Thailand[a] (/ˈtaɪlænd, ˈtaɪlənd/ TY-land, TY-lənd), historically known as Siam[b] (/saɪˈæm, ˈsaɪæm/), officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia spanning 513,120 square kilometres (198,120 sq mi), with a population of almost 70 million. It is bordered to the north by Myanmar 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 Myanmar. Thailand also shares maritime borders with Vietnam to the southeast, and Indonesia and India to the southwest. Thailand has experienced multiple coups and military dictatorships. From 2014 to 2019 it was formally under military rule, until the military introduced a new constitution and held elections which established the framework of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. In practice, however, structural advantages in the constitution have ensured the military’s hold on power. Bangkok is the nation’s capital and largest city.
Kingdom of Thailand
Flag of Thailand
Emblem of Thailand
Phleng Chāt Thai
“Thai National Anthem”
Royal anthem: สรรเสริญพระบารมี
Sansoen Phra Barami
“Glorify His Prestige”
Thailand (orthographic projection).svg
Show map of ASEAN
Location of Thailand (green)
– in Asia (light green & dark grey)
– in ASEAN (light green)
and largest city
IsanKam MueangPak TaiMalayEnglish
Ethnic groups (2019)
–39% Central Thai
–10% Khon Muang
–9% Southern Thai
0.003% No religion
Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy under a military dictatorship
Vajiralongkorn (Rama X)
• Prime Minister
• Upper house
• Lower house
House of Representatives
• Sukhothai Kingdom
• Ayutthaya Kingdom
• Thonburi Kingdom
• Rattanakosin Kingdom
6 April 1782
• Constitutional monarchy
24 June 1932
• Current constitution
6 April 2017
513,120 km2 (198,120 sq mi) (50th)
• Water (%)
0.4 (2,230 km2)
• 2021 estimate
Neutral increase 69,950,850 (20th)
• 2010 census
132.1/km2 (342.1/sq mi) (88th)
Increase $1.428 trillion (22nd)
• Per capita
Increase $20,388 (69th)
Increase $585.586 billion (25th)
• Per capita
Increase $8,356 (80th)
Positive decrease 34.9
high · 79th
Baht (฿) (THB)
ISO 3166 code
You may need rendering support to display the Thai text in this article correctly.
Tai peoples migrated from southwestern China to mainland Southeast Asia from the 11th century. Indianised kingdoms such as the Mon, Khmer Empire and Malay states ruled the region, competing with Thai states such as the Kingdoms of Ngoenyang, Sukhothai, Lan Na and Ayutthaya, which also rivalled each other. European contact began in 1511 with a Portuguese diplomatic mission to Ayutthaya, which became a regional power by the end of the 15th century. Ayutthaya reached its peak during cosmopolitan Narai’s reign, gradually declining thereafter until being ultimately destroyed in the Burmese–Siamese War. Taksin quickly reunified the fragmented territory and established the short-lived Thonburi Kingdom. He was succeeded in 1782 by Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, the first monarch of the current Chakri dynasty.
Throughout the era of Western imperialism in Asia, Siam remained the only nation in the region to avoid being colonised by foreign powers, although it was often forced to cede both territory and trade concessions in unequal treaties. The Siamese system of government was centralised and transformed into a modern unitary absolute monarchy in the reign of Chulalongkorn. In World War I, Siam sided with the Allies, a political decision made in order to amend the unequal treaties. Following a bloodless revolution in 1932, it became a constitutional monarchy and changed its official name to Thailand, which was an ally of Japan in World War II. In the late 1950s, a military coup under Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat revived the monarchy’s historically influential role in politics. Thailand became a major ally of the United States, and played an anti-communist role in the region as a member of the failed SEATO, but since 1975, had sought to improve relations with Communist China and Thailand’s neighbors. Apart from a brief period of parliamentary democracy in the mid-1970s, Thailand has periodically alternated between democracy and military rule. Since the 2000s, it has been caught in a series of bitter political conflict between supporters and opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra, which culminated in two coups, in 2014, and the establishment of its current constitution, and ongoing pro-democracy protests.
