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ราช อาณาจักร ไทย

Ratcha-anachak Thai
Kingdom of Thailand
Flag of Thailand
National emblem of Thailand
flag emblem
Official language Thai
capital city Bangkok (Thai: Krung Thep)
State and form of government Constitutional monarchy
Head of state King
Maha Vajiralongkorn Rama X.
Head of government Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha
surface 513,115 km²
population 69.6 million ( 20th ) (2019; estimate)
Population density 136 inhabitants per km²
Population development + 0.3% (estimate for 2019)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 501.9 billion ( 24. )
  • $ 1.3 trillion ( 19. )
  • 7,190 USD ( 82. )
  • 18,236 USD ( 74. )
Human Development Index 0.777 ( 79th ) (2019)
currency Baht (THB)
National anthem Phleng chat
National holiday December 5th (birthday of long-time King Bhumibol Adulyadej )
Time zone UTC + 7
License Plate T
ISO 3166 TH , THA, 764
Internet TLD .th
Phone code +66
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Thailand ( Thai ประเทศไทย [ pratʰêːt tʰaj ]), officially the Kingdom of Thailand ( ราช อาณาจักร ไทย? / I [ râːt͡ɕʰáʔaːnaːt͡ɕàk tʰaj ], colloquially: เมือง ไทย? / I [ mɯːaŋ tʰaj ]), is a state in Southeast Asia . It borders Myanmar , Laos , Cambodia , Malaysia , the Andaman Sea (part of the Indian Ocean ) and the Gulf of Thailand (part of the Pacific Ocean ). The capital of Thailand and by far the largest city in the country is Bangkok . The country is de jure a constitutional monarchy . King Bhumibol Adulyadej was head of state from 1946 until his death in 2016. His son Maha Vajiralongkorn has been King of Thailand since December 1st, 2016 . Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample

Until 1939, the land that was roughly on the territory of the present-day state was known as Siam . The approximately 69 million residents are 75% ethnic Thai and 14% Chinese ; Most of the Malay people live in the three southernmost provinces . The Buddhism is the dominant religion, almost 94% of Thais are committed to him, he is particularly encouraged by the state, but is not an official state religion ; 5.1% are Muslim .

Thailand is a middle-income emerging market that is classified as a high human development country by the United Nations Development Program . The country has been able to reduce poverty significantly in the past few decades. It benefited from the consumption of a growing middle class and increasing integration into world trade. However, Thailand's main source of income is tourism. In 2017, 35 million tourists visited the country. Its capital Bangkok was the most visited city in the world in 2016.


The territory of Thailand takes up a considerable part of the land area of ​​Southeast Asia and extends southeast of the last foothills of the Himalayas to the Malay Peninsula and encloses the Gulf of Thailand , a marginal sea of ​​the South China Sea . The shape of the land area of ​​Thailand is vaguely reminiscent of the head of an elephant. The maximum extent in north-south direction is 1770 kilometers, in east-west direction 780. The border is a total of 5326 kilometers long. The coast is 1878 kilometers long in the Gulf of Thailand and 937 kilometers in the Andaman Sea . In total, Thailand has an area of ​​513,115 km². Thailand lies between 5 ° 37 'and 20 ° 27' north latitude and between 97 ° 22 'and 105 ° 37' east longitude.

The northern region is mountainous, there is the highest point in the country: Doi Inthanon (2565 m). The north-east ( Isan ) consists of the Khorat plateau , a landscape that is dust-dry in summer and flooded in the rainy season, which does not allow intensive agriculture. Irrigation projects and dams are intended to remedy this. The local population is poorer than the country's average. In the north and east of the Isan, the Mekong forms the border with Laos.

The central region is dominated by the Mae Nam Chao Phraya ( Chao Phraya River ), which brings water to the fertile land and flows south of Bangkok into the Gulf of Thailand. The eastern region is dominated by agriculture and is located on the Gulf of Thailand. The beautiful beaches and offshore islands led to increased tourism. The Central Plain and the Eastern Seaboard are the economic heart of the country. The southern region lies on the elongated Malay Peninsula that separates the Pacific Ocean from the Indian Ocean. The Isthmus of Kra forms the narrowest point between the two seas and is only 64 km wide. This is why it is also known as the "thin neck" in Thailand. Mountain landscapes (in the northern part the Tenasserim mountains on the border with Myanmar, in the extreme south the border mountains Sankalakhiri with Malaysia), rainforest and dream beaches alternate.

In addition to the capital Bangkok, there are larger cities: Chiang Mai , Nonthaburi , Samut Prakan , Nakhon Ratchasima (formerly Khorat), Khon Kaen and Chon Buri .

Thailand is divided into six regions with 76 provinces; the names of the provinces and their capitals are identical. The six regions of Thailand are:


More than two thirds of the territory of Thailand is drained by two river systems. These are the Mae Nam Chao Phraya with its tributaries Mae Nam Ping , Mae Nam Yom , Mae Nam Nan and Mae Nam Wang as well as the Mekong with its tributaries Mae Nam Mun , Mae Nam Chi and Mae Nam Ing . In the mountainous north of Thailand, the drainage areas of these two rivers are very closely intertwined, in central Thailand the Phetchabun Mountains form the watershed .

The water flow in both river systems is subject to strong seasonal fluctuations. Their lower reaches are characterized by a very low gradient, which leads to frequent flooding, sedimentation and shifting of the river courses. Both rivers are regulated by numerous dams and lakes , and rice is cultivated intensively on their banks .

In the south of Thailand there are only short rivers, the Tapi , Phum Duang and Pattani are noteworthy . They cause regular floods during the northeast monsoon , i.e. in winter.

Major lakes are Songkhla Lake , Nong Han , Phayao Lake and Bueng Boraphet .


Climate diagram Bangkok
Climate diagram Phuket
Climate diagram Chiang Mai

The climate is tropical and monsoonal. The annual average temperatures are between 28 ° C in the south and 19 ° C at Doi Inthanon, Thailand's coolest point in the far north. The seasonal fluctuations are small everywhere; While three seasons can be determined in the north (relatively cool between November and February, very hot with temperatures well over 35 ° C from March to May and hot from May to November), in the south the temperatures are about the same all year round. The daily amplitudes are between 6 ° C and 10 ° C in the south and in the wet season in the north, in the dry season in the north the daily amplitude is between 9 ° C and 19 ° C.

The monsoon winds have different effects regionally: The northeast monsoon in winter brings continental air and causes drought in northern Thailand, while the air over the Gulf of Thailand is enriched with moisture and causes rain in southern Thailand. The summer southwest monsoon generally brings humid air masses and causes precipitation throughout the country. The south has 8 to 11 humid months per year, while the northeast only has four and a half to five and a half humid months.

Occasionally and with a much lower frequency than in neighboring countries, tropical cyclones occur in Thailand , which hit the Thai mainland from the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.


The area of ​​present-day Thailand was covered by a shallow sea between the Paleozoic and the Upper Jurassic . The first north-south folds occur in the same epoch. Between the Mesozoic and the Middle Tertiary , the surface was exposed to intensive weathering with little tectonic activity at the same time. The result is sandstone mountains with table mountains and tower karst landscapes . In the most recent epoch, beginning with the young tertiary, the Indian-Australian plate collided with the Eurasian-Chinese mainland. It came to folding and uplift with simultaneous formation of north-south running mountain ranges with notched valley reliefs and intramontane plains. The embankment plains that have been created since then by sediment deposits are important for the settlement.

They are dominated by fluvisols , which are used intensively for growing wet rice and have therefore largely been converted into anthrosols . Ferralsole , plinthosole and acrisole , which are no longer productive just a few years after being cleared, are found on the hull surfaces . Acrisols and cambisols predominate on slopes , which are very prone to erosion.


Dipterocarpus alatus

The natural vegetation of Thailand consists of forest; Forest cover of 75 to 80 percent was given for 1960. To date, this value has fallen to 18 to 26 percent, depending on the source, which can be attributed to the strong population growth, measures to improve the quality of life and strategic road construction and the associated colonization in eastern Thailand during the Vietnam War .

Species-rich tropical rainforests predominate in southern and western Thailand, which are economically little used due to their high biodiversity . However, they have great potential for pharmaceutical companies, for example . Plant species that are used are the wood oil tree and fruit trees such as the durian . In the mountain areas, there are also species-rich forests that have a certain proportion of deciduous species; locally there are also pine forests , oak species and chestnuts . In those regions with seasonal drought, deciduous forests predominate. The most important tree species in these forests for humans is the teak tree ; it is often grown in plantations for export purposes . Economically interesting, but ecologically problematic, are plantations of the eucalyptus species, which were not originally native to Thailand . After clearing these forests, secondary vegetation settles , which is dominated by bamboo species and silver hair grass ( Imperata cylindrica ).

The mangrove forests that thrive in the coastal waters of Thailand are species-poor and consist predominantly of Rhizophora species. The nipa palm found in the mangroves is used by humans .


Wild elephants in Khao Yai National Park
Mugimaki flycatcher in Khao Yai National Park

The fauna of Thailand is part of the oriental fauna region . Even today, the country is home to many large mammals, such as Asian elephants , tigers , leopards , clouded leopards , sambar deer , barking deer , wild cattle as Gaure and banteng , wild boar and various species of monkeys (especially Gibbons ). Some wild water buffalo apparently still live on the border with Myanmar , black-backed tapirs in southern Thailand. Other species, such as the Sumatran rhinoceros , Java rhinoceros, and the lyre deer , are likely extinct. The lizards and snakes in Thailand are particularly rich in species, including various pythons as well as king cobra and spectacled snakes . Many species of amphibians, toads and frogs enrich the fauna of Thailand. In addition, more than 1200 species of day and night moths and over 10,000 species of beetles were counted.

Birds are found in large numbers in the forests of Thailand (mainly nectar birds , parrots , pheasants , wild peacocks , beos and hornbills ). The cultural landscapes are populated by storks , ibises , herons , cranes and pigeons such as green doves .

The carp fish are important in the inland waters of Thailand , they play a major role in human nutrition. The coastal waters are rich in plankton and have rich stocks of herring and mackerel , and there are also sharks of various species. Other aquatic inhabitants in Thailand are crocodiles , especially the estuarine crocodile , the now almost extinct Siamese crocodile , the (probably already extinct) Sunda gavial and various species of turtles , the loggerhead turtle and tortoises .

Over 60,000 km² of land and more than 6000 km² of sea area and islands are designated as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries or marine parks, see National Parks in Thailand . The most famous protected areas include the Khao Yai National Park and the Thung Yai and Huai Kha Khaeng game reserves , the latter being part of the protected area system of the Western Forest Complex .

