Country of the World Thailand

About the country Thailand, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: Thailand, located in Southeast Asia, has been likened to the head of an elephant. The "trunk" extends along southeastern Burma, down the Malay Peninsula, and stops at the northern border of Malaysia. The "head" is circled by Burma on the west, Laos on the northwest, Cambodia on the east, and the Gulf of Thailand (Pacific Ocean) on the south. Peninsular Thailand is covered with tropical rain forest, and the northern section is mountainous. Central Thailand, the Chao Phraya river basin, is a rich agricultural zone, while the northeastern region consists primarily of a plateau forming part of the Mekong River watershed.

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

Population: 46.3 million.

Who Rules: The Kingdom of Thailand is led by Gen. Kriangsak Chamanand, supreme commander of the armed forces. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, though essentially a figurehead, still has political influence.

Who REALLY Rules: Since October, 1976, Thailand has been under military rule. Kriangsak governs on behalf of a junta. Though the military leaders who compose the junta represent Thailand's upper classes, many of them have been backed and encouraged by U.S. military assistance and CIA activity, some of which dates back to the 1950s.

The parliamentary government that governed Thailand from 1973 to 1976 still represented essentially conservative economic and military elites, but it was susceptible to pressure from the well-organized students and their allies. Under parliamentary rule, the Thai radical movement was able to circulate books and other writings that had been banned for years. They also supported widespread labor organizing, which led to numerous industrial strikes. Most important for the U.S., they pressed hard for the removal of all U.S. military installations, and in mid-1976 the Thai government closed down the bases.

As labor unrest grew and military ties with the U.S. were cut back, right-wing counterinsurgents sought an excuse for a military coup. In October, 1976, they provoked student demonstrations, attacked them brutally--using both the paramilitaries and the Border Patrol Police--and seized control of the government at the same time.

Once again under military rule, Thailand clamped down on free expression, banned strikes, and began to improve relations with the U.S. Though the American military still has use of one or two Thai bases, there are no confirmed reports of any major U.S. facilities in operation.

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