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Social and Culture

Social and Culture

Social and Culture

Historical Background

Thailand has a wide variety of fauna and flora and boasts wide ethnic diversity as well. Thanks to its abundant resources and fertile land, it has attracted peoples of many lands, who have settled and thrived here.

The origin of the Thais is not agreed on among academics. Three decades ago it could be said with presumed certainty that the Thais originated in northwestern Szechuan in China about 4,500 years ago and later migrated south to their present homeland. However, this theory has been altered by the discovery of remarkable prehistoric artifacts in the village of Ban Chiang in the Nong Han District of Udon Thani Province in the Northeast of Thailand. These include evidence of bronze metallurgy dating back 3,500 years, as well as other indications of a culture far more sophisticated than previously believed by archaeologists. It now appears that Thais might have originated here in Thailand and later scattered to various parts of Asia, including some parts of China.

"Siam" is the name by which the country was known to the world until 1939 and again between 1945 and 1949. On May 11, 1949, an official proclamation declared that the country would henceforth be known as "Thailand." The word "Thai" means "Free" and therefore "Thailand" means "Land of the Free."

Source : Thailand into the 2000s

Geography

Thailand covers an area of 514,000 square kilometres in the centre of the South-East Asian peninsula. It is bordered by Myanmar (Burma), Lao People's Democratic Republic, Cambodia and Malaysia, and has 2,420 kilometres of coast line on the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman sea. Thailand stretches 1,650 kilometres from north to south, and from east to west 780 kilometres at its widest point.

Land Use (2014 est.)

  • Arable land : 32.9%
  • Permanent Crops : 8.8%
  • Other : 58.3%


Source : United Nations Thailand (http://un.or.th/thailand/geography.html), Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Thailand)

Topography

Thailand is divided into four natural regions :

  • The North
  • The Central Plain, or Chao Phraya River Basin
  • The Northeast, or the Korat Plateau
  • The South, or Southern Peninsula

The North is a mountainous region comprising natural forests, ridges and deep, narrow, alluvial valleys. The major city in the region is Chiang Mai.

Central Thailand the basin of the Chao Phraya River, is a lush, fertile valley. It is the richest and most extensive rice-producing area in the country and has often been called the "Rice Bowl of Asia." Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is located in this region. It is also the country's largest city

The Northeast region is arid, characterized by rolling surfaces and undulating hills. Harsh climatic conditions often result in this region being subjected to floods and droughts.

The Southern region ranges from hilly to mountainous, with thick virgin forests and rich deposits of minerals and ores. The region is the center for production of rubber and cultivation of other tropical crops.

Climate

Thailand is a warm and rather humid tropical country. The climate is monsoonal, marked by a pronounced rainy season lasting from about May to September and a relatively dry season for the remainder of the year. Temperatures are highest in March and April and lowest in December and January. The average temperature is 28.1°C.

Population

The population of Thailand, estimated at 66.41 million (2018), includes ethnic Chinese, Malays, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Indians, and others. Immigration is controlled by a quota system. Thailand is the 20th-most populated country in the world and the average annual population growth rate is estimated to be around 0.29% (2018). It is projected to reach a stable population of 70.2 million by 2025. Bangkok alone is home to anywhere between 8 million and 10 million people, and it is by far the biggest city in the country.

Basics

  • Time Zone : GMT + 7 (12 hours ahead of East Coast USA during Standard Time)
  • Currency : Baht
  • Nationality : Thai
  • Climate : Tropical
Source : Mahidol Population Gazette (http://www.ipsr.mahidol.ac.th/ipsrbeta/en/Gazette.aspx) and Pocket World in Figures 2019 Edition

Religion

Buddhism, the national religion, is the professed faith of 94.6 percent of the population. Muslim (4.3%), Christianity (1%), others are embraced by the rest of the population. There is absolute religious freedom. The King of Thailand, under the constitution and in practice, is patron of all major religions.

Source : Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Retrieved data on 30 August 2017

Language

The official national language is Thai. It is tonal, uninflected, and predominantly uses monosyllabic words. Most polysyllabic words in the vocabulary have been borrowed, mainly from Khmer, Pali and Sanskrit. Dialects are spoken in rural areas. Other languages are Chinese and Malay. English, a compulsory subject in public schools, is widely spoken and understood, particularly in Bangkok and other major cities.

The Monarchy

The words of the Thai Royal Anthem, performed at most official ceremonies and before the start of every movie, may strike a Western ear as somewhat archaic.

After all, the system of absolute monarchy ended in 1932, following a revolution staged by a small group of disaffected civil servants and military men. Since then, Thai kings have ruled under a constitution; their powers theoretically no greater than those of European monarchs.