Thailand is a middle power in global affairs, and a founding member of ASEAN; ranking high in the Human Development Index. It has the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, and the 22nd-largest in the world by PPP. Thailand is classified as a newly industrialised economy; manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism are leading sectors of the economy.
Thailand,[c] officially the Kingdom of Thailand,[d] was formerly known as the exonym Siam[e] by outsiders prior to 1949. According to George Cœdès, the word Thai (ไทย) means ‘free man’ in the Thai language, “differentiating the Thai from the natives encompassed in Thai society as serfs”.: 197 According to Chit Phumisak, Thai (ไท) simply means ‘people’ or ‘human being’, his investigation shows that some rural areas used the word “Thai” instead of the usual Thai word khon (คน) for people. According to Michel Ferlus, the ethnonyms Thai-Tai (or Thay-Tay) would have evolved from the etymon *k(ə)ri: ‘human being’.[f]
Thais often refer to their country using the polite form prathet Thai (Thai: ประเทศไทย), they also use the more colloquial term mueang Thai (Thai: เมืองไทย) or simply Thai; the word mueang, archaically referring to a city-state, is commonly used to refer to a city or town as the centre of a region. Ratcha Anachak Thai (Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย) means ‘kingdom of Thailand’ or ‘kingdom of Thai’. Etymologically, its components are: ratcha (Sanskrit: राजन्, rājan, ‘king, royal, realm’); -ana- (Pali āṇā ‘authority, command, power’, itself from the Sanskrit आज्ञा, ājñā, of the same meaning) -chak (from Sanskrit चक्र cakra- ‘wheel’, a symbol of power and rule). The Thai National Anthem (Thai: เพลงชาติ), written by Luang Saranupraphan during the patriotic 1930s, 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: ประเทศไทยรวมเลือดเนื้อชาติเชื้อไทย), ‘Thailand is the unity of Thai flesh and blood’.
The former name Siam may have originated from Sanskrit श्याम (śyāma, ‘dark’) or Mon ရာမည (rhmañña, ‘stranger’). The names Shan and A-hom seem to be variants of the same word. The word Śyâma is possibly not its origin, but a learned and artificial distortion.[clarification needed] Another theory is the name derives from the Chinese calling this region ‘Xian'[g]: 8 A further possibility is that Mon-speaking peoples migrating south called themselves syem as do the autochthonous Mon-Khmer-speaking inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula.
SPPM Mongkut Rex Siamensium, King Mongkut’s signature
The signature of King Mongkut (r. 1851–1868) reads SPPM (Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha) Mongkut Rex Siamensium (Mongkut, King of the Siamese), and the usage of the name in the first international Bowring Treaty giving the name Siam official status until 24 June 1939 when it was changed to “Thailand”. Thailand was renamed Siam from 1946 to 1948, after which it again reverted to “Thailand”.
Main article: History of Thailand
Main article: Prehistoric Thailand
See also: History of Thailand and Tai peoples
Map showing geographic distribution of Tai-Kadai linguistic family. Arrows represent general pattern of the migration of Tai-speaking tribes along the rivers and over the lower passes.: 27
There is evidence of continuous human habitation in present-day Thailand from 20,000 years ago to the present day.: 4 The earliest evidence of rice growing is dated at 2,000 BCE.: 4 Bronze appeared circa 1,250–1,000 BCE.: 4 The site of Ban Chiang in northeast Thailand currently ranks as the earliest known centre of copper and bronze production in Southeast Asia. Iron appeared around 500 BCE.: 5 The Kingdom of Funan was the first and most powerful Southeast Asian kingdom at the time (2nd century BCE).: 5 The Mon people established the principalities of Dvaravati and Kingdom of Hariphunchai in the 6th century. The Khmer people established the Khmer empire, centred in Angkor, in the 9th century.: 7 Tambralinga, a Malay state controlling trade through the Malacca Strait, rose in the 10th century.: 5 The Indochina peninsula was heavily influenced by the culture and religions of India from the time of the Kingdom of Funan to that of the Khmer Empire.
