WHERE IS THAILAND? Thailand lies in the heart of South East Asia. It shares its northern border with Burma and Laos, its eastern border with Laos and Cambodia, its southern border is surrounded by the Gulf of Thailand (Siam), and Malaysia, and finally to the west is the Andaman Sea. From a global perspective, Thailand is in the Eastern hemisphere on the continent of Asia below China. It is the worlds 50 th largest country! It is also the only country in South East Asia to never have been colonized by a European Power! Why? Because of Thailand's geography it is a “buffer state between the British dominions in India and Burma and the French dominions in Indochina.” (Khanna)
A Closer Look at Thailand’s Geography: Thailand is divided into 4 topographic regions
The central region is know as “Thailand’s rice bowl”, it is the cultural and economic heartland of the Thai nation. Bangkok, Thailand’s capital is located in this region. The central area is one large lowland plain. Many Thai and Siamese people live here.
The northern region full of mountains is the largest region in Thailand. The pre-dominant people here are Thai’s. The Thai’s live in the lowlands, while a number of primitive tribes live in the uplands.
The northeastern region is referred to as “Isaan” or the “Khorat Plateau”. Here you will find hilly terrain. It has harsh weather conditions which usually cause lots of flooding and droughts. The people living in this area are predominantly Thai who are called Lao.
The southern region is hilly and has some mountains. The forests here contain rich deposits of minerals and ores. This region is the main center for the production of rubber and the cultivation of tropical crops. The people who live along the peninsula are mainly Thai, but the more southern parts are mostly people of Malayan blood.
Where did the Thai’s come from?
Thailand has around 30 different Thai tribes. It is unique in the sense that every region of Thailand has its own ethnic diversity. In prehistoric times, inhabitants of Thailand were the Mon, Khmer, and other Austro-Asiatic tribes.
The kingdom of Chenla and Angkor were influenced by the Khmer predominantly in the eastern region.
The Austro-Asiatic speakers including the Mon influenced the northern and central regions of Thailand.
Modern Thailand is a “modern political nation” now comprising what were former ethnic cultures and Kingdoms. The main point of comparison between the ethnic Thai people are the spoken and written languages, along with belief systems.
The People of Thailand Today
Due to immigration, Thailand is becoming populated with people other than Thai ethnicity. However, Thailand is still very homogeneous. More than 85% of the people living in Thailand speak some form of the Thai language, and share the common culture. Around 14% of the inhabitants are of Chinese descent, others are from Asia, Europe, and North America.
There is about 2 million people living in Thailand, and it continues to grow every year. Around 31% of the total population resides in the central region in Bangkok.
Thai Culture: A Thai Greeting
Sawadee is the only word in the Thai culture used to greet one another. Instead of a hand shake, Thai’s use a gesture called Wai. They place their palms together in a prayer position and bow their head to their fingertips. It is customary for the youngest and lower status person to start the gesture.
Wai is thought of bringing together the good and the bad since it is believed to exist together. (it is important to note that you never return a Wai when you are being served)
Thai Culture: Sanku
In Thai culture, it is very important to enjoy life and live in the moment. Sanku is the Thai word for fun! “In Thailand anything worth doing, even work should have some element of Sanku.” (All About Thailand Culture). . They don’t call it the “Land of Smiles” for nothing!
The Thai people are not aggressive, they are very tolerant of other’s. The general friendliness of the Thai people is a cultural staple. Thai people believe in keeping their composure and saving face, weather it be their own or someone else.
History of Thailand
Thailand is a Kingdom with a constitutional monarchy. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth king in the house of Chakri he has been king since 1946, making him the worlds longest serving Head of State. “The king is officially titled Head of State, Head of Armed Forces, an upholder of the Buddhist religion, and the Defender of all Faiths.”
Thailand has been inhabited with people for the past 10,000 years, ever since the Paleolithic period. India’s culture and religion has had a heavy influence on Thailand.
The first Thai state to be founded in 1238 was the Buddhist Kingdom Sukhothai, which its foundation is still celebrated today.
History of Thailand
In 1932 a “bloodless revolution” led by the Khana Ratsadon military group and civilian officials resulted in the ending of absolute monarchy. King Prajadhipok had no choice but to grant the Siam (Thai) people their first constitution.
“ After World War 2, Thailand encountered decades of political instability characterized by “coups d’ etat” as one military regime replaced another” (Thailand) . By the 1980’s, Thailand had finally become a stable democracy.
“ Thailand”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia . Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 19 June 2010. Web. 22 June 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thailand
“ All About Thailand Culture”. Thailand- Land of Smiles. n.d. Web. 22 June 2010 http ://www.horizonmuaythai.com/Thailand/culture.html
Khanna, Parag. The Second World. New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008.