Administrative structure

Malaysia Myanmar Laos Vietnam Kambodscha Narathiwat Yala (Provinz) Pattani (Provinz) Songkhla (Provinz) Satun (Provinz) Trang (Provinz) Phatthalung (Provinz) Krabi (Provinz) Phuket Phang-nga (Provinz) Nakhon Si Thammarat (Provinz) Surat Thani (Provinz) Ranong (Provinz) Chumphon (Provinz) Prachuap Khiri Khan (Provinz) Phetchaburi (Provinz) Ratchaburi (Provinz) Samut Songkhram (Provinz) Samut Sakhon (Provinz) Bangkok (Provinz) Samut Prakan (Provinz) Chachoengsao (Provinz) Chon Buri (Provinz) Rayong (Provinz) Chanthaburi (Provinz) Trat (Provinz) Sa Kaeo (Provinz) Prachin Buri (Provinz) Nakhon Nayok (Provinz) Pathum Thani (Provinz) Nonthaburi (Provinz) Nakhon Pathom (Provinz) Kanchanaburi (Provinz) Suphan Buri (Provinz) Ayutthaya Ang Thong (Provinz) Sing Buri (Provinz) Saraburi (Provinz) Lop Buri (Provinz) Nakhon Ratchasima (Provinz) Buri Ram (Provinz) Surin (Provinz) Si Sa Ket (Provinz) Ubon Ratchathani (Provinz) Uthai Thani (Provinz) Chai Nat (Provinz) Amnat Charoen (Provinz) Yasothon (Provinz) Roi Et (Provinz) Maha Sarakham (Provinz) Khon Kaen (Provinz) Chaiyaphum (Provinz) Phetchabun (Provinz) Nakhon Sawan (Provinz) Phichit (Provinz) Kamphaeng Phet (Provinz) Tak Mukdahan (Provinz) Kalasin (Provinz) Loei (Provinz) Nong Bua Lam Phu (Provinz) Nong Khai (Provinz) Udon Thani (Provinz) Bueng Kan (Provinz) Sakon Nakhon (Provinz) Nakhon Phanom (Provinz) Phitsanulok (Provinz) Uttaradit (Provinz) Sukhothai (Provinz) Nan (Provinz) Phayao (Provinz) Phrae (Provinz) Chiang Rai (Provinz) Lampang (Provinz) Lamphun (Provinz) Chiang Mai (Provinz) Mae Hong Son (Provinz)
Provinces of Thailand

Thailand is a unitary state . The current administrative structure took place in 1897 under King Rama V (Chulalongkorn). Numerous provinces have since been changed or created. In 2008 in Thailand there were:

  • 76 Changwat ( จังหวัด - 'Provinces'), whereby the province is named after the respective capital,
  • 877 Amphoe ( อำเภอ - 'districts' or 'counties'),
  • 7,255 tambon ( ตำบล - 'subdistricts' or 'municipalities'),
  • 74,944 Muban ( หมู่บ้าน - 'village communities' or 'villages').

These units form the hierarchical and centralized system of the provincial administration , which primarily serves a nationwide uniform implementation of requirements of the central government. In addition, there is also the local administration system , whose units are more independent and in which the residents have greater opportunities to participate. In the context of decentralization, it has grown in importance since the 1990s. It consists of (as of 2013):

  • 76 provincial administrative organizations (Thai องค์การ บริหาร ส่วน จังหวัด , อบ จ for short - Ongkan Borihan suan Changwat ), whose areas of responsibility are congruent with the provinces,
  • 2,283 thesaban ( เทศบาล - 'communes'), including
    • 30 Thesaban Nakhon ( เทศบาล นคร - 'big city communes')
    • 172 Thesaban Mueang ( เทศบาล เมือง - 'city-municipalities')
    • 2,081 Thesaban Tambon ( เทศบาล ตำบล - 'small town communes')
  • 5,492 tambon administration organizations (องค์การ บริหารส่วน ตำบล , อบ ต for short - Ongkan Borihan suan tambon ), for the rural communities that do not belong to any thesaban.

There are also two special administrative units: the state capital Bangkok and the internationally known seaside resort Pattaya. Bangkok is on a par with the provinces and is therefore sometimes counted as a province. The city is divided into

  • Khet (Thai:เขต , this corresponds to the amphoe of the provinces) and
  • Khwaeng (Thai:แขวง , this corresponds to the tambon of the provinces).

The assignment of the provinces to larger regions is inconsistent, so a province can sometimes be assigned to one, sometimes to a neighboring region.


In 2016, 51.5 percent of the population lived in cities or urban areas. By far the largest city in Thailand is Bangkok. The Bangkok metropolitan area is home to almost 16 million people, while the city itself has 5.6 million inhabitants. The largest cities are (as of 2017):

  1. Bangkok (Krung Thep): 5,686,646 inhabitants
  2. Nonthaburi : 255,793 inhabitants
  3. Pak Kret : 189,258 inhabitants
  4. Hat Yai : 159,627 residents
  5. Nakhon Ratchasima : 131,286 inhabitants
  6. Udon Thani : 131,192 inhabitants
  7. Chiang Mai : 131,091 inhabitants
  8. Surat Thani : 130,114 inhabitants


Development of the population of Thailand since 1950
Development of the population / km² of Thailand since 1950
Thailand has an aging population

Censuses have been conducted in Thailand since 1911 , and the National Bureau of Statistics, which works with numerous international organizations, was one of the most abundant sources of statistical data in Asia in the 1980s.

In 2019, Thailand's population was estimated at 69.6 million people. Thailand is one of the 20 most populous countries in the world . In 1850, however, there were only 5.5 million inhabitants in Thailand, 8.2 million in 1911, 26 million in 1960 and around 53 million in 1987. The population growth , which was in the 1960s at 3.2 percent per year, declined by 2015 to 0.34 percent. Around 50.4 percent of the people lived in cities, 49.6 percent in rural areas. The most densely populated is the greater Bangkok area with 4000 inhabitants per km²; the mountain areas of the north are most sparsely populated.

Since the 1960s, Thailand has developed into an industrial country and one of the most attractive countries in the world for tourism. The increasing industrialization led to the impairment and destruction of agricultural areas and to the reduction of valuable forests; parts of the watercourses were also damaged. In 1968 this led the government to take concerted action with international aid to slow down population growth . A family planning agency was created , and in March 1970 the official family policy was presented, which promoted the two-child family, the slogan “Many children make you poor” and other economic arguments were put forward. This policy achieved its goal: if the population grew by an average of 3.4 percent in 1960, this figure fell to 1.9 percent by 1986.

The age structure of the population of Thailand has changed significantly in recent years. 22% of the country's residents are under 15 years of age; In 1970 just under half of the population was under 14 years of age. 70% today are between 15 and 64 years of age and 8% over 65 years of age. For 2016, a birth rate of 11.1 births per 1000 people and a death rate of 7.9 per 1000 were counted. Child mortality was around 9.4 per 1000 live births . A woman had an average of 1.4 children (1970: 6.9 children). Due to the low fertility rate, Thailand could be one of the oldest societies in the world by 2050, according to UN figures.

Ethnic groups

Ethnolinguistic map of Thailand (1974, based on data from the CIA )

The Thai government does not collect data on the ethnic composition of the population. All citizens are referred to as "Thai" regardless of their ancestry. Researchers estimate that ethnic Thai make up around 75% of the population (this includes the Lao in the northeast and the Tai Yuan  in the north). Around 14% are ethnic Chinese , who are largely assimilated and can hardly be distinguished from the Thai, 4% Malay , the remaining 7% are made up of Khmer , various mountain peoples , refugees and migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as immigrants from all over the world World. The net migration is given as zero, about as many people leave Thailand (officially) as immigrate to Thailand. However, refugees from Myanmar have been in camps along the western border of Thailand since the mid-1970s. In addition, numerous guest workers have come to Thailand in recent years, especially from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, who are of great importance for the growth of Thailand's economy. As recently as 2004, 1.28 million people were registered by the Ministry of the Interior, and it is estimated that another 1.5 million unregistered migrants are in Thailand.

The anthropologist Charles Keyes, who specializes in Thailand, gives the proportion of "real Thai" (that is, Thai who speak standard or central Thai at home) in the local population at 36 percent, plus 27 percent Isan, 10 percent northern and northern 8 percent South Thai and 1 percent other Tai speakers . The “assimilated” minorities of the Thai-speaking Sino-Thais and (bilingual) Mon-Khmer speakers are 6.5 and 2.5 percent respectively. Only the non-assimilated Chinese (2 percent), Malay (6 percent) and “mountain peoples” (1 percent) differ considerably from the majority population in ethnic and linguistic terms and are therefore sometimes seen by them as “problematic Thais”. In addition, there are foreigners living in Thailand: in 2004 there were around 300,000 refugees, more than 1 million legally registered labor migrants and hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants. All three groups are mainly made up of Burmese and Laotians. In 2017, 5.1 percent of the population were officially migrants.

Hill tribes

The hill tribes mainly settle in northern Thailand. They are ethnically very heterogeneous; the most important are Hmong , Karen , Lahu , Lisu , Akha , Lawa and Khmu . Some of these peoples settled in Thailand before the Thai immigration, while others have recently arrived in Thailand due to the political turmoil in neighboring countries. For this reason, their social organizations and traditions sometimes differ considerably. Almost all of these peoples traditionally practice farming in the Schwendbau method , which leads to considerable environmental problems due to the increasing population. In addition, the settlement areas of the hill tribes are target areas for the immigration of Thai farmers. Government programs aim to replace the wasteland with more environmentally friendly forms of land cultivation and to reduce the widespread cultivation of poppies and drug addiction. The government has never defined a language and written policy for these minorities (as of 2015). The development programs, immigration Thai and tourist development mean that some of the nations are threatened by it, culturally and linguistically in the Thai population to be working . At the end of December 2009, the Thai government deported over 4,000 members of the Hmong minority who fled to Thailand in the 1970s to Laos.


Chinese, who make up 8.5 to 15 percent of the total population, have lived in Thailand since the 14th century when small groups of traders set up shop in Southeast Asia. Most of the Chinese immigration took place in the 19th century, when the Qing Dynasty and with it the entire country fell into deep crisis. In the first waves of immigration, almost exclusively men came to Thailand who married Thai women and assimilated. The ethnic kinship and the religious similarities favored this. The Chinese subsequently achieved high posts in the royal administration and - especially descendants from mixed marriages - usually took Thai citizenship and a Thai family name . At the beginning of the 20th century, at the same time as a strong wave of immigration from China, anti-Chinese nationalism emerged, which was expressed particularly openly during the Second Sino-Japanese War and, among other things, led to bloody clashes in Bangkok in 1945. With the aim of breaking Chinese hegemony in the economy, Chinese have been banned from a large number of professions and Thai schools have been made compulsory; Chinese educational institutions have been closed. Only those Chinese who have been brought up according to Thai values ​​and who have Thai citizenship are on an equal footing with the Thai. Despite these measures, the Chinese are dominant in Thai economic life.


The official language of Thailand is Thai , and 73 other languages ​​are spoken. About 94 percent of the residents of Thailand speak one of the Tai Kadai languages , the remaining 6 percent are divided into the Austro-Asian , Austronesian , Tibetan-Burmese and Hmong-Mien languages . Standard Thai is based on the dialect that is spoken in the region around Bangkok. This language has its own alphabet with 44 consonants and 32 vowels , which was introduced during the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng and is based on the Indian Devanagari , Mon and Khmer scripts . English is the second language among the educated part of the population and is widely understood, especially in cities. Many Thais of Chinese descent speak one of the southern Chinese dialects , although as a result of Thaiization, many Thais of Chinese descent do not speak Chinese today, only Thai. The Isan dialect is close to Lao . Malay is spoken by the Malay minority in southern Thailand .