The Thai people are of the Tai ethnic group, characterised by common linguistic roots.: 2 Chinese chronicles first mention the Tai peoples in the 6th century BCE. While there are many assumptions regarding the origin of Tai peoples, David K. Wyatt, a historian of Thailand, argued that their ancestors which at the present inhabit Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, India, and China came from the Điện Biên Phủ area between the 5th and the 8th century.: 6 Thai people began migrating into present-day Thailand around the 11th century, which Mon and Khmer people occupied at the time. Thus Thai culture was influenced by Indian, Mon, and Khmer cultures.
According to French historian George Cœdès, “The Thai first enter history of Farther India in the eleventh century with the mention of Syam slaves or prisoners of war in Champa epigraphy”, and “in the twelfth century, the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat” where “a group of warriors” are described as Syam.: 190–191, 194–195
Early states and Sukhothai Kingdom
Main articles: Initial states of Thailand and Sukhothai Kingdom
Sukhothai and neighbours, end of 13th century CE.
Phra Achana, Wat Si Chum, Sukhothai Historical Park.
The ruins of Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai Historical Park.
After the decline of the Khmer Empire and Kingdom of Pagan in the early-13th century, various states thrived in their place. The domains of Tai people existed from the northeast of present-day India to the north of present-day Laos and to the Malay peninsula.: 38–9 During the 13th century, Tai people had already settled in the core land of Dvaravati and Lavo Kingdom to Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south. There are, however, no records detailing the arrival of the Tais.: 50–1
Around 1240, Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao, a local Tai ruler, rallied the people to rebel against the Khmer. He later crowned himself the first king of Sukhothai Kingdom in 1238.: 52–3 Mainstream Thai historians count Sukhothai as the first kingdom of Thai people. Sukhothai expanded furthest during the reign of Ram Khamhaeng (r. 1279–1298). However, it was mostly a network of local lords who swore fealty to Sukhothai, not directly controlled by it.: 55–6 He is believed have invented Thai script and Thai ceramics were an important export in his era. Sukhothai embraced Theravada Buddhism in the reign of Maha Thammaracha I (1347–1368).
To the north, Mangrai, who descended from a local ruler lineage of Ngoenyang, founded the kingdom of Lan Na in 1292, centered in Chiang Mai. He unified the surrounding area and his dynasty would rule the kingdom continuously for the next two centuries. He also created a network of states through political alliances to the east and north of the Mekong.: 8 While in the port in Lower Chao Phraya Basin, a federation around Phetchaburi, Suphan Buri, Lopburi, and the Ayutthaya area was created in the 11th century.: 8
Main article: Ayutthaya Kingdom
Ayutthaya and neighbours, c. 1540 CE.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Ayutthaya Historical Park.
Siamese Embassy To Louis XIV, in 1686, a painting by Nicolas III de Larmessin.
According to the most widely accepted version of its origin, the Ayutthaya Kingdom rose from the earlier, nearby Lavo Kingdom and Suvarnabhumi with Uthong as its first king. Ayutthaya was a patchwork of self-governing principalities and tributary provinces owing allegiance to the King of Ayutthaya under the mandala system.: 355 Its initial expansion was through conquest and political marriage. Before the end of the 15th century, Ayutthaya invaded the Khmer Empire three times and sacked its capital Angkor.: 26 Ayutthaya then became a regional power in place of the Khmer. Constant interference of Sukhothai effectively made it a vassal state of Ayutthaya and it was finally incorporated into the kingdom. Borommatrailokkanat brought about bureaucratic reforms which lasted into the 20th century and created a system of social hierarchy called sakdina, where male commoners were conscripted as corvée labourers for six months a year.: 107 Ayutthaya was interested in the Malay peninsula, but failed to conquer the Malacca Sultanate which was supported by the Chinese Ming Dynasty.: 11, 13
European contact and trade started in the early-16th century, with the envoy of Portuguese duke Afonso de Albuquerque in 1511, Portugal became an allied and ceded some soldiers to King Rama Thibodi II. The Portuguese were followed in the 17th century by the French, Dutch, and English. Rivalry for supremacy over Chiang Mai and the Mon people pitted Ayutthaya against the Burmese Kingdom. Several wars with its ruling dynasty Taungoo Dynasty starting in the 1540s in the reign of Tabinshwehti and Bayinnaung were ultimately ended with the capture of the capital in 1570.: 146–7 Then was a brief period of vassalage to Burma until Naresuan proclaimed independence in 1584.: 11
