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Thailand, Kingdom of Thailand, formerly Siam, constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia. Thailand is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) to the west and northwest, Laos in the north and east, Cambodia to the southeast, and Malaysia and the Gulf of Siam to the south. The capital is Bangkok.

Land and climate

Thailand takes up an area of 198,115 sq mi (513,115 sq km) and is divisible into 3 main areas. The principle region is a fertile plain approximately in the center of the country. It is here that most of the people live. To the north and northeast is a region sometimes called the Khorat Plateau. It is a high red sandstone plateau that drains eastward to the Mekong. It has poor clay, sand soils, and scrub vegetation and is dry and dusty about half of the year. The region is thinly populated. To the south, Thailand extends into the long narrow Malay Peninsula, which it occupies with Myanmar and Malaysia. In places where it borders Myanmar, Thailand's peninsular territory is not more than 10 mi (16 km) wide. The region is mostly mountainous and forested, but has rice-producing plains and mineral deposits. The many islands along its coast include Phuket, important for its tin. The climate of Thailand is monsoonal.


The Thai people are of Mongol origin. Ethnic Chinese are an important minority, and there are hill peoples in the north and Malays, most of them Muslim, in the south. Hinayana Buddhism is the official religion and Thai, a Sino-Tibetan language is the official language.


Rice is the chief crop in Thailand's predominantly agricultural economy, but sugarcane, cotton, corn, coconuts, rubber, and tobacco are also cultivated. Fishing is important and forestry yields teak, oils, resins, and bamboo. Among the few manufactures is quality silk production. Thailand is one of the world's largest exporters of rice. Other exports include corn, rubber, and teak. Tourism is also important to the economy.


The Thai people migrated from South China c.1000 B.C. The center of their culture and civilization moved south under the successive dynasties of the Sukho Thai (c.1220–1350), Ayuthai (1350–1778), and Chakri (1782– ). The coming of the Portuguese in the 16th century eventually led to an enduring association between the kingdom of Siam and the Western powers. The only country of Southeast Asia that has never been a colony of a European power, Siam lost territorial influence in the 1800s to the British in Burma and Malaya and to the French in Laos and Cambodia, but kept its independence. Thailand was invaded and occupied by the Japanese in World War II. In the early 1950s it sent troops to Korea and joined the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954, which is headquartered in Bangkok. Thailand supported the United States in Vietnam, providing troops as well as air bases. King Prajadhikop was forced to grant the country a constitution in 1932 and Siam became Thailand in 1939. The post-World War II years saw political instability and military coups. A new constitution was promulgated in 1978 and general elections were held in 1979. The civilian government was brought down by a coup in 1991 and was restored in 1992. In 1997 a new constitution was adopted. In the same year the country experienced a serious economic crisis.


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