Wat Phra Sri Mahathat , meditation temple in Bang Khen , north Bangkok

The Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion of Thailand, about 94% of the population profess to (see Buddhism in Thailand ). There are also up to 5% Muslims (mostly Malays in southern Thailand), 0.6% Christians and 0.1% (around 65,000) Hindus (mostly Indians). Only 0.4% describe themselves as having no religion. The constitution of Thailand states that the state should protect and promote Buddhism and all other religions and contribute to the harmony among followers of all religions. The king must always be a Buddhist, but Buddhism is not established as a state religion.

Before the arrival of Thai in today's Thailand were Hinduism , Shaivism and Mahayana -Buddhismus Khmer predominant. In the 11th century, the immigrant Thai, who had previously had contact with the Mahayana, took over Theravada Buddhism from the Burmese and the Mon in northern Thailand. This dominates in Thailand to this day. Even if it does not officially have the status of a state religion, it is closely interwoven with state institutions: the king is the supreme protector of the Sangha , the Buddhist monastic community. Their structure and hierarchy are guaranteed and regulated by law. At the top is the Supreme Sangha Council , which is chaired by the Sangharaja (" Supreme Monk Patriarch "). Every man is allowed to be ordained a bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) - even for a certain period of time . It is normal for young males between the ages of 12 and 20 to become novices and devote themselves to the study of the scriptures for one or more years . The size of the Sangha cannot therefore be precisely determined. Religious life takes place primarily in the wat , of which there are 30,678 across the country. They are at the same time monasteries of the monks, places of worship of the Buddha, his teachings (Dharma) and his followers (Sangha) by Buddhist lay people as well as social meeting centers. In premodern Thailand, the Wat were also educational institutions and ensured that literacy was relatively high even before the introduction of a state education system. The construction of new wat is mostly financed exclusively with donations from the population. It reflects the pursuit of religious merit , which should enable positive karma and later more comfortable rebirth.

Since Buddhism is not a religion that demands exclusivity, a number of other cults play an important role alongside Buddhism. Gods and spirits from pre-Buddhist times or from Hindu or Chinese ideas are worshiped in various rituals. This is expressed in the haunted houses that are set up in front of every building and in the great role played by amulets and tattoos.

Muslims, almost exclusively Sunnis , make up around 5 percent of the total population. They make up the majority of the population in the four southern provinces of Narathiwat , Pattani , Yala and Satun on the border with Malaysia. The first three are predominantly Malays (almost all of whom profess Islam), while the latter are Thai-speaking Muslims. In the province of Songkhla , Muslims make up hardly a quarter, but at least five of the 16 districts ( amphoe ) in this province have Muslim majorities. In the rest of the country, Muslims are widespread as a minority; they are mostly descendants of immigrants from South and Near East Asia or Thai who have adopted Islam.

Bless you

The residents of Thailand are generally in good health. Thailand's life expectancy in the period 2010–2015 was 74.1 years (men: 70.8, women: 77.6). Thanks to improved health care, it has risen continuously over the past few decades. While at the end of the 1970s there was virtually no medical care, especially in rural areas, and traditional healers played an important role, access to the health system has improved significantly since then. Basic medical care has been free of charge since November 2006. Around 4.4 percent of GDP is used for this, 57 percent of which from the state and the rest from private sources.

Thanks to these advances, diseases such as cholera , malaria and tuberculosis (128 cases per 100,000 inhabitants (as of 2010)) have been largely reduced. In 2007, 610,000 people in Thailand were HIV- positive; in 2001 the number was 660,000, which corresponds to around one percent of the population. Since the first AIDS case was registered in Thailand in 1984, around 600,000 people have died from the disease (2001: 66,000, 2007: 30,000). The government has now responded with a well-funded program, which has led to a decrease in new infections. However, the situation is still very acute in the tourist centers and in the destinations of internal migration. The most common cause of death in children under 5 years of age is: birth defects (27 percent), premature birth (24 percent), pneumonia (9 percent).

Challenges that Thailand's health system is facing include new epidemics such as H5N1 avian flu or affluent diseases such as obesity. Another relatively new phenomenon is medical tourism: More than 1 million people annually, mainly from Asia, but increasingly also from Europe and America, travel to Thailand in order to receive inexpensive medical treatment there.

Development of life expectancy

Period Life expectancy Period Life expectancy
1950-1955 50.8 1985-1990 69.8
1955-1960 53.3 1990-1995 70.2
1960-1965 56.1 1995-2000 70.3
1965-1970 58.2 2000-2005 71.2
1970-1975 60.7 2005-2010 73.2
1975-1980 63.3 2010-2015 74.6
1980-1985 65.8

Source: UN


In the early days of Thai history, education was the responsibility of the monasteries on the one hand and the royal family on the other. Buddhist monks in monastery schools all over the country provided the boys with a basic education, while the children of the royal family and those of the nobility received a higher education, since only they were eligible for service in ministries and at court. Few women were given the opportunity to go to school so that they could at least learn to read and write. The vast majority of society consisted of peasants who saw little point in being able to read books. The history of the village or families as well as local philosophy were transmitted orally.

On the initiative of King Phra Nang Klao ( Rama III. , R. 1824-1851), an "Open University" was set up in Bangkok in the mid-19th century, where everyone could study regardless of birth or rank. He had completely renovated Wat Pho from 1832 to 1848 and imagined the temple not only as a holy place, but as a democratic learning center, also for students who had previously been denied access to special areas of knowledge. This was unique in Thai history. He gathered a large group of scholars who compiled existing textbooks and wrote many new books. The king examined the selection and then had the texts engraved in the curved rattanakosin script on marble tablets and exhibited throughout the Phutthawat of Wat Pho. Even today, anyone who is interested in religious or secular topics, in literature, archeology, astrology or medicine, can choose from a wealth of information from the mid-19th century.

Chulalongkorn University , the oldest university in Thailand, with the
auditorium built in 1938

It was not until the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) that the need for extensive training was recognized in order to meet the personnel requirements of the growing bureaucracy. In the Education Proclamation of 1898, which was heavily influenced by the British system, a two-tier system was first introduced, divided into academic and professional training. As early as 1902, higher education was expanded by borrowing from the Japanese and American systems. In 1932 a comprehensive education plan was presented, which was based on four years of primary school. Building on this, there was an eight-year secondary school.

The last major change to the education system was introduced by the 1977/78 Education Plan. It provided for six years of compulsory elementary school and three years of lower secondary education. Another three years follow for those who want to take up a special profession or switch to university. The implementation of this plan was not completed until 1983. In order to keep pace with the strong growth in the fields of technology and agriculture, it was planned in the 1990s to extend the six years of primary school to nine years. The three years of secondary education should then be supplemented by a further four years of higher education. In Thailand, the median school attendance increased from 4.6 years in 1990 to 7.9 years in 2015.

Since 2009, e-learning with DLTV has been introduced in Thai schools via satellite and the Internet .


In Thai schools, the Wai-Khru ceremony is performed once a year at the beginning of the new academic year.

In Thailand there is compulsory schooling for nine years. The illiteracy rate determined by UNESCO is only around 4.5 percent (2000) and thus at the level of the European Union. The World Bank assumed a literacy rate of 96.7 percent in Thailand in 2015. In the 2015 PISA ranking, the country's students ranked 55th out of 72 countries in mathematics, 55th in science and 58th in reading comprehension.

Attendance at the six-year elementary school is compulsory and in principle free of charge, but in recent years the students have increasingly had to pay the cost of teaching materials and uniforms for the different days of the week themselves. The teaching methods are not up to modern western standards. Autonomous learning is rarely encouraged. On the other hand - especially in the country - there is a strong sense of authority. Authoritarian teaching methods and simple memorization are common. There is mostly frontal teaching .

Khon Kaen Student Campus

In addition to state schools, there are also private schools that are either Christian or foreign schools (international schools). All schools after elementary school are chargeable. Teachers are required to wear uniforms on certain days. Students must always wear a school uniform . Teachers wear different badges and epaulettes according to their official title, function and length of service, and the beret is part of the uniform outside of class .

Probably unique in the world is that scouting ( Luk Suea in Thai , literally "tiger boy") is part of the curriculum . All students in a school come to school in their Boy Scout uniforms on a set day each week. Defense education is also integrated into schools, albeit voluntarily. High school students in the tenth to twelfth grade can register for the reserve (Thai Nak Sueksa Wicha Thahan , literally "students of military studies") and then receive military training - mostly on the school premises. Most boys take part because it frees them from later full-time military service.

There are school holidays across the country from mid-March to the end of April, with an additional three weeks of school holidays in October.

Further training

After completing primary school, students have the option of entering secondary school or vocational training, which is essentially school-based. This incurs costs for teaching materials and often more or less long journeys to the next larger city, especially for rural children. With the large number of private institutes and universities of applied sciences, course fees must also be paid. Particularly gifted students from poor families studying at state universities can apply for a scholarship or long-term, interest-free loan.


The Thai may not immigrated to what is now Thailand until the 11th century. They established several kingdoms that were united in the centuries that followed. However, until the 19th century there was no national state of Thailand, but the many local principalities ( Müang ) remained and were only obliged to pay tribute to the rulers in the center. These networks of Müang dependent on a ruler are called mandalas . Their area of ​​influence had no fixed borders, but could expand and contract again over time. During the colonial era , Thailand managed to maintain its independence and it developed into a modern central state. After the Second World War , Thailand was often dictatorially ruled by the military , at the same time it experienced an economic boom and developed into one of the economically leading states in Southeast Asia. Domestic political disputes repeatedly shook society in recent years. In southern Thailand there are violent clashes between separatist Muslim Malays and the central power.

The first empires

The first empires in what is now Thailand were founded by the Mon peoples. These empires were the influence of indianised Funan -rich. Funan also encompassed significant parts of Thailand in the third century, when it was at its greatest expansion. Around the 6th century it was replaced by Dvaravati , a Buddhist network of Mon city-states in what is now central Thailand, which existed until the 11th century. Around the same time, the Mon in northern Thailand had the Haripunjaya kingdom . From the 9th to the 12th centuries, large parts of Southeast Asia were ruled by the Khmer . Under King Jayavarman II, these already expanded their power over the entire north-east of Thailand. Significant Khmer cities in what is now Thailand were in what is now Lop Buri and Phimai . The south of Thailand belonged at the same time to the Buddhist sea empire Srivijaya .

The immigration of the Tai peoples to what is now Thailand, according to one hypothesis, began in the 11th century. According to another opinion, Tai already lived in what is now Thailand at that time, but had no states of their own, which is why their presence is not documented. It is not entirely clear where they began their migration, they probably come from what is now southern China ( Guangdong , Guangxi ) or from the north-west of Vietnam.


They founded the first states in the 13th century, including Lan Na and Sukhothai . This empire, which was located in areas originally populated by the Khmer, was founded by Sri Indraditya and, under Ramkhamhaeng, briefly ruled over a territory that roughly corresponded to today's Thailand. Only in northern Thailand were there independent, but friendly principalities. Sukhothai soon became a tribute payer to China, which in 1287 had almost completely destroyed the temple city of Bagan in neighboring Burma . After the death of Ramkhamhaeng, the decline of Sukhothai began due to succession disputes, but also due to Ayutthaya, which was founded in 1351 .