Ayutthaya then sought to improve relations with European powers for many successive reigns. The kingdom especially prospered during cosmopolitan Narai’s reign (1656–1688) when some European travelers regarded Ayutthaya as an Asian great power, alongside China and India.: ix However, growing French influence later in his reign was met with nationalist sentiment and led eventually to the Siamese revolution of 1688.: 185–6 However, overall relations remained stable, with French missionaries still active in preaching Christianity.: 186
After a bloody period of dynastic struggle, Ayutthaya entered into what has been called the Siamese “golden age”, a relatively peaceful episode in the second quarter of the 18th century when art, literature, and learning flourished. There were seldom foreign wars, apart from conflict with the Nguyễn Lords for control of Cambodia starting around 1715. The last fifty years of the kingdom witnessed bloody succession crises, where there were purges of court officials and able generals for many consecutive reigns. In 1765, a combined 40,000-strong force of Burmese armies invaded it from the north and west.: 250 The Burmese under the new Alaungpaya dynasty quickly rose to become a new local power by 1759. After a 14-month siege, the capital city’s walls fell and the city was burned in April 1767.: 218
Main article: Thonburi Kingdom
Taksin the Great enthroned himself as a Thai king, 1767.
The capital and much territories lied in chaos after the war. The former capital was occupied by the Burmese garrison army and five local leaders declared themselves overlords, including the lords of Sakwangburi, Phitsanulok, Pimai, Chanthaburi, and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Chao Tak, a capable military leader, proceeded to make himself a lord by right of conquest, beginning with the legendary sack of Chanthaburi. Based at Chanthaburi, Chao Tak raised troops and resources, and sent a fleet up the Chao Phraya to take the fort of Thonburi. In the same year, Chao Tak was able to retake Ayutthaya from the Burmese only seven months after the fall of the city.
Chao Tak then crowned himself as Taksin and proclaimed Thonburi as temporary capital in the same year. He also quickly subdued the other warlords. His forces engaged in wars with Burma, Laos, and Cambodia, which successfully drove the Burmese out of Lan Na in 1775,: 225 captured Vientiane in 1778: 227–8 and tried to install a pro-Thai king in Cambodia in the 1770s. In his final years there was a coup, caused supposedly by his “insanity”, and eventually Taksin and his sons were executed by his longtime companion General Chao Phraya Chakri (the future Rama I). He was the first king of the ruling Chakri Dynasty and founder of the Rattanakosin Kingdom on 6 April 1782.
Modernisation and centralisation
Main article: Rattanakosin Kingdom
Detailed map of Siam’s provinces, vassals, and monthons in 1900
Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew. Considered the sacred palladium of Thailand.
Chulalongkorn with Nicholas II in Saint Petersburg, 1897.
Under Rama I (1782–1809), Rattanakosin successfully defended against Burmese attacks and put an end to Burmese incursions. He also created suzerainty over large portions of Laos and Cambodia. In 1821, Briton John Crawfurd was sent to negotiate a new trade agreement with Siam – the first sign of an issue which was to dominate 19th century Siamese politics. Bangkok signed the Burney Treaty in 1826, after the British victory in the First Anglo-Burmese War.: 281 Anouvong of Vientiane, who mistakenly held the belief that Britain was about to launch an invasion of Bangkok, started the Lao rebellion in 1826 which was suppressed.: 283–5 Vientiane was destroyed and a large number of Lao people were relocated to Khorat Plateau as a result.: 285–6 Bangkok also waged several wars with Vietnam, where Siam successfully regained hegemony over Cambodia.: 290–2
From the late-19th century, Siam tried to rule the ethnic groups in the realm as colonies.: 308 In the reign of Mongkut (1851–1868), who recognised the potential threat Western powers posed to Siam, his court contacted the British government directly to defuse tensions.: 311 A British mission led by Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong, led to the signing of the Bowring Treaty, the first of many unequal treaties with Western countries. This, however, brought trade and economic development to Siam. The unexpected death of Mongkut from malaria led to the reign of underage Prince Chulalongkorn, with Somdet Chaophraya Sri Suriwongse (Chuang Bunnag) acting as regent.: 327
