Thailand: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, size, population, and government of the country Thailand.



Location--Located in Southeast Asia, with a shape like the head of an elephant. The skull, including the Chao Phraya River Valley and part of the Mekong Valley, is circled by Laos on the north and east, Cambodia on the southeast, and Burma on the west. The trunk, the Malayan peninsula, is bordered by Malaysia on the south, with the Gulf of Siam to the east, and the Andaman Sea to the west.

How Created--Prior to the arrival of the European colonizing forces in the 19th century, Thailand's borders were only vaguely defined. The power of the central Government was felt primarily in the capital city and its immediate environs; provincial areas enjoyed a great deal of autonomy as long as they met their tax obligations. From time to time, Thailand established protectorates over other states, such as Laos and Cambodia.

The European powers took advantage of this fluid situation and, one by one, seized these outlying provinces and kingdoms. France took Laos and Cambodia; England acquired the northern Malay states. All together, Thailand was stripped of over 1/3 of her territory. As a result, the Thai Government finally realized the importance of delineated borders and took steps to create a more centralized provincial administration.

Size--198,455 sq. mi. (514,000 sq. km.).

Population--Over 41 million: Thai, 74.5%; Chinese, 17.7%; Malay, 2.9%; Khmer, 1.3%; Soai (Kui), 1.3%; Karen, 0.4%; Indian and Pakistani, 0.4%; other, 1.5%. 93.6% Buddhist, 3.9% Muslim, 0.6% Christian, 1.9% other.

Who Rules--Thailand is a constitutional monarchy in the process of forming a new constitution. King Bhumipol Adulyadej is a noted jazz clarinetist. In February, 1975, Seni Pramoj was elected Prime Minister.

Who REALLY Rules--Before October, 1973, a corrupt group of military leaders, supported by the U.S., held absolute rule. This military group had close ties to the Chinese-dominated commercial community. A popular movement, spearheaded by students, overthrew the military regime, but it succeeded only because certain army leaders were unwilling to put down the revolt. Consequently, the current Government walks a tightrope trying to balance these various forces: the military, the business community, the students, a growing labor movement, and the governments of the U.S., Vietnam, and Cambodia.

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