Ayutthaya became the most important power in continental Southeast Asia, while the Khmer Empire of Angkor , which until then had dominated the area, fell and Ayutthaya ultimately became tributary. King Ramathibodi , but above all Trailok, made Theravada Buddhism the religion of Ayutthaya, kingship was reformed into a kind of absolutism with godlike reverence for the monarch, a jurisprudence inspired by the Indian Manusmriti and an administration based on the Sakdina system became introduced. This form of government lasted essentially into the 19th century.

The first Europeans to visit Ayutthaya were the Portuguese , who conquered Malacca in 1511 . Shortly afterwards, the first trade agreements were concluded and missions were sent to Europe. Ayutthaya reached its heyday in the mid-18th century, then internal conflicts weakened the state and it was threatened by neighboring, strengthened Burma. Ayutthaya was attacked several times and ultimately destroyed in 1767.

Reconstruction and creation of the Chakri dynasty

General Taksin , who was not related to the previous dynasty and who had escaped the siege, founded a new capital in Thonburi and successfully organized the resistance against the Burmese. The Thai recovered quickly from the invasion of the Burmese, not least because of Taksin's tough policies. The empire was reunited, and Lan Na was also incorporated. However, Taksin was deposed and executed in 1782.

The new king was the general Chao Phraya Chakri (later Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok or Rama I ), who founded the royal family, the Chakri dynasty , who still ruled today , moved the capital to what is now Bangkok and was able to consolidate the state. At the same time, the European colonial powers had to be granted trading establishments. King Mongkut (Rama IV.) Was forced to negotiate trade agreements in view of developments in neighboring countries; at the same time he recognized the need for reforms and modernization in order not to be colonized by a European power. From 1855 the country was officially called Siam .

Modernization and development into a nation state

Mongkut's successor Chulalongkorn (Rama V) was the great reformer in the history of Thailand. During his reign, numerous Western achievements were introduced to Thailand, such as schools, conscription and a tax system; administration was centralized, slavery abolished, and construction of railroads and other infrastructure began. Immigration from China soon peaked and anti-Chinese tendencies arose. Siam remained an independent state and acted as a buffer between the British colonial empire, which had conquered Malaya, India and Burma, and French Indochina, which included Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

When the First World War broke out, the country initially remained neutral. It was not until 1917 that Siam sided with the Allies and sent a contingent to the Western Front. It was rewarded with better contract terms; after the end of the war, Siam was one of the founding members of the League of Nations .

Transition to the constitutional monarchy

In 1932 there was an overthrow by progressive, European-influenced forces that put an end to the absolute monarchy . The women's suffrage was already in the first constitution introduced 1,932th Phibunsongkhram and Pridi Phanomyong occupied the most important posts in the following years and initiated a development similar to the Shōwa period in Japan : Nationalism was promoted, which was reflected in the renaming to 'Thailand' and which, according to a popular etymology, means "land of the free" , Foreign companies were heavily taxed, opium and betel were banned and territorial claims were made against the neighboring French and British colonies.

As early as 1938, Thailand asked France to renegotiate their common borders. The war between the two lasted from October 1940 to May 9, 1941 and ended with Thai territorial gains in the French colonies of Laos and Cambodia.

Second World War

The rapprochement with Japan continued until the beginning of World War II . The aim of the Japanese was to gain access to the British colonies of Burma and the Malay Peninsula .

Japanese troops invaded Thai territory from December 8, 1941. An alliance offer by Japan was only accepted on December 20, 1941, after Japanese troops had already penetrated deep into the country. Thailand had to allow Japan to pass its troops en route to conquering Burma and India. In order to simplify transports between Thailand and Burma and to prepare for the attack on British India , the Thailand-Burma railway was built from mid-1942 under inhumane conditions by forced laborers and prisoners of war , which was nicknamed the "Railway of Death".

The Bangkok government declared war on the Allies in January 1942. However, one of the crown regents refused to sign the declaration of war, which is why it was retrospectively declared invalid after the end of the war. As a reward for the alliance with Japan, Thailand got smaller areas of the Unfederated Malay States and Burma, which had been conquered during the war . At the same time, with the knowledge of the government, resistance against the de facto Japanese occupation was formed. This tactic largely spared Thailand from major combat operations, although Allied bombing raids on Bangkok took place from 1942 to 1945. Prime Minister Phibunsongkhram had to resign in 1944 and after the end of the war Thailand gave back the newly won provinces.

Post-war period: democracy, military governments and "semi-democracy"

After the Second World War, Thailand was democratic for a short time . In 1946 a new constitution was adopted which provided for a bicameral parliament and reintroduced the name Siam. As a result of the still unexplained death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1947, the civil government was overthrown, and the military took power until 1973 under Field Marshals Phibunsongkhram, Sarit Thanarat and Thanom Kittikachorn. This period was characterized by stronger promotion of Western norms in society, Anti-communism, strengthening of the royal family and penetration of society by the military and the police at all levels. In 1949 the country was renamed back to Thailand. In terms of foreign policy, they leaned on the USA, on whose side Thailand sent units into the Korean War and allowed them to build important military bases for the Vietnam War . Thailand became a founding member of SEATO , ASA and ASEAN .

In 1973 waves of protests rocked the whole country. In October 1973 the army shot at demonstrators, killing numerous people. The king then forced the government to abdicate. Sanya Dharmasakti , Rector of Thammasat University , became interim Prime Minister. The following elections did not produce a clear result; the civil governments of Seni Pramoj and Kukrit Pramoj remained unstable. After the massacre of protesting students at Thammasat University in October 1976, the military staged another coup.

A phase of repression and political cleansing against suspected communists followed. The military regimes that followed were also short-lived, with economic problems, social unrest, corruption and abuse of power. Important economic reforms and the normalization of relations with the communist neighbors of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam took place during the periods of government of these military governments. Under the “semi-democratic” government of General Prem Tinsulanonda from 1980 to 1988, stability returned. The communist uprising was ended and the economy and society gradually liberalized. At the same time there was an economic boom. Thailand became an emerging market as one of the panther states (or “Tiger Cub Economies”) . Thailand had an elected government from 1988 onwards, but it was overthrown in a military coup in 1991. The government of Suchinda Kraprayoon , which came to power as a result of this coup, was confronted with violent civil protests, which it tried to suppress violently in " Black May " 1992. Shortly afterwards she had to resign.

In 1992, power returned to a civilian government. Under Chuan Leekpai , constitutional amendments were pushed through to promote a more stable democracy. The voting age has been lowered, a constitutional court has been introduced and the Senate has been made smaller. The government of Chavalit Yongchaiyudh fell in 1997 over the Asian crisis caused by overheated economy, speculation, mismanagement in the banks and wrong economic policies. With the help of the IMF , the economy was stabilized again from 1998 onwards.

Political polarization since 2001

The 2001 elections were won by the telecommunications mogul Thaksin Shinawatra with his Thai-Rak-Thai (“Thai love Thai”) party like a landslide. With a program to expand access to health care, a debt moratorium for farmers and small loans to promote small and medium-sized enterprises in structurally weak areas, it achieved great popularity, especially among the rural population. Of particular note is the One Tambon One Product program - one community, a product to promote private entrepreneurship . He declared a "war on drugs" in which over 2,000 people died within three months, including many bystanders. He also chose a repressive approach to the separatists in the Muslim - Malay south. This exacerbated the conflict, with attacks by Islamist and separatist fighters on an almost daily basis and violent reactions from the Thai security forces, with thousands also killing. On December 26, 2004, the west coast of Thailand was badly hit by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean .

In 2005 Thaksin was re-elected with a two-thirds majority, and his party was able to form a single government for the first time in the democratic history of Thailand . He tried to secure his position by filling important positions in the state with his confidants (and even relatives) and hampered critical journalism. He was accused of abusing his office for his own benefit. A civil movement against Thaksin formed, known as the " yellow shirts ". Early elections failed due to a boycott by the opposition. On September 19, 2006, the military staged a coup . Thaksin Shinawatra has been abroad since then. The junta set up a transitional government that held office for a year and had a new constitution drafted, which was approved by the people in a referendum.

In subsequent elections, Thaksin's supporters won again. There were renewed protests by the "yellow shirts" against Thaksin's continued influence on Thai politics. They besieged the government building for weeks and occupied Bangkok airport. A constitutional court ruling against the ruling party and the defection of some MPs resulted in a change of government in December 2008 without elections. This in turn aroused the anger of the " red shirts " close to Thaksin , who felt robbed of their voices. Their rioting protests in April 2009 and April and May 2010 were suppressed by the military. Over 90 people died. The old border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand over the Prasat Preah Vihear temple escalated in the spring of 2011, resulting in firefights with dead and injured.

In July 2011, Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra won the election. In the second half of 2011, soon after she came into power, the worst flood disaster in 50 years occurred . Large areas along the Mae Nam Chao Phraya ( Chao Phraya River ) were flooded, killing almost 400 people. In October 2013, the Yingluck government proposed an amnesty for all those involved in the previous years' political conflict, which would also have allowed Thaksin Shinawatra to return unpunished. This triggered renewed protests by the Thaksin opponents. New elections brought forward by the government were hindered and therefore declared invalid. On May 22, 2014, the military staged another coup. General Prayut Chan-o-cha has been in power since then .

With the rejection of the military government's first constitutional proposal in September 2015, elections had moved further into the distance. The elections didn't take place until March 24, 2019 . After the election, the previous head of government, General Prayut, was confirmed in office by a coalition of 19 parties.

Protests against the government have increased since June 2020. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the political leadership in September 2020 despite warnings from the police for new elections and democratic reforms in the political system, which are to be brought about with a new constitution. Prime Minister Chan-o-Cha has been criticized for failing to act appropriately during the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand . The police dispatched around 10,000 officers, but the demonstrations remained peaceful.


Politically, Thailand is very divided and at times unstable. The country has been ruled by the military since 2014. A referendum in 2016 allowed the military to exercise long-term power and initiated the restructuring into an authoritarian system.

Political system

King Bhumibol Adulyadej was Head of State of Thailand from 1946 to 2016

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since a bloodless coup in 1932 . The head of state is the king, who is also the supreme patron of Buddhism in Thailand. The royal dignity is hereditary; according to the Act of Succession to the Throne of 1924, the king alone determines his successor. He is advised and represented by the Privy Council , which he appoints and dismisses himself. The king has no direct influence on day-to-day politics, but essentially performs representative tasks. In times of crisis (such as the popular uprising in October 1973 and the “Bloody May” 1992), however, he intervened directly and later - in some cases very clearly - took a position on political issues in speeches. The monarchy in Thailand is seen as the most important factor of stability in a country characterized by corruption and the great difference between rich and poor.