Chulalongkorn (r. 1868–1910) initiated centralisation, set up a privy council, and abolished slavery and the corvée system. The Front Palace crisis of 1874 stalled attempts at further reforms.: 331–3 In the 1870s and 1880s, he incorporated the protectorates up north into the kingdom proper, which later expanded to the protectorates in the northeast and the south.: 334–5 He established twelve krom in 1888, which were equivalent to present-day ministries.: 347 The crisis of 1893 erupted, caused by French demands for Laotian territory east of Mekong.: 350–3 Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation never to have been colonised by a Western power, in part because Britain and France agreed in 1896 to make the Chao Phraya valley a buffer state. Not until the 20th century could Siam renegotiate every unequal treaty dating from the Bowring Treaty, including extraterritoriality. The advent of the monthon system marked the creation of the modern Thai nation-state.: 362–3 In 1905, there were unsuccessful rebellions in the ancient Patani area, Ubon Ratchathani, and Phrae in opposition to an attempt to blunt the power of local lords.: 371–3
The Palace Revolt of 1912 was a failed attempt by Western-educated military officers to overthrow the Siamese monarchy.: 397 Vajiravudh (r. 1910–1925) responded by propaganda for the entirety of his reign,: 402 which promoted the idea of the Thai nation.: 404 In 1917, Siam joined the First World War on the side of the Allies.: 407 In the aftermath Siam had a seat at the Paris Peace Conference, and gained freedom of taxation and the revocation of extraterritoriality.: 408
Constitutional monarchy, World War II and Cold War
Main articles: Thailand in World War II and History of Thailand (1932–1973)
Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, the longest serving Prime Minister of Thailand
A bloodless revolution took place in 1932, in which Prajadhipok was forced to grant the country’s first constitution, thereby ending centuries of feudal and absolute monarchy. The combined results of economic hardships brought on by the Great Depression, sharply falling rice prices, and a significant reduction in public spending caused discontent among aristocrats.: 25 In 1933, a counter-revolutionary rebellion occurred which aimed to reinstate absolute monarchy, but failed.: 446–8 Prajadhipok’s conflict with the government eventually led to abdication. The government selected Ananda Mahidol, who was studying in Switzerland, to be the new king.: 448–9
Later that decade, the army wing of Khana Ratsadon came to dominate Siamese politics. Plaek Phibunsongkhram who became premier in 1938, started political oppression and took an openly anti-royalist stance.: 457 His government adopted nationalism and Westernisation, anti-Chinese and anti-French policies.: 28 In 1939, there was a decree changing the name of the country from “Siam” to “Thailand”. In 1941, Thailand was in a brief conflict with Vichy France resulting in Thailand gaining some Lao and Cambodian territories.: 462 On 8 December 1941, the Empire of Japan launched an invasion of Thailand, and fighting broke out shortly before Phibun ordered an armistice. Japan was granted free passage, and on 21 December Thailand and Japan signed a military alliance with a secret protocol, wherein the Japanese government agreed to help Thailand regain lost territories. The Thai government declared war on the United States and the United Kingdom.: 465 The Free Thai Movement was launched both in Thailand and abroad to oppose the government and Japanese occupation.: 465–6 After the war ended in 1945, Thailand signed formal agreements to end the state of war with the Allies. The main Allied powers had ignored Thailand’s declaration of war.
Coronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
In June 1946, young King Ananda was found dead under mysterious circumstances. His younger brother Bhumibol Adulyadej ascended to the throne. Thailand joined the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) to become an active ally of the United States in 1954.: 493 Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat launched a coup in 1957, which removed Khana Ratsadon from politics. His rule (premiership 1959–1963) was autocratic; he built his legitimacy around the god-like status of the monarch and by channelling the government’s loyalty to the king.: 511 His government improved the country’s infrastructure and education.: 514 After the United States joined the Vietnam War in 1961, there was a secret agreement wherein the U.S. promised to protect Thailand.: 523
The period brought about increasing modernisation and Westernisation of Thai society. Rapid urbanisation occurred when the rural populace sought work in growing cities. Rural farmers gained class consciousness and were sympathetic to the Communist Party of Thailand.: 528 Economic development and education enabled the rise of a middle class in Bangkok and other cities.: 534 In October 1971, there was a large demonstration against the dictatorship of Thanom Kittikachorn (premiership 1963–1973), which led to civilian casualties.: 541–3 Bhumibol installed Sanya Dharmasakti (premiership 1973–1975) to replace him, making it the first time that the king intervened in Thai politics directly since 1932. The aftermath of the event marked a short-lived parliamentary democracy, often called the “era when democracy blossomed” (ยุคประชาธิปไตยเบ่งบาน).
