compensate the house owner and make under the table payments to the judges, the public prosecutor, everyone down to the bailiffs in the court. This cost then around 45,000 US dollars. In 2007 a 15 year Danish boy were involved in an insurance fraud when a Chinese couple threw themselves under his Jetboat killing one of them. While the court ruled the incident as an accident, the police detained the boy and held his passport until an amount of 300,000 DKK had been paid so the case could be settled within weeks . The conduct of the local police in Pai, and Thai drug enforcement, has also generated an unusual amount of controversy over the past decade. This is partially due to the proximity of Pai to drug routes from the Shan State in Burma, however given the post-2000 rise in incidents involving foreign tourists, it is evident that other factors are also at work. Police corruption remains a problem in Thailand. Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer 2007, a survey assessing the public's perceptions and experience of corruption in 60 countries, states that, for Thailand, the police received a rating of four out of five, where one represents "not at all corrupt" and five represents "extremely corrupt" (6 Dec. 2007, 22). Notable Thai Police Chiefs: Phao Sriyanond (also "Pao Sriyanond") was Director General of Thailand's national police from 1951 to 1957. Sarit Dhanarajata was Director General of Thailand's national police from 1959 to 1963. Pratin Santiprapop was Director General of the Royal Thai Police from 1994 to 1994. Poj Boonyajinda was Director General of the Royal Thai Police from 1994 to 1997. Pracha Promnog was Director General of the Royal Thai Police from 1997 to 1998 and Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police from 1998 to 2000. Pornsak Durongkavibulya was Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police from 2000 to 2001. Sant Sarutanond was Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police from 2001 to 2004. Kowit Wattana was Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police from 2004 to 2007. Seripisut Temiyavet was the acting Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police from February 5, 2007 to September 10, 2007. Kowit Wattana was reinstated as Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police from September 10, 2007 to September 30, 2007 (his mandatory retirement). Seripisut Temiyavet was Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police starting from October 1, 2007 to April 2008. Appointed Police Commissioner of Thailand by a military junta government. As a police officer he gained a reputation from targeting mafia leaders. He was removed from office on April 2008 by the elected government of Samak Sundaravej under charges of corruption. His supporters, however, claim that these charges are put-up jobs to punish him for prosecuting many cases against the militarily deposed former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Communications: Main article: Telecommunications in Thailand Telephone: Thailand has about 7,024,000 base telephones, and about 51,377,000 numbers for GSM/3G Radio: AM 238 stations, FM 351 stations Television: 6 stations with 111 network stations. There are about 15,190,000 cable subscribers. Satellite: 4 satellites Satellite: Thaicom is the name of a series of communications satellites operated out of Thailand. Thaicom Public Company Limited (SET: THCOM) is the name of the company that owns and operations the THAICOM satellite fleet and operates other telecommunication businesses in Thailand and throughout Asia-Pacific. Thailand-based Shinawatra Computer and Communications Co. Ltd. (now Shin Corporation) signed a US$ 100 million contract with Hughes Space and Communications Company Ltd. in 1991 to launch Thailand's first satellite communications project. The first Thaicom satellite was launched in December 17, 1993. This satellite carried 12 C-band transponders coveting a region from Japan to Singapore. Thaksin Shinawatra sold Shin Corporation, which owns 41% of Thaicom Public Company Limited. Launch Dates: Thaicom 1 : December 17, 1993 Thaicom 2 : October 1994  Thaicom 3 : April 16, 1997; deorbited on October 2, 2006 Thaicom 4 (IPSTAR-1) : August 11, 2005 Thaicom 5 : May 27, 2006 Geography: Dawn at Patong beach, Phuket Province, Thailand. Mountainous landscape of Northern Thailand Main article: Geography of Thailand Totaling 513,120 square kilometres (198,120 sq mi), Thailand is the world's 50th largest country in land mass, while it is the world's 20th largest country in terms of population. It is comparable in population to countries such as France and the United Kingdom, and is similar in land size to France and California in the United States. The local climate is tropical and characterized by monsoons. There is a rainy, warm, and cloudy southwest monsoon from mid-May to September, as well as a dry, cool northeast monsoon from November to mid-March. The southern isthmus is always hot and humid. Thailand is home to several distinct geographic regions, partly corresponding to the provincial groups. The north of the country is mountainous, with the highest point being Doi Inthanon at 2,565 metres (8,415 ft) above sea level. The northeast, Isan, consists of the Khorat Plateau, bordered to the east by the Mekong River. The centre of the country is dominated by the predominantly flat Chao