The king has shared power with a parliament since 1932. This was initially a unicameral parliament, since 1997 it has consisted of two chambers. As a result of the military coup on May 22, 2014, the 2007 constitution was repealed and replaced by an interim constitution. Legislation is temporarily exercised by a National Legislative Assembly with 220 members elected by the military. A National Reform Council with 250 members, also selected by the military, is to make proposals for political changes. A 36-member committee is tasked with drafting a new constitution. The “National Council for the Preservation of Peace”, formed by the military leadership and endowed with extraordinary powers under the current martial law, oversees all political activities . The chairman of the National Council for the Maintenance of Peace, General Prayut Chan-o-cha , is also Prime Minister. Most of his cabinet is made up of active or retired members of the military.

Since the parliamentary elections on March 24, 2019 , a coalition of 19 parties has formed the government under Prayut Chan-o-cha.


The Royal Thai Government is home to 20 ministries and their ministers, which have remained unchanged since the Restructuring of Government Agencies Act 2002.

Political indices

Political indices issued by non-governmental organizations
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 70.8 out of 120 82 of 178 Stability of the country: increased warning
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 6.04 out of 10 73 of 167 Incomplete democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = complete democracy
Freedom in the World Index 32 of 100 - Freedom status: unfree
0 = unfree / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 45.22 out of 100 137 of 180 Difficult situation for freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 36 of 100 104 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020

Political conflict and polarization

Since the reign of Thaksin Shinawatra (2001–2006), the country's politics have been characterized by an ongoing conflict and deep polarization between two camps, which are usually designated with the color codes “yellow” and “red”. Various authors cite several causes and backgrounds of the conflict (or conflicts): contrasts between town and country, center and periphery or north and south, different concepts of political legitimacy , the influence of the centralized bureaucracy, the military and / or the palace politics as well as concerns of the middle class about loss of status.

Despite the perception of deep divisions, in a representative survey at the end of 2010, only 24 percent of Thais admitted to one of the two camps, 73 percent identified themselves as neutral; only 2 percent said they had taken part in a political demonstration in recent years. A majority expressed themselves exasperated by the political conflict and the crippling mass protests, regardless of which camp they came from.

Thaksin gained great popularity with programs to reduce poverty and develop the economically backward interior (including general access to health care, state-funded microcredits) combined with populist rhetoric and clever political marketing, especially among the rural population in the north and north-east regions. These felt taken seriously and emancipated by Thaksin's policies, whereas before they often had the impression of being disadvantaged or marginalized. On the other hand, he made opponents through his authoritarian leadership style, restriction of freedom rights and democratic participation (apart from elections), obstruction of the opposition and critical press; Human rights violations in the “war on drugs” and in the conflict that escalated from 2004 in the southern provinces ; the privatization of state-owned companies and neoliberal reforms to streamline the administration, as well as a free trade agreement with the USA. In addition, his claim to power, legitimized by elections, questioned the dominance of the so-called "network monarchy", a loose and informal alliance of people and groups close to the palace in the Privy Council, politics, military and administration, according to analysis by several political scientists.

Demonstration of the People's Alliance for Democracy (“Yellow Shirts”), 2008

As a result, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) - the so-called "yellow shirts" - which is directed against Thaksin - human and civil rights activists, trade unions and grassroots movements, as well as royalists, nationalists and religious people joined forces. They accused him of undermining democracy, human rights violations, abuse of office and corruption, betrayal of the nation and a lack of respect for the monarchy (up to and including lese majesty ). The conservative-monarchist and nationalist element in this movement increasingly gained the upper hand over the liberal representatives. From 2008, leading representatives of the PAD expressed open rejection of representative democracy and the multi-party system and took aggressive nationalist positions in the border dispute with Cambodia . The following of the PAD decreased significantly. In 2010, 5.1 percent identified themselves as “yellow”, a further 5.2 percent as “rather yellow”. Most of the “(rather) yellows” were in the southern region (24 percent in total), the fewest in the north (7 percent) and northeast (8 percent). In 2013 the PAD disbanded and was replaced by the “People's Army for the Overthrow of the Thaksin System” (Pefot), whose supporters are no longer recognizable by their yellow shirts.

Demonstration by the National Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (“Red Shirts”), 2010

On the other side is the National Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (UDD) of the “red shirts”. Their identification color goes back to the campaign to reject the constitution drawn up under the aegis of the military. This was accepted in the referendum with 57.8% nationwide (with a 57.6% turnout), but was rejected by a clear majority in several provinces of northern and northeastern Thailand. Most of their supporters come from the provinces, but they do not belong to the poorest landless people, but to a growing and increasingly self-confident and politicized lower middle class, they can be described as "urbanized villagers". Despite their rhetorical advocacy for the allegedly underprivileged classes, the “red shirts” are neither a socialist nor a movement critical of capitalism. On the contrary: many of them are (former) farmers who, thanks to Thaksin's microloans, have set up their own businesses and started small businesses. This movement, too, only represents a minority of the total population: In 2010, 6.6% of the Thai people surveyed said they were “red”, another 7% “rather red”. The “(rather) reds” were strongest in the north (20% in total) and northeast (18%), and weakest in the south (3%).

In the greater Bangkok area (12% red, 11% yellow) and the central region (9% yellow, 8% red) the two camps were roughly equal. There was also the largest proportion of neutrals (76 and 80 percent).

Foreign policy

Locations of the diplomatic missions of Thailand

Thailand has border disputes with some of its neighbors: there is no treaty with Laos on the course of the border, as the status of some islands in the Mekong has not been clarified. There are equally serious differences with Myanmar and Cambodia about the exact course of the border. There are still numerous landmines in the ground at the borders with Laos and Cambodia. Only with Malaysia is there no border conflict, but the tense security situation in southern Thailand causes frequent temporary closings of the border crossings.

In terms of foreign policy, Thailand traditionally leans very heavily on the USA. It formally supported the US in the Vietnam War , was a founding member of the US-led SEATO and is now a member of ASEAN . The USA count Thailand among their most important allies outside of NATO . Nevertheless, Thailand has traditionally had good relations with the People's Republic of China . Since the 1990s, the country has played a more active role in the international community. The first participation of Thai armed forces in a multinational peacekeeping force took place after East Timor's independence , when Thailand provided a contingent for INTERFET .


The Thai military is divided into the Royal Thai Army (240,000 soldiers), the Royal Thai Navy (65,000 soldiers) and the Royal Thai Air Force (45,000 soldiers). There is also a reserve of 200,000 soldiers. Formal commanders-in-chief are the defense minister and the supreme commander of the armed forces , with the commanders-in-chief of the three branches of the armed forces having the greatest influence. The military budget was increased by 35% after the coup in September 2006, with a budget of 3.2 billion US dollars for 2007. In 2021, Thailand spent just under 1.4% of its economic output, or $ 7.2 billion, on its armed forces.

The armed forces are mainly used in the existing border conflicts. On the Burmese border, they are fighting the invasion of rebels and smugglers from the neighboring country. There were repeated armed incidents with Karen groups on Thai territory, which led to tensions in political relations between the two states. In southern Thailand, the military is supposed to fight the Muslim insurgents, here there is extensive cooperation with neighboring Malaysia. Communist rebels have gone into hiding on the border with Cambodia against the government in Phnom Penh, with Thailand sometimes being accused of complicity with the rebels.

Conscription is compulsory for young men aged 21 and over. Men over 18 are allowed to volunteer. Women are also allowed to make voluntary commitments, but their career opportunities are limited.

Political parties

The political parties in Thailand, unlike in Europe or America, are not a political representation of aggregated interests in society. They are replaced by personal relationships such as family, relatives and patronage . Here, people of lower status gather around an influential person in order to seek protection and support and in return to offer loyalty. In the best case scenario, a political party in Thailand represents a pyramid that extends vertically through the entire society. The fate of the party is usually tied to that of the leader: the end of the political career of a party leader also means the end of his party. Because of this, parties are extremely short-lived in Thailand. The only exception here is the Democratic Party , which has existed since 1946. As a rule, a large number of parties run for elections, the majority of which have no coherent program, no membership and no continuity; all use populist slogans to attract voters. Only the Democratic Party has developed a vaguely liberal-conservative-oriented program. After the elections, due to the short life of the parties, there are often power shifts in parliament. In addition to the Democratic Party, the Pheu-Thai Party (“Party for Thais”), founded in 2007, is currently influential. From 2011 to the 2014 coup, the latter formed the government in coalition with several smaller parties.

Human rights

Above all, the police are accused of violating human rights, who mistreat prison inmates or torture or disappear arrested persons, especially in the conflict in southern Thailand . After every military coup, the military successfully restricts freedom of speech, assembly and freedom of the press; the authorities force the media to self-censure with legal proceedings for reputational damage or betrayal . In addition to China and Cambodia, the Thai police also use metal-tipped batons, which in any case lead to serious injuries during use. The most massive human rights violations are committed by non-governmental bodies, but with the approval of the relevant authorities.

Amnesty International reported in its 2017 report that torture and other ill-treatment continued to be widespread. Politicians, land rights activists and human rights defenders face persecution, imprisonment, harassment and physical violence. Military personnel are allowed to arrest people for a wide range of criminal offenses without judicial authorization. Numerous people have been charged with lese majesty and sentenced to prison terms of up to 60 years. The Cybercrime Act allows for continuous monitoring and control of social media and the imprisonment of Facebook users for interacting with government critics. On December 11, 2018, three Thai dissidents who thought they were safe in neighboring Laos disappeared. Two of them were later found dead and handcuffed in the Mekong; there is no trace of the third.

Cautious estimates put between 200,000 and 300,000 Thai prostitutes , of whom 30,000 to 40,000 are minors. There are also numerous prostitutes from neighboring countries. Public advertising for prostitution and addressing potential suitors is officially illegal in Thailand, but in fact it is mostly tolerated.

Thailand is also a target country for human trafficking ; Most of the people who came illegally from neighboring countries are exploited. For the same purposes, people from Thailand are also smuggled into other countries in Europe, America and the Middle East, as well as Japan. The United States placed Thailand on its second watchlist in its latest Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP-Report).

Forced labor and other human rights abuses are widespread in Thailand's fishing fleets . According to a report by Human Rights Watch , fishermen immigrating to Thailand from neighboring countries in Southeast Asia are being sold as labor to fishing fleets. They don't get their salaries on time, are paid below the minimum wage, and are held in bondage to prevent them from changing employers. Thai labor law does not protect migrant workers and does not allow them to organize.

In Thailand there is the death penalty , which has been carried out by lethal injection since 2003 . In 2012, around 2,500 people waited to be executed in Thai prisons, mainly for drug offenses.

Women's suffrage

After Sri Lanka , Thailand was one of the first countries in Asia to introduce universal suffrage.

Until 1932, an absolutist ruler ruled Thailand with no political institutions to represent the people. In June 1932, the absolute monarchy was converted into a constitutional monarchy by a coup d'état. In Thailand there was no struggle for active and passive women's suffrage , but it was introduced along with men's suffrage on December 10, 1932. At that time an Assembly of Representatives , a parliament, was created. By 1933, all 70 MPs were appointed by the People's Party . Universal suffrage was exercised indirectly for the first time in 1933 when half of the MPs were elected. In 1937 half of the MPs were directly elected, but the government dissolved parliament when it showed resistance. It was not until 1952 that parliament was elected as a whole.