Main articles: History of Thailand (1973–2001) and History of Thailand (2001–present)
See also: South Thailand insurgency and 2020–2022 Thai protests
Constant unrest and instability, as well as fear of a communist takeover after the fall of Saigon, made some ultra-right groups brand leftist students as communists.: 548 This culminated in the Thammasat University massacre in October 1976.: 548–9 A coup d’état on that day brought Thailand a new ultra-right government, which cracked down on media outlets, officials, and intellectuals, and fuelled the communist insurgency. Another coup the following year installed a more moderate government, which offered amnesty to communist fighters in 1978.
Fueled by Indochina refugee crisis, Vietnamese border raids and economic hardships, Prem Tinsulanonda became the Prime Minister from 1980 to 1988. The communists abandoned the insurgency by 1983. Prem’s premiership was dubbed “semi-democracy” because the Parliament was composed of all elected House and all appointed Senate. The 1980s also saw increasing intervention in politics by the monarch, who rendered two coups in 1981 and 1985 attempts against Prem failed. Thailand had its first elected prime minister in 1988.
Suchinda Kraprayoon, who was the coup leader in 1991 and said he would not seek to become prime minister, was nominated as one by the majority coalition government after the 1992 general election. This caused a popular demonstration in Bangkok, which ended with a bloody military crackdown. Bhumibol intervened in the event and signed an amnesty law, Suchinda then resigned.
United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, Red Shirts, protest in 2010
The 1997 Asian financial crisis originated in Thailand and ended the country’s 40 years of uninterrupted economic growth.: 3 Chuan Leekpai’s government took an IMF loan with unpopular provisions.[failed verification]: 576 The populist Thai Rak Thai party, led by prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, governed from 2001 until 2006. His policies were successful in reducing rural poverty and initiated universal healthcare in the country. A South Thailand insurgency escalated starting from 2004. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami hit the country, mostly in the south. Massive protests against Thaksin led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) started in his second term as prime minister and his tenure ended with a coup d’état in 2006. The junta installed a military government which lasted a year.
In 2007, a civilian government led by the Thaksin-allied People’s Power Party (PPP) was elected. Another protest led by PAD ended with the dissolution of PPP, and the Democrat Party led a coalition government in its place. The pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) protested both in 2009 and in 2010, the latter of which ended with a violent military crackdown causing more than 70 civilian deaths.
After the general election of 2011, the populist Pheu Thai Party won a majority and Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s younger sister, became prime minister. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee organised another anti-Shinawatra protest[h][unreliable source?] after the ruling party proposed an amnesty bill which would benefit Thaksin. Yingluck dissolved parliament and a general election was scheduled, but was invalidated by the Constitutional Court. The crisis ended with another coup d’état in 2014.
The country had been led by the National Council for Peace and Order, a military junta led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha until 2019. Civil and political rights were restricted, and the country saw a surge in lèse-majesté cases. Political opponents and dissenters were sent to “attitude adjustment” camps, academics mentioned as the rise of fascism. Bhumibol, the longest-reigning Thai king, died in 2016, and his son Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne. The referendum and adoption of Thailand’s current constitution happened under the junta’s rule.[i] The junta also bound future governments to a 20-year national strategy ‘road map’ it laid down, effectively locking the country into military-guided democracy. In 2019, the junta agreed to schedule a general election in March. Prayut continued his premiership with the support of Palang Pracharath Party-coalition in the House and junta-appointed Senate, amid allegations of election fraud. The ongoing pro-democracy protests were triggered by increasing royal prerogative, democratic and economic regression from the Military supported by the Monarchy staging 2014 Thai coup d’état, dissolution of the pro-democracy Future Forward Party, distrust in the 2019 general election and the current political system, forced disappearance and deaths of political activists including Wanchalearm Satsaksit, political corruption scandals, which brought forward unprecedented demands to reform the monarchy and the highest sense of republicanism in the country.