Thailand marked a historic milestone with the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13, 2016, a head of state who reigned for 70 years, was loved by his people and became the embodiment of Thai nationhood. Crowned on May 5, 1950, King Bhumibol pledged that, “We shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.” He more than fulfilled his pledge, performing his duties in support of establishing a solid foundation for development, and helping to put the country on a path to more rapid industrial growth. An important element of the King’s thinking and which he strongly emphasized was support for the country’s national development and working to improve the fundamentals of the economy.

Presently, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun ascended the throne as King Rama X of the Royal House of Chakri. He is the only son, the second of four children, of His Majesty King Bhumibol and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. His Majesty accompanied the late King and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on visits to the remote rural areas to help ease local people’s problems. Aware of the importance of education, His Majesty supports education and sports development at various levels for young people, who are regarded as the future of the country. He initiated the establishment of a scholarship in 2009. The scholarship program has been operating with his personal funds as well as donated funds presented to him for charitable purposes. The funds have been used to support education for needy students on a continual basis.

Flag

Thailand's national flag, ceremoniously raised each morning at 08.00 hrs and lowered at 18.00 hrs in every town and village, is composed of five horizontal bands of red, white, and blue. Outer bands of red representing the nation enclose equal inner bands of white evoking religion. The blue band, occupying the central one-third of the total area, symbolizes the monarchy. The harmony of design expresses the complementary nature of these three pillars of the Thai nation. The tri-colored flag, first introduced by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 1917, replaced an earlier design which featured a white elephant on a red background.

National Day

December 5th is the Thai National Day. It is a public holiday.

Public Holidays

Most national holidays and festivals are of a religious nature and serve to evoke a sense of devotion to the monarchy, the religion, and the nation. Some are celebrated by the lunar calendar and thus vary in date from year to year, while others are celebrated according to the solar calendar. Bank Holidays for 2019 are:

List of Legal Holidays to be Observed by the Bank of Thailand and Financial Institutions in Thailand during 2019

No.

Date

Details

1

Tuesday 1st January

New Year’s Day

2

Tuesday 19th February

Makha Bucha Day

3

Monday 8th April

Substitution for Chakri Memorial Day (Saturday 6th April 2019)

4

Monday 15th April

Songkran Festival

5

Tuesday 16th April

Substitution for Songkran Festival(Saturday 13th April 2019 and Sunday 14th April 2019)

6

Wednesday 1st May

National Labour Day

7

Monday 6th May

Special Holiday

8

Monday 20th May

Substitution for Wisakha Bucha Day (Saturday 18th May 2019)

9

Monday 3rd June

H.M. Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana's Birthday

10

Tuesday 16th July

Asarnha Bucha Day

11

Monday 29th July

Substitution for H.M. King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday (Sunday 28th July 2019)

12

Monday 12th August

H.M. Queen Sirikit’s Birthday

13

Monday 14th October

Substitution for H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej Memorial Day (Sunday 13th October 2019)

14

Wednesday 23rd October

Chulalongkorn Day

15

Thursday 5th December

H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Birthday / National Day / Father's Day

16

Tuesday 10th December

Constitution Day

17

Tuesday 31st December

New Year’s Eve

For financial institutions in Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, Satun, and Songkhla, extra holidays are given for the Chinese New Year Day, Eidal-Fitr Day (Ramadan Day) and Eidal – Adha Day (RayaHajji Day) announced by the Sheikhul Islam Office if it does not fall on any of the holidays listed above or Saturday and Sunday.

Government

In Thailand, the King is head of state, while the leader of the government is the Prime Minister. Other chief executives also include cabinet members and ministers, together with high-ranking government officials in ministries, bureaus and agencies. As head of state, the King has the authority to exercise sovereign power through the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, and the Courts. The Prime Minister functions in the name of the King, and is responsible for all royal commands regarding the affairs of the State.

Provinces

Thailand is divided into 77 provinces (changwat), which are grouped into 5 groups of provinces by location. There are also 2 special governed districts which are the capital - Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon in Thai) and Pattaya. However, Pattaya is still part of Chonburi Province, while Bangkok is at provincial level itself. Each province is divided into smaller districts - as of July 2015, there are 878 districts (amphoe) and 50 districts of Bangkok (khet). However, some parts of the provinces bordering Bangkok are referred to as Greater Bangkok (pari monthon). These Provinces include Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon.

Sources : Department of Provincial Administration, The Public Relations Department, United Nations in Thailand, Wikipedia, Bank of Thailand. Last updated : 31 May 2019

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