There were restrictions on women in local elections that were created nearly two decades before 1932 and were not lifted until 1982. Women were not allowed to run in local elections to determine village heads. It looks as if women were considered incapable of exercising the control functions of village chiefs because of their gender. Nor were women allowed to lead a group of villages.


Corruption has always been part of everyday life in Thailand. Over half of Thai households experience corruption as part of everyday life. Compared to 2014, the situation deteriorated further up to 2016.

Over 75 percent of the companies state that they have to bribe regularly or always. Over 10 percent of private individuals state that they have to pay bribes. In particular, the Thai police are seen as the masterminds of criminal activities and as corrupt. For example, in the case of traffic offenses in Chon Buri province, the fine is collected by the police on the spot without a receipt. Actually, fines in Thailand have to be paid at the nearest police station. In June 2009, 150 blackmail cases, in which tourists were accused of shoplifting and were forced to buy their way out, received particular public attention. Various European countries are now warning of such scams by the Thai police.


Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real
in percent compared to the previous year
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
4.5 7.2 6.3 4.2 5.0 5.4 1.7 −0.7 7.5 0.8 7.2 2.7 0.9 2.9 3.2
* = Estimate
The regional economic power is very unevenly distributed. Gross domestic product per capita in US $ by province (2011). The national average was $ 5,362.
  • under 1,500
  • 1,500 to under 3,000
  • 3,000 to less than 5,362
  • 5,362 to under 10,000
  • 10,000 to under 15,000
  • 15,000 to under 20,000
  • 20,000 and more
  • Thailand's economy is market-based and liberal. Thanks to the strategy of export-oriented industrialization, it has developed at high speed from an agriculturally oriented economy to a rapidly growing emerging market . A further increase in international competitiveness and stimulation of the domestic economy through increased spending in favor of the disadvantaged regions of Thailand shaped the economic policy of the former Prime Minister Thaksin . The “dual-track” economy is intended to actively support the structural change from agriculture to service, industry and technology-oriented areas of the economy. Economic output has grown moderately since the aftermath of the Asian crisis was overcome until the end of 2008 when the aftermath of the financial crisis also reached Thailand. Due to slumps in exports and weak domestic demand, the Thai economy contracted in 2009. In addition to exports, tourism in Thailand is another economic factor that contributes around 10% to the gross domestic product .

    The gross domestic product in 2016 was 406.9 billion US dollars (12 trillion baht), which corresponds to 5,899 US dollars per capita. 11.6% of it was generated in agriculture and fishing and 35.8% in mining and industry. In recent years, inflation has always been below 3%, while unemployment has been very low (2008: 0.7%). In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Thailand ranks 32nd out of 137 countries (as of 2017-2018). In 2017, Thailand ranked 55th out of 180 countries in the Economic Freedom Index .

    Economic history

    Saline / salt production near Bangkok in Thailand
    The metropolis Bangkok is the economic center of the country

    The economy of Thailand was based on agricultural subsistence until the middle of the 19th century. At that time the country had 5-6 million inhabitants who lived mainly from rice cultivation and fishing and also cultivated sugar cane , vegetables, spices, tobacco , coconuts and betel nuts as well as silk and cotton for their own use . There was no developed monetary economy, only trade in kind, taxes had to be paid to the king or feudal lord in the form of contributions in kind . Even slavery was common, to her it came through non-payment of taxes or through non-repayment of loans. There was limited foreign trade with neighboring countries. Natural products were exported and gold, silver and luxury goods were imported in return.

    Changes to this economic system occurred due to external impulses and the willingness to take on foreign developments. Thailand slowly integrated itself into the world economy. The Bowring Treaty of 1855 opened Thailand to the import of foreign goods, limited tariffs, and laid the foundation for the export of rice , teak , tin, and later rubber . For the first time in the history of Thailand, rice was not only produced for personal consumption, but also for the market. There was a strong expansion of the agriculturally used area, while initially no further technical developments in rice cultivation took place. Trade, transportation and other services remained in foreign hands. From 1884, King Chulalongkorn began to build state infrastructure , introduced a money-based tax system, created ministries, public educational institutions, infrastructure ( railways , electricity ) and the first factories were built with the aim of import substitution . After the palace revolt of 1926, Chinese companies were expropriated and the state became involved in industry, especially paper production, the textile industry and sugar production. Dirigism prevailed in foreign trade and capital movements .

    Since the state economy turned out to be too inefficient, the state withdrew from the companies in the 1950s and left more space to the private sector. Currency and trade controls were abolished. Thailand received strong support from the West, especially the US and the World Bank. The 1960s were then characterized by strong growth (an average of 8% per year). The growth was mainly driven by capital inflows, such as loans and direct investments, but also the expenditures of the American military and their soldiers engaged in the Vietnam War . Economic policy focused on building infrastructure and import substitution.

    The 1970s brought Thailand economic difficulties. As a result of the global economic crisis, the demand for Thai export products fell, the prices of which fell, and at the same time the American military withdrew from Thailand. Then in 1984/85 Thailand found itself in a severe recession. In response to this, there was a change in strategy in economic policy: the state withdrew from the economy, import tariffs and exchange controls were abolished, and the development path of export industrialization was taken. At the end of the 1980s, Thailand was one of the fastest growing economies in the world ( panther state ), with growth now being driven by investments from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. Overheating and economic policy mistakes meant that Thailand was at the center of the Asian crisis in the mid-1990s : speculation against the fixed exchange rate of the baht against the US dollar led to the abandonment of the exchange rate system, massive devaluation of the baht and a banking crisis in 1997 . In 1998 the economy shrank by a massive 10.4%. As a result, Thailand needed massive help from the IMF and the World Bank to overcome the crisis .


    Agriculture, forestry and fishing contributed less than 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006 , but they employed around 39% of the workforce. In 1960, however, 82% of the workforce was still employed in these sectors and they generated 38% of GDP. The agriculturally used area increased sharply until the early 1980s and has remained practically the same since then. In 2007, 19.7 million hectares of land were built on.

    Rice cultivation in Northern Thailand

    The main crop in the country is rice . The Thai culture originally developed on the basis of wet rice cultivation. Rice is mainly grown in the Mae Nam Chao Phraya basin ( Chao Phraya River ) and in the irrigation areas of northeast Thailand . The annual rice harvest rose from 10 million tons in 1962 to 32 million tons in 2007. Thailand is the sixth largest producer and most important rice exporter in the world, whereby white rice is usually grown for export and sticky rice for the domestic market .

    Thailand is the world's largest producer of natural rubber (2007: 3 million tons), which is mainly obtained on plantations in southern Thailand, as well as pineapples (2007: 2.8 million tons). It ranks second in the production of cassava (27 million tons). Other important products of Thai agriculture are maize (3.6 million tons), sugar cane (64 million tons), soybeans and kenaf , which are grown in dry fields in northeast Thailand.

    Forestry was a very important economic factor at the beginning of the 20th century and teak was Thailand's second most important export after rice. Thailand has been a net timber importer since 1968. The reason for this lies in the strong expansion of the agricultural area.

    Thailand is one of the most important suppliers of shrimp ; In 2007 it produced a total of almost 2.5 million tons of fish and crustaceans, with a slightly falling trend due to overfishing and pollution of the waters.


    Factory work in Chachoengsao

    Thai industry contributes about 45% of the total economic output, but only employs a quarter of the workforce. The most important branch of industry is the manufacture of motor vehicles and their individual parts. It contributes around 10% to the gross domestic product and is dominated by Japanese corporations. Thailand has the capacity to manufacture 1.8 million vehicles per year and is one of the top ten automobile manufacturers. The aim is the center of the automotive industry of ASEAN to be. Other important branches of industry are steel production, the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment, the textile industry and the processing of agricultural products.

    Financial sector

    The causes of the 1997/98 Asian crisis included problems in the Thai financial sector such as bad loans and excessive borrowing in foreign currencies. The reforms that have been implemented since then have resulted in consolidation in the financial sector, banks have fewer bad loans on their balance sheets and are profitable. In 2007 there were three state commercial banks and five state specialist banks in Thailand , as well as 15 domestic and 17 foreign commercial banks (see list of banks in Thailand ).

    The country's central bank is the Bank of Thailand . This institution, founded in 1942, conducts monetary policy , acts as a central bank, maintains the currency reserve and acts as a banking regulator .

    Foreign trade

    Main trading partner (2013)
    Export (in%) to Imports (in%)
    PR China
    (including Hong Kong)
    18th   PR China
    (including Hong Kong)
    USA 11   Japan 16  
    Japan 9.1 UAE 6.7
    Australia 4.7 USA 5.6
    other countries 31.6 other countries 32  
    Germany 1.7 Switzerland 3.9
    Switzerland 0.7 Germany 2.5
    Share of product groups in Thailand's exports in 2013. Blue: machines (33); light pink: plastics and rubber (13%); light blue: vehicles (12%); light green: food (7.6%); dark brown: mineral products (5.9%); pink: chemical products (5.5%)

    The trade balance of Thailand was negative for decades, only the rapid growth of the export-oriented branches of industry has helped the country to a balanced, now even slightly positive trade balance - the goods exported by Thailand have a higher value than the imported ones. Income from tourism and direct investment ensured that the current account and the balance of payments were almost always positive in the past. In order to further promote foreign trade, Thailand has signed bilateral free trade agreements with countries such as Australia, New Zealand, China, India and Bahrain. It is a member of organizations such as ASEAN , Asian Development Bank , APEC , the World Trade Organization and the ASEAN Free Trade Area .

    In 2013, goods worth $ 238 billion were exported. This makes Thailand the 23rd largest export nation. The most important export goods were machines, electronics and electrical engineering (especially computer data storage media, i.e. hard drives, etc.), vehicles and vehicle parts (especially small trucks and cars), food (especially processed fish and cane sugar), chemical products and raw materials (especially natural rubber , Petroleum products). Thailand is - by a large margin behind China, but almost on a par with the USA - one of the most important exporters of computer parts in the world. In the area of ​​data storage units in particular, it accounts for 22% of the world market. The country is also the world's largest rubber exporter.

    Goods to the value of 232 billion US dollars were imported, primarily electronics, metal products, chemical products, machinery, electrical engineering, food as well as vehicles and vehicle parts.

    The most important trading partners of Thailand are the ASEAN countries (together over 23% of exports and over 17% of imports), the People's Republic of China (with Hong Kong 18% and 16.6% respectively), Japan (9.1% and 16% respectively ) ), the USA (11% and 5.6% respectively), as well as the countries of the Middle East. Thailand handles 2.8% of its exports and 2.4% b of its imports with Germany, 0.7% of its exports and 3.9% of its imports with Switzerland. Germany mainly exports machinery and electronics, chemical products, vehicles and vehicle parts to Thailand; In return, machines and electronic products such as data storage devices and integrated circuits, as well as silver jewelry and rubber products - especially tires - are sold from Thailand to Germany. Switzerland mainly supplies gold to Thailand.

    Thailand is the destination of a large number of FDI, which in 2005 amounted to US $ 3.3 billion. Most of the investments come from the USA, Japan, Singapore and the European Union. In Thailand, the World Bank primarily finances social and educational projects as well as the energy sector, which in 2005 amounted to almost one billion US dollars. The foreign debt amounted to 57.83 billion US dollars in June (34% of GDP), which foreign exchange reserves of 59 billion US dollars faced.