Phraya river valley, which runs into the Gulf of Thailand. The south consists of the narrow Kra Isthmus that widens into the Malay Peninsula. Politically, there are six geographical regions which differ from the others in population, basic resources, natural features, and level of social and economic development. The diversity of the regions is the most pronounced attribute of Thailand's physical setting. The Chao Phraya and the Mekong River are the sustainable resource of rural Thailand. Industrial scale production of crops use both rivers and their tributaries. The Gulf of Thailand covers 320,000 square kilometres (124,000 sq mi) and is fed by the Chao Phraya, Mae Klong, Bang Pakong and Tapi Rivers. It contributes to the tourism sector owing to its clear shallow waters along the coasts in the Southern Region and the Kra Isthmus. The Gulf of Thailand is also an industrial center of Thailand with the kingdom's main port in Sattahip along with being the entry gates for Bangkok's Inland Seaport. The Andaman Sea is regarded as Thailand's most precious natural resource as it hosts the most popular and luxurious resorts in Asia. Phuket, Krabi, Ranong, Phang Nga and Trang and their lush islands all lay along the coasts of the Andaman Sea and despite the 2004 Tsunami, they continue to be and ever more so, the playground of the rich and elite of Asia and the world. Plans have resurfaced of a logistical connection of the two bodies of water which would be coined the Thai Canal, analogous to the Suez and the Panama Canal. Such an idea has been greeted with positive accounts by Thai politicians as it would cut fees charged by the Ports of Singapore, improve ties with China and India, lower shipping times and increase ship safety owing to pirate fears in the Strait of Melaka and, support the Thai government's policy of being the logistical hub for Southeast Asia. The ports would improve economic conditions in the south of Thailand, which relies heavily on tourism income, and it would also change the structure of the Thai economy moving it closer to a services center of Asia. The canal would be a major engineering project and has expected costs of 20–30 billion dollars. Economy: Main article: Economy of Thailand Bangkok, the largest city, business and industrial center of the country Bangkok, All Seasons Place, Bangkok, Thailand Recoures Building Bangkok, Bangkok at night, view from State Tower View of the Business district skyline in Bangkok Night view of Bangkok city Thailand is the largest rice exporter in the world Thailand is an emerging economy and considered as a newly industrialized country. After enjoying the world's highest growth rate from 1985 to 1996 – averaging 9.4% annually – increased pressure on Thailand's currency, the baht, in 1997, the year in which the economy contracted by 1.9% led to a crisis that uncovered financial sector weaknesses and forced the Chavalit Yongchaiyudh administration to float the currency, however, Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was forced to resign after his cabinet came under fire for its slow response to the crisis. The baht was pegged at 25 to the US dollar from 1978 to 1997, however, the baht reached its lowest point of 56 to the US dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted by 10.8% that year. This collapse prompted the Asian financial crisis. Thailand's economy started to recover in 1999, expanding 4.2% and 4.4% in 2000, thanks largely to strong exports. Growth (2.2%) was dampened by the softening of the global economy in 2001, but picked up in the subsequent years owing to strong growth in Asia, a relatively weak baht encouraging exports and increasing domestic spending as a result of several mega projects and incentives of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known as Thaksinomics. Growth in 2002, 2003 and 2004 was 5–7% annually. Growth in 2005, 2006 and 2007 hovered around 4–5%. Due both to the weakening of the US dollar and an increasingly strong Thai currency, by March 2008, the dollar was hovering around the 33 baht mark. Thailand exports an increasing value of over $105 billion worth of goods and services annually. Major exports include Thai rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewellery, cars, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world‘s no.1 exporter of rice, exporting more than 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually. Rice is the most important crop in the country. Thailand has the highest percentage of arable land, 27.25%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. About 55% of the arable land area is used for rice production. Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer parts and cars, while tourism in Thailand makes up about 6% of the economy. Prostitution in Thailand and sex tourism also form a de facto part of the economy. Cultural milieu combined with poverty and the lure of money have caused prostitution and sex tourism in particular to flourish in Thailand. One estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at US$4.3 billion per year or about three percent of the Thai economy. According to research by Chulalongkorn University on the Thai illegal economy, prostitution in Thailand in the period between 1993 and 1995, made up around 2.7% of the GDP. It is believed that at least 10% of tourist dollars are spent on the sex trade. The economy of Thailand is an emerging economy which is heavily export- dependent, with exports accounting for more than two thirds of gross domestic product (GDP) The exchange rate is Baht 33.00/USD. Thailand has a GDP worth 8.5 trillion Baht (on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis), or US$627 billion (PPP). This classifies Thailand as the 2nd largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. Despite this, Thailand ranks midway in the wealth spread in Southeast Asia as it is the 4th richest nation according to GDP per capita, after Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. It functions as an anchor economy for the neighboring developing economies of Laos, Burma, and Cambodia. Thailand's recovery from the 1997–1998 Asian financial crisis depended mainly on exports, among various other factors. Thailand ranks high among the world's automotive export industries along with manufacturing of electronic goods. Most of Thailand's labor force is working in agriculture. However, the relative contribution of agriculture to GDP has declined while exports of goods and services have increased. Tourism revenues are on the rise. With the instability surrounding the recent coup and the military rule, however, the GDP growth of Thailand has settled at around 4-5% from previous highs of 5-7% under the previous civilian administration, as investor and consumer confidence has been degraded somewhat due to political uncertainty. The incumbent elected civilian administration under Samak Sundaravej in power from January 29 to September 9, 2008 stated that the economy will have grown by 5.5% to 6% by the end of 2008. Due to rising oil and food prices, the annual inflation rate for 2008 shot up to 9.2% in July; a 10-year high, but it will unlikely reach double digit rates later this year as oil and food prices are stabilizing Thailand generally uses the metric system but traditional units of measurement for land area are used, and imperial measure (feet, inches etc.) are occasionally used with building materials such as wood and plumbing sizes. Years are numbered as B.E. (Buddhist Era) in education, the civil service, government, and on contracts and newspaper datelines; in banking, however, and increasingly in industry and commerce, standard Western year (Christian or Common Era) counting prevails. Demographics: Main article: Demographics of Thailand Language The official language of Thailand is Thai, a Kradai language closely related to Lao, Shan in Burma, and numerous smaller languages spoken in an arc from Hainan and Yunnan south to the Chinese border. It is the principal language of education and government and spoken throughout the country. The standard is based on the dialect of the central Thai people, and it is written in the Thai alphabet, an abugida script that evolved from the Khmer script. Several other dialects exist, and coincide with the regional designations. Southern Thai is spoken in the southern provinces, and Northern Thai is spoken in the provinces that were formally part of the independent kingdom of Lannathai. Thailand is also host to several other minority languages, the largest of which is the Lao dialect of Isan spoken in the northeastern provinces. Although sometimes considered a Thai dialect, it is a Lao dialect, and the region in where it is traditionally spoken was historically part of the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang. In the far south, Yawi, a dialect of Malay, is the primary language of the Malay Muslims. Chinese dialects are also spoken by the large Chinese population, Teochew being the dialect best represented. Numerous tribal languages are also spoken, including those belonging to the Mon- Khmer family, such as Mon, Khmer, Viet, Mlabri; Austronesian family, such as Cham, Moken, and Orang Asli, Sino-Tibetan family such as Lawa, Akhan, and Karen; and other Tai languages such as Nyaw, Phu Thai, and Saek. Hmong is a member of the Hmong-Mien languages, which is now regarded as a language family of its own. English is a mandatory school subject, but the number of fluent speakers remains very low, especially outside the cities. Religion: Main article: Religion in Thailand Thailand religiosity Religion percent Buddhism 94.6% Islam 4.6% Christianity 0.7% Others 0.1% Thailand has a prevalence of Buddhism that ranks among the highest in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism. According to the last census (2000) 94.6% of the total population are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims are the second largest religious group in Thailand at 4.6%. Thailand's southernmost provinces – Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and part of Songkhla Chumphon have dominant Muslim populations, consisting of both ethnic Thai and Malay. The southern tip of Thailand is mostly ethnically Malay, and most Malays are Sunni Muslims. Christians represent 0.5% of the population. A tiny but influential community of Sikhs in Thailand and some Hindus also live in the country's cities, and are heavily engaged in retail commerce. There is also a small Jewish community in Thailand, dating back to the 17th century. Culture: Main article: Culture of Thailand See also: Music of Thailand and Isan Theravada Buddhism is highly respected in Thailand. Thai culture has been shaped by many influences, including Chinese, Lao, Burmese, Cambodian, and Indian. Its traditions