Main article: Geography of Thailand
Totalling 513,120 square kilometres (198,120 sq mi), Thailand is the 50th-largest country by total area. It is slightly smaller than Yemen and slightly larger than Spain.
Thailand comprises several distinct geographic regions, partly corresponding to the provincial groups. The north of the country is the mountainous area of the Thai highlands, with the highest point being Doi Inthanon in the Thanon Thong Chai Range 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.
Southern Thailand 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 indispensable water courses 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 eastern shore of the Gulf of Thailand is an industrial centre of Thailand with the kingdom’s premier deepwater port in Sattahip and its busiest commercial port, Laem Chabang.
The Andaman Sea is a precious natural resource as it hosts popular and luxurious resorts. Phuket, Krabi, Ranong, Phang Nga and Trang, and their islands, all lay along the coasts of the Andaman Sea and, despite the 2004 tsunami, they remain a tourist magnet.
Thailand map of Köppen climate classification.
Thailand’s climate is influenced by monsoon winds that have a seasonal character (the southwest and northeast monsoon).: 2 Most of the country is classified as Köppen’s tropical savanna climate. The majority of the south as well as the eastern tip of the east have a tropical monsoon climate. Parts of the south also have a tropical rainforest climate.
Thailand is divided into three seasons.: 2 The first is the rainy or southwest monsoon season (mid–May to mid–October), which is caused by southwestern wind from Indian Ocean.: 2 Rainfall is also contributed by Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and tropical cyclones.: 2 August and September being the wettest period of the year.: 2 The country receives a mean annual rainfall of 1,200 to 1,600 mm (47 to 63 in).: 4 Winter or the northeast monsoon occurs from mid–October until mid–February.: 2 Most of Thailand experiences dry weather with mild temperatures.: 2, 4 Summer or the pre–monsoon season runs from mid–February until mid–May.: 3 Due to its inland nature and latitude, the north, northeast, central and eastern parts of Thailand experience a long period of warm weather, where temperatures can reach up to 40 °C (104 °F) during March to May,: 3 in contrast to close to or below 0 °C (32 °F) in some areas in winter.: 3 Southern Thailand is characterised by mild weather year-round with less diurnal and seasonal variations in temperatures due to maritime influences.: 3 It receives abundant rainfall, particularly during October to November.: 2
Thailand is among the world’s ten countries that are most exposed to climate change. In particular, it is highly vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
Environment and wildlife
See also: Environmental issues in Thailand
The population of Asian elephants in Thailand’s wild has dropped to an estimated 2,000–3,000.
Thailand has a mediocre but improving performance in the global Environmental Performance Index (EPI) with an overall ranking of 91 out of 180 countries in 2016. The environmental areas where Thailand performs worst (i.e., highest ranking) are air quality (167), environmental effects of the agricultural industry (106), and the climate and energy sector (93), the later mainly because of a high CO2 emission per KWh produced. Thailand performs best (i.e., lowest ranking) in water resource management (66), with some major improvements expected for the future, and sanitation (68). The country had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 6.00/10, ranking it 88th globally out of 172 countries.
The population of elephants, the country’s national symbol, has fallen from 100,000 in 1850 to an estimated 2,000. Poachers have long hunted elephants for ivory and hides, and now increasingly for meat. Young elephants are often captured for use in tourist attractions or as work animals, where there have been claims of mistreatment. However, their use has declined since the government banned logging in 1989.
Poaching of protected species remains a major problem. Tigers, leopards, and other large cats are hunted for their pelts. Many are farmed or hunted for their meat, which supposedly has medicinal properties. Although such trade is illegal, the well-known Bangkok market Chatuchak is still known for the sale of endangered species. The practice of keeping wild animals as pets affects species such as Asiatic black bear, Malayan sun bear, white-handed lar, pileated gibbon, and binturong.