    The exchange rate of the baht was pegged to the US dollar until the outbreak of the Asian crisis . Since then, the true exchange rate regime of managed floating against a basket of currencies of major trading partners.


    Thailand has become one of the main destinations of international tourism since the 1960s. During the Vietnam War, there was strong demand from the American military with its rest-and-recreation programs. The economic development and liberalization in Asia enabled further growth, and the possibilities of long-haul flights made Thailand accessible to tourists from Europe and America. At the same time, there was always a government policy aimed at promoting tourism, which sought to compensate for the current account deficit with income from tourism .

    In 2010, the country recorded 15,936,400 arrivals, slightly more than half (8,167,164) from Asia (excluding Russia) and a further quarter (4,442,375) from Europe (including Russia). There were 606,874 Germans, 90,026 Austrians and 155,761 Swiss. The average length of stay was 9.66 days. In 2016, the number of arrivals rose to 32,530,000, which was mainly due to the increased number of tourists from the People's Republic of China. International tourism is thus an important economic factor for Thailand, the income for 2016 was more than 52 billion US dollars. The seepage rate is estimated at a relatively low 20 percent. For 1996 it was estimated that around four million jobs were directly or indirectly dependent on tourism. In addition to international tourism, there is also lively domestic tourism; In 2006, 81 million arrivals resulted in a revenue of 356 billion baht.

    The most important types of tourism are recreational trips (on the coasts or in the northern mountains), sightseeing trips (Bangkok and the surrounding area, northern Thailand, central plain with the historical sites of Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, etc.), business trips and sex tourism . Most of the mass tourism is limited to Bangkok and some seaside resorts on the coast such as Pattaya, Phuket , Krabi or Ko Samui . The negative effects of mass tourism are therefore limited to spatially relatively small areas, but are all the more concentrated there.


    Daily oil consumption of some countries in Southeast Asia, liters per day / inhabitant

    Thailand's energy supply is largely based on fossil fuels : In 2007, 42% of the total energy consumption was due to crude oil , 38% to natural gas and 15% to coal , with oil being mainly imported from the Gulf region. Natural gas plays an important role in the generation of electrical energy and 20% is obtained from Myanmar . Thailand is one of the most important producing countries for soft lignite . In 2009 17.9 million tons were extracted, the resources are estimated at 1,390 million tons. The largest open-cast coal mine in Thailand is located in Mae Mo ( Lampang Province ), where 40,000 tons of coal are produced every day.

    Electricity supply

    In 2006, Thailand produced 130.8 billion kWh of electrical energy, of which 120 billion came from conventional thermal generation, 7.8 billion from hydropower, and only 3 billion came from other renewable sources . The electric power market is dominated by the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand .

    In 2016, Thailand was 24th in the world for installed capacity with 44.89  GW and 23rd for annual generation with 181.5 billion  kWh . The degree of electrification was 100% in 2016. Thailand was a net importer of electricity in 2016; it exported 2.267 billion kWh and imported 19.83 billion kWh.

    Photovoltaics , wind energy and hydropower have so far played a subordinate role, the latter due to protests against the need to build reservoirs . However, the generation of energy from biomass was predicted to play an important role in the future. Wind energy and photovoltaics are also to be expanded significantly in order to be able to reduce the import requirement for fossil fuels. In 2012, Siemens received its first order for 90 wind turbines with a total output of around 200 MW. The total output of the Thai wind turbines was 1,532 MW at the end of 2019. Solar energy reached 1,299 GW in 2015, biomass 2,452 GW and small hydropower plants 0.14 GW, so that in 2015 the total installed capacity of renewable sources was 4,494 GW.

    State budget

    The state budget included expenditures in 2016 of the equivalent of 86.9 billion in the fiscal year US dollars , which were income equivalent to 76.7 billion US dollar against. This results in a budget deficit of 2.5% of GDP .

    The national debt in 2016 was $ 171.7 billion, or 42.2% of GDP. The state 's government bonds are rated BBB + by the rating agency Standard & Poor’s (as of November 2018).

    In 2006, the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was in the following areas:


    In the Logistics Performance Index , which is compiled by the World Bank and measures the quality of the infrastructure, Thailand was ranked 32nd out of 160 countries in 2018.

    Thailand plans to greatly expand the country's infrastructure over the next five years, from 2012 to 2016. This is done through an investment program with a volume of around 56 billion euros. The sectors most affected are transport (in urban areas), energy and public transport (better rail connections, four high-speed rail lines, new mass transport systems).

    Infrastructure plan 2014–2016

    sector Total volume 1
    transport 1,469.9
    High-speed trains 481.1
    Mass transportation systems 321.3
    railroad 298.2
    Highways 187.3
    Road network 181.9
    energy 499.4
    Sea and air transport 148.5
    telecommunications 35.2
    Public services 117.1
    total 2,270.1
    1 Figures (in billion baht)


    Road traffic

    General speed limit in Thailand
    Refueling with autogas (LPG)

    Depending on the source, Thailand has a road network of 45,000 km to 57,000 km, most of which is paved. It has grown a lot since 1960 when only 7450 km existed. There is left-hand traffic . More than 60 percent of cars are registered in Bangkok, which suffers from extensive traffic jams every day. In the rest of the country, the motorcycle is still the most common mode of transport; In 2002, 67.6 percent of all vehicles registered in Thailand were motorcycles. Most of the public transport is also carried out by road; the state-owned company BKS operates an extensive network of public buses.

    Road safety is a burning issue in Thailand; In 2003, road accidents were among the top three causes of death. With 38 road fatalities per 100,000 population (as of 2013), Thailand has one of the highest road death rates in the world. The main causes are the disregard of safety regulations such as riding a motorcycle without a helmet, using cell phones and smartphones while driving and driving under the influence of alcohol. Many Thais believe that amulets or tattoos protect them. Escape from accidents and failure to provide assistance are widespread, and rescue vehicles are often not let through.

    The addition of 10 to 20 percent ethanol to gasoline (" gasohol ") is mandatory. Many vehicles - particularly taxis, buses and trucks - also take autogas (LPG).

    Rail transport

    The construction of railway lines in Thailand began as early as 1892. At that time, a means of transport was needed that would allow troops and materials to be moved quickly in the event of an invasion by a colonial power. Today the state railway operates a narrow-gauge rail network of more than 4000 kilometers, which starts in a star shape from Bangkok. The SRT connects 47 of the country's 76 provinces. In 2002, 55.7 million passengers and 9.9 million tons of cargo were carried. Bangkok Skytrain (BTS), Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link and Bangkok Metro (MRT) are the only rail-bound mass transit systems in the country.

    The State Railway of Thailand is considered next to Thai Airways International on the state-owned enterprises with the worst economic indicators. The number of passengers corresponds to only 6 percent of the people who are transported by road, and only 2 percent of goods traffic is handled by rail. The reason for the unsatisfactory services are too high prices. A modernization of the network, double-track expansion, the purchase of better vehicles and an increase in the average speed as well as security would cost around 15 billion euros in the coming years. At the end of 2009, the government decided in principle to make the necessary investments.

    air traffic

    Thailand has more than 30 airports with regular commercial air traffic. The major international airport of Thailand has been Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi Airport since October 2006 . It is located southeast of the capital Bangkok in the Samut Prakan province and is an important aviation hub in Southeast Asia. It is served by over 80 airlines and in 2013 handled 50 million passengers and 1,200,000 tons of cargo. The most important airlines in Thailand are the state-owned Thai Airways International , founded in 1960 , the private Bangkok Airways founded in 1968 and the low-cost airline Thai AirAsia, founded in 2003 .


    The telephone network in Thailand is not very well developed, especially in rural areas, which can result in long waiting times for a telephone connection. In contrast, the use of mobile phones is very widespread; in 2015 there were already 105 mobile phones for every 100 inhabitants. In 2019, 67 percent of Thailand's residents used the internet . The digital infrastructure has been expanded significantly in recent years, and the average Internet speed at the beginning of 2017 was faster than that of Canada or Germany.


    Prior to ordination in Buddhism, Thai boys respect their elders at the Songkran Festival.

    The culture of Thailand is heavily influenced by the cultures of the peoples who populated the country before the arrival of the Thai, as well as its neighbors. Above all, these are the Indian , Cambodian and Chinese cultures . Religious ideas from Buddhism , but also from Hinduism , ancestral cult , ethnic religions and Chinese folk beliefs are deeply rooted in the thoughts and actions of Thais. This is expressed, for example, in the fact that the head is the most sacred part of the body. The feet, on the other hand, are considered dirty; Stepping over someone or holding something with your foot is considered an insult.

    Seniority plays a very important role in Thai society. Older siblings are obliged to the younger ones, in return the younger one owes the older one obedience. The traditional greeting Wai is given to those of higher rank; the king, as the most highly placed person in the whole country, is, like his portraits, venerated without limit. Thailand has its own calendar , which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar .


    The traditional residential building in Thailand is the wooden stilt house . It is an adaptation to the climate of the country, because it protects against the regularly occurring floods and against wild animals. The high roof allows optimal ventilation. The space under the house can be used as storage or as a stable for the pets. Houses on stilts are still common in the country, but wood has become very expensive as a building material. Therefore, concrete structures or buildings made of prefabricated components predominate nowadays.

    Wat Phra Kaeo emerges, which is almost overloaded with the finest carvings and decorations.

    The religious architecture of the early Sukhothai period is heavily steeped in Khmer elements. The preserved monuments can be recognized by the use of sandstone and their rectangular windows. Later, the architects of Siams developed their own style with multi-story roofs and numerous towers. Stucco replaced the sandstone and the Chinese influence in recent times brought, among other things, the use of porcelain ornaments in many different colors. The Thai architecture produced historical monuments such as Wat Phra Kaeo , which is downright overloaded with the finest carvings and decorations. The Wat Benchamabophit is one of the greatest examples of Buddhist architecture of the last century. It was built in 1899 from Italian marble and is covered with multi-storey orange roofs.

    The UNESCO World Heritage includes the historical parks of the ruined city of Sukhothai , which was nominated together with Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet , as well as the Ayutthaya Historical Park and the Bronze Age archaeological site of Ban Chiang .


    Khon performance in Bad Homburg

    Traditional Thai theater is fundamentally different from western theater. It consists of the recitation of a text by a narrator, usually accompanied by music, while pantomimes appear or dance on the stage. The actors sometimes perform a chant. The material for the pieces mostly comes from the Thai epic Ramakian or other fairytale or fantastic legends.

    There are two main currents from the traditional form of theater, Lakhon. Lakhon Nok is the ancient Thai folk theater, while Lakhon nai was only performed in the royal palace. The actors, who mostly wear magnificent costumes and masks, portray their characters with complicated facial expressions and dance figures that have to be trained for a long time. It is peculiar that the ideal of softness and suppleness in dance is achieved by overstretching the limbs against the joints. Typical is the appearance of a joker who usually makes rough jokes to amuse the audience.

    Khon dance

    The traditional Thai mask game Khon is significantly older than Lakhon and was probably adopted by the Khmer or other Indianized peoples. Here Ramakian is represented and was performed exclusively by men in the Ayutthaya period .