incorporate a great deal of influence from India, China, Cambodia, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Thailand's national religion Theravada Buddhism is important to modern Thai identity. Thai Buddhism has evolved over time to include many regional beliefs originating from Hinduism, animism as well as ancestor worship. The official calendar in Thailand is based on the Eastern version of the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian (western) calendar. For example, the year AD 2010 is 2553 BE in Thailand. Several different ethnic groups, many of which are marginalized, populate Thailand. Some of these groups overlap into Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia and have mediated change between their traditional local culture, national Thai and global cultural influences. Overseas Chinese also form a significant part of Thai society, particularly in and around Bangkok. Their successful integration into Thai society has allowed for this group to hold positions of economic and political power. The traditional Thai greeting, the wai, is generally offered first by the younger of the two people meeting, with their hands pressed together, fingertips pointing upwards as the head is bowed to touch their face to the hands, usually coinciding with the spoken word "Sawasdee khrap" for male speakers, and "Sawasdee ka" for females. The elder then is to respond afterwards in the same way. Social status and position, such as in government, will also have an influence on who performs the wai first. For example, although one may be considerably older than a provincial governor, when meeting it is usually the visitor who pays respect first. When children leave to go to school, they are taught to wai to their parents to represent their respect for them. They do the same when they come back. The wai is a sign of respect and reverence for another, similar to the namaste greeting of India and Nepal. Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand and its native martial art call "Muay". In the past "Muay" was taught to royal soldiers for combat on battlefield if unarmed. After they retired from the army, these soldiers often became Buddhist monks and stayed at the temples. Most of the Thai people's lives are closely tied to Buddhism and temples; they often send their sons to be educated with the monks. ‖Muay‖ is also one of the subjects taught in the temples. Muay Thai achieved popularity all over the world in the 1990s. Although similar martial arts styles exist in other Southeast Asian countries, few enjoy the recognition that Muay Thai has received with its full-contact rules allowing strikes including elbows, throws and knees. Association football, however, has possibly overtaken Muay Thai's position as most widely viewed and liked sport in contemporary Thai society and it is not uncommon to see Thais cheering their favourite English Premier League teams on television and walking around in replica kits. Another widely enjoyed pastime, and once a competitive sport, is kite flying. Thai seafood curry, an example of Thai cuisine. Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty. Some common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic, chillies, lime juice, lemon grass, and fish sauce. The staple food in Thailand is rice, particularly jasmine variety rice (also known as Hom Mali rice) which is included in almost every meal. Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice, and Thais domestically consume over 100 kg of milled rice per person per year. Over 5000 varieties of rice from Thailand are preserved in the rice gene bank of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in the Philippines. The king of Thailand is the official patron of IRRI. Like most Asian cultures, respect towards ancestors is an essential part of Thai spiritual practice. Thais have a strong sense of hospitality and generosity, but also a strong sense of social hierarchy. Seniority is an important concept in Thai culture. Elders have by tradition ruled in family decisions or ceremonies. Older siblings have duties to younger ones. Taboos in Thailand include touching someone's head or pointing with the feet, as the head is considered the most sacred and the foot the dirtiest part of the body.Thai society has been influenced in recent years by its widely available multi- language press and media. There are some English and numerous Thai and Chinese newspapers in circulation; most Thai popular magazines use English headlines as a chic glamor factor. Many large businesses in Bangkok operate in English as well as other languages. Thailand is the largest newspaper market in Southeast Asia with an estimated circulation of at least 13 million copies daily in 2003. Even upcountry, out of Bangkok, media flourishes. For example, according to Thailand's Public Relations Department Media Directory 2003-2004, the nineteen provinces of Isan, Thailand's northeastern region, hosted 116 newspapers along with radio, TV and cable. Sports: Main articles: Thailand at the Olympics and Thai national football team Thammasat University Stadium national sport Rajamangala National Stadium Muay Thai is Thailand's national sport Muay Thai Pone Kingpetch, 1960s Muay Thai champion. Thai boxing Muay Thai (Thai: ยไทย, RTGS: Muai Thai, IPA: [muɛj tʰɑj], lit. "Thai Boxing") is a form of hard martial art practiced in large parts