    The traditional shadow theater nang yai may have been introduced into Thai culture from what is now Indonesia. The actors in the play dance with large figures in their hands in front of and behind a translucent canvas behind which a fire is burning or another source of light is installed. Here a text is recited and sung and accompanied by an orchestra. In the past, nang yai could only be performed at the royal court. For the younger and still popular, southern Thai shadow theater Nang talung , smaller figures with an average height of 50 cm are used.

    These cultural forms, which were once deeply rooted in Thai society, have now largely been supplanted by television. Performances are only occasionally held in order to maintain culture.


    Early Thai literature was very much shaped by Indian culture. It was primarily of a religious or mythological nature and was written in verse until the middle of the 19th century. Until then, the members of the aristocracy were the only ones who dealt with literature. So part Chaofa Thammathibet , son of King Borommakot , the most important poets in the history of Thailand; his rowing songs and nirats are still standard reading in Thai schools today.

    The most important work in Thai literature is the epic Ramakian . This epic is based on the national epic Ramayana and was expanded at the end of the 18th century by King Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I) . It is the most important historical source on the customs of the court of medieval Thailand. King Phra Phutthaloetla (Rama II.) Created two classic dramas based on Ramakian episodes and the Inao . The works of Sunthon Phu, however, use a language that is similar to that of the common people.

    At the beginning of the 20th century, the verse form was discarded and replaced by prose. Many great writers and authors brought out numerous well-known books in the 1950s. Among the best known representatives of modern Thai literature include Phya Anuman Rajadhon , Dokmaisod , Malai Choopinit , May Muang Doem , Chot Praephan , Kulap Saipradit , former Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj , Krisna Asokesin , Seni Saowaphong , Suwanee Sukhontha , Suwat Woradilok , Kampoon Boonthavi , Angkarn Kalayanapong and Pira Sudham .


    The history of the music of Thailand cannot be exactly reconstructed. It combines influences of Chinese and Indian music and is to that of the Khmer and Mon related. The stone inscription of King Ramkhamhaeng already reports that there was a lot of music playing all over Sukhothai . In the kingdom of Ayutthaya in the 15th century, music was also extremely popular with the population. The courtly Thai music sounds unusual to the Western ear, as the octave is divided into seven equally large tone steps. The melodies are also structured in terms of motifs, which makes many passages appear repetitive. There never was a notation in Thailand , the musical tradition was passed on through listening and imitation.

    School girls and boys play Khrüang Sai in front of a temple

    The best-known classical Thai orchestra is the Pi Phat , which is traditionally intended for the accompaniment of stage plays and in its basic form consists of a quadruple reed instrument ( pi nai ), a circle of hump gongs ( gong wong ), a xylophone ( ranat ek ), cymbals ( ching ), a barrel drum ( taphon ) and a larger barrel drum ( klong that ). There are also numerous other orchestral forms, including the Khrüang Sai , consisting of the bamboo longitudinal flute khlui , string instruments ( so duong , so u and chakhe ), the frame drum rammana , the beaker drum thon and hand cymbals ( ching ). The Mahori typically accompanies singing and has a cast similar to the Khruong Sai.

    After 1932, Thai music was increasingly played with Western instruments. Western music has largely supplanted Thai classical music to this day. Commercial Thai, Asian and Western pop music is ubiquitous, while traditional music is cherished and preserved as a cultural heritage. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is engaged here, while the late King Rama IX. Was a jazz musician.

    In the northeast region, the cultural heritage of the Lao population lives on in the typical Mor-Lam music, among other things . The mouth organ khaen produces the typical sound .


    Wall painting in Wat Phra Kaeo

    The walls of temples and palaces were decorated with paintings to emphasize the beauty of the objects they surround. In contrast to Western painting, traditional Thai painting has almost no perspective. All figures were shown two-dimensionally and their size in the representation depended on their importance for the depicted event (meaning perspective). The motifs were mainly religious, such as scenes from the life of the Buddha. Tempera paints were used for painting , with pigments initially being available in five colors. The wall paintings in the temples Wat Suthat (Bangkok) or Wat Suwannaram (Thonburi) are particularly important.

    At the beginning of the 19th century, people began to import color pigments from China, later chemical pigments were used. The paintings became more colorful now. At the same time, Western concepts such as shadow and perspective found their way into Thai painting.

    Important painters of the traditional technique are Fua Hariphitak , Chalerm Nakiraks , Sanit Ditthaphan or Tawee Nanthakwang , who have also been recognized as national artists . Contemporary painters in Thailand are Chakrabhand Posayakrit or Thawan Duchanee .


    The weaving , especially the silk industry is deeply rooted in the culture of the inhabitants of northeastern Thailand. It experienced a temporary decline after cheaper silk was imported from China and Japan. Today specialties such as Matmi silk (also: “Mutmee” silk, Thai: มัดหมี่ ) or brocade with woven gold and silver threads are produced, which require great skill, achieve high prices and are used by buyers for special occasions. Silk embroidery has a long tradition with some mountain peoples, especially the Yao and Hmong.

    There are numerous regionally different styles of pottery in Thailand. Pottery already had a high point in its development in the 13th century, when the ruler Sukothais brought 300 potters into the country from China. As a result, the products were exported to all of Southeast Asia.

    Ornate objects such as furniture, swords, cups, jugs or religious symbols have a long tradition in Thailand. They can be made of silver; the most important silversmiths are in Chiang Mai . Objects made of niello , lacquer carvings or those with mother-of-pearl inlays are also produced.


    Thai film history dates back to 1897, when King Chulalongkorn's visit to Bern was filmed by François-Henri Lavancy-Clarke. When this film was later shown in Bangkok, the Thai royal family became more interested in the medium. As a result, the necessary film technology was brought into the country in order to be able to show other foreign films. The Thai film industry was founded in the 1920s and in the 1930s it experienced its first "golden age". The years after World War II saw a resurgence in Thai cinema, with hundreds of 16mm films being produced, mostly action films. The competition from Hollywood brought Thailand's film landscape to a rock bottom in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Today's Thai films are typically commercial products for entertainment purposes only. The actors are selected based on their attractiveness to the audience. More sophisticated productions that have a social message are rare and usually do not have any commercial success. These include, for example, the work of Wichit Khunawut . Other popular directors belonging to the new wave are Nonzee Nimibutr , Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, as well as martial arts star Tony Jaa .

    Thailand is a popular filming location for foreign films, films such as The Man with the Golden Gun , The Killing Fields - Crying country , The Deer Hunter , The Beach or Air America of the country were taken at different locations.

    Celebrations and holidays

    Street parade and water fight at Songkran 2007 in Uttaradit
    Loi Krathong 2007 in Lumpini Park, Bangkok

    Traditional Thai, Buddhist and Western holidays are celebrated in Thailand. The Thai holidays are based on the lunar calendar and therefore fall on a different date from year to year. If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the first day of the week is free.

    The most important holiday in Thailand is Songkran New Year , which takes place between April 13th and 15th and is best known for the custom of splashing each other with water. Loi Krathong usually falls in November, when small rafts decorated with flowers and candles are set into the rivers and canals. Luminous little hot air balloons made of paper are raised regionally (see Kong Ming lantern ). Buddhist holidays are Visakha Puja , which commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha, Magha Puja , which is celebrated with candle processions in the temples, or Ok Phansa . Furthermore, the birthdays of the king, the queen and the anniversary of the coronation of the king are official holidays. For the Chinese minority, the Chinese New Year is the most important holiday.


    watch TV

    For most Thais, television is the primary medium for receiving news and other important information. Regular television broadcasts have existed in Thailand since 1955. In 2003, the total number of televisions in Thailand was estimated at over 15 million. There are six nationwide free-to-air television stations operated by six different companies. Most of the time, the army and other government organizations are behind it.

    Furthermore, numerous commercial channels can be received via cable and satellite. Only a small part of the programs consists of high-quality programs, news is often politically one-sided and the popular TV dramas and soap operas ( lakhon ) solidify prejudice and glorify violence.

    In Bangkok, DVB-T (digital aerial television) is broadcast on UHF channel 60 . From 2015, analog terrestrial television was gradually switched off in Thailand. Digital, satellite, cable and internet television channels are on the rise. Nevertheless, the four “big” free-to-air channels 3, 5, 7 and 9 still had an audience rating of 70 percent in 2014.

    Nationwide, free-to-air television channels

    • Kanal 3 , private (license from the state-run media organization MCOT)
    • Thai TV5 , operated by the Thai army
    • BBTV Channel 7 , private (license from the Army)
    • Modernine TV (formerly Kanal 9), operated by the state-owned media organization MCOT
    • NBT TV (formerly Kanal 11) operated by the Government Public Relations Office
    • Thai PBS operated by the State Thai Public Broadcasting Service

    Foreign TV channels


    Radio programs have been broadcast in Thailand since 1928, the state broadcaster Radio Thailand was founded in 1929. All of the numerous radio stations are required to broadcast a daily 30-minute news program produced by Radio Thailand. In addition to nationwide government and commercial radio stations, there are between 2000 and 3000 community radios.


    Daily newspapers appear in Thai, Chinese, and English; there are two major English-language newspapers , the Bangkok Post and The Nation , four Chinese-language and 18 Thai-language daily newspapers. Of the Thai speakers, the most influential are Thai Rath , Daily News , Khao Sod and Matichon .

    Media freedom is severely restricted. In 2014, the organization Freedom House rated both the press and the Internet in Thailand as “unfree”. The military often tries successfully to directly or indirectly enforce censorship, especially after coups. This is mostly done through intimidation or legal action against critical journalists. Internet censorship prevails on the basis of the “Law against Computer Crime” of 2007 , mainly pornographic, but also politically unaccepted content, such as (alleged) insults to the king or the monarchy or content relating to the separatist efforts of Muslims in southern Thailand.


    The national sport of Thailand, the Thai boxing , a martial art similar to western in a ring boxes is exerted and beats allows not only with his fists, but also with elbows, feet and knees. Following this tradition, Thailand achieved most of its Olympic successes in boxing at the Olympic Games . In recent years, Thai athletes have also enjoyed success in weightlifting and taekwondo at the Olympic Games . At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro , the country won gold, silver and bronze twice.

    Other western sports that are popular in Thailand are rugby , tennis and golf . The football plays a minor role, although football on TV, especially the Premier League , a sensation excited. The annual Chula Thammasat football game, on the other hand, has a long tradition . The Thai national soccer team has never been able to qualify for a World Cup. The greatest success was a third place at the Asian Cup in 1972 .

    In 2014, a new permanent motorsport circuit, Chang International Circuit, was completed in Buri Ram in the Isan region . Since 2015, a.o. the FIM - Superbike World Championship and the FIA - World Touring Car Championship .

    See also

    Portal: Thailand  - More articles about Thailand


    Web links

    Commons : Thailand  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
    Wiktionary: Thailand  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
     Wikinews: Thailand  - in the news
    Wikivoyage: Thailand  Travel Guide
    Wikimedia Atlas: Thailand  geographical and historical maps

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    Coordinates: 15 °  N , 101 °  E