of the world, including Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. The art is similar to others in Southeast Asia such as: Pradal Serey in Cambodia, Lethwei in Burma, Tomoi in Malaysia, and Muay Lao in Laos. Muay Thai has a long history in Thailand and is the country's national sport. Pone Kingpetch was a Thai boxer, from Hua Hin, who defeated Pascal Perez, an Argentinean boxer to become the first Thai WBC Flyweight Champion on 16 April 1960 and later a 3 time WBC Flyweight Champion. Pone Kingpetch originally known as Mana Sidokbuab, assumed this name from his training camp; Kingpetch. Thai fighters traditionally take on the name of the camps they train for. That owner of the gym and head coach‘s, Thongtos Intratat is present in these pictures. Thongtos Intratat is also known for being the first person to officially formulate and bottle Namman Muay (Thai Liniment) which is desired for his fighter, Pone Kingpetch. Namman Muay (Thai Liniment) is still only produced by his direct descendants in Thailand. Traditional Muay Thai practiced today varies significantly from the ancient art Muay Boran and uses kicks, punches and knee and elbow strikes in a ring with gloves similar to those used in Western boxing and this has led to Thailand gaining medals at the Olympic Games in Boxing. Sepak Takraw Takraw (Thai: ะ ร ) is a sport native to Thailand , which the players hit a rattan ball and only be allowed to use their feet, knees, chest and head to touch the ball. Sepak Takraw is a form of this sport which appears in volley ball style, the players must volley a ball over a net and force it to hit the ground on oppnent's side. It is a popular in other countries in Southeast Asia also. Rugby Rugby is also a growing sport in Thailand with the Thailand national rugby union team rising to be ranked 61st in the world. Thailand became the first country in the world to host an international 80 kg welterweight rugby tournament in 2005. The national domestic Thailand Rugby Union (TRU) competition includes several universities and services teams such as Chulalongkorn University, Mahasarakham University, Kasetsart University, Prince of Songkla University, Thammasat University, Rangsit University, the Thai Police, the Thai Army, the Thai Navy and the Royal Thai Air Force. Local sports clubs which also compete in the TRU include the British Club of Bangkok, the Southerners Sports Club (Bangkok) and the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. Golf Further information: Golf in Thailand Thailand has been called the Golf Capital of Asia as it is a popular destination for golf. The country attracts a large number of golfers from Japan, Korea, Singapore, South Africa and Western countries who come to play golf in Thailand every year. The growing popularity of golf, especially among the middle classes and expats, is evident since there are more than 200 world-class golf courses nationwide, and some of them are chosen to host PGA and LPGA tournaments, such as Amata Spring Country Club, Alpine Golf & Sports Club, Thai Country Club and Black Mountain Golf Club. Other sports Other sports in Thailand are slowly growing as the country develops its sporting infrastructure. The success in sports like weightlifting and Taekwondo at the last two Summer Olympic Games has demonstrated that boxing is no longer the only medal chance for Thailand. Football Thammasat Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. It is currently used mostly for football matches. The stadium holds 25,000. It is located in Thammasat University's Rangsit campus. It was built for the 1998 Asian Games by construction firm Christiani and Nielsen, the same company that constructed the Democracy Monument in Bangkok. Its appearance is that of a scaled down version of the Rajamangala Stadium. The tribunes form a continuous ring which are quite low behind each goal but rise up on each side. Unlike the Rajamangala though, Thammasat has a roof covering both side tribunes. Most striking about this stadium are the floodlights. Thai architects usually favour concrete pylons but these are the steel variety. As viewed from the exterior of the stadium the base of each pylon seems to grip the outside of the stadium and they dramatically lean over the tribunes so as to better illuminate the playing area. Thammasat was going to be used for PEA FC's match against Singapore Armed Forces FC in an Asian Champions League qualifier in February 2009 but the pitch was deemed unplayable and the match was switched to the Rajamangala. Rajamangala National Stadium is the biggest sporting arena in Thailand. It currently has a capacity of 65,000. It is located in Bang Kapi, Bangkok. The stadium was built in 1998 for the 1998 Asian Games and is the home stadium of Thailand national football team up to present. International rankings: Main article: International rankings of Thailand Organization Survey Ranking 50 out of Heritage Foundation Indices of Economic Freedom 157 A.T. Kearney/Foreign Policy Global Services Location Index 4 out of 50 Magazine 2009 134 out of Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 169 84 out of Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 179 United Nations Development 78 out of Human Development Index Programme 177 Global Competitiveness 34 out of World Economic Forum Report(2008) 125 Thank you!!!
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