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macrohistory & world report

Kingdom of Thailand

Map of Thailand

Thailand (capital Bangkok) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014: "With a well-developed infrastructure, a free-enterprise economy, generally pro-investment policies, and strong export industries, Thailand achieved steady growth due largely to industrial and agriculture exports - mostly electronics, agricultural commodities, automobiles and parts, and processed foods. Unemployment, at less than 1% of the labor force, stands as one of the lowest levels in the world, which puts upward pressure on wages in some industries. Thailand also attracts nearly 2.5 million migrant workers from neighboring countries. The Thai government in 2013 implemented a nation-wide 300 baht ($10) per day minimum wage policy and deployed new tax reforms designed to lower rates on middle-income earners. The Thai economy has weathered internal and external economic shocks in recent years. The global economic recession severely cut Thailand's exports, with most sectors experiencing double-digit drops. In late 2011 Thailand's recovery was interrupted by historic flooding in the industrial areas in Bangkok and its five surrounding provinces, crippling the manufacturing sector. The government approved flood mitigation projects worth $11.7 billion, which were started in 2012, to prevent similar economic damage, and an additional $75 billion for infrastructure over the following seven years. This was expected to lead to an economic upsurge but growth has remained slow, in part due to ongoing political unrest and resulting uncertainties. Spending on infrastructure will require re-approval once a new government is seated."

Unemployment rate
2011: 0.7%
2010: 1.2%
2009: 1.6%
2008: 1.4%

Public debt
2011: 40.5% of GDP
2010: 42.3%

Exports
2011: Exports exceed imports.Thailand exports textiles, footwear, fishery products, rice, rubber, jewelry, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances. Partners: China 12%, Japan 10.5%, US 9.6%, Hong Kong 7.2%, Malaysia 5.4%, Singapore 5%, Indonesia 4.4%

Family Income Distribution (GINI Index)
Ranks 14th worst of 140 countries.

As recent as April, 2008, Thailand is described as having "one of the most unequal distributions of wealth" in the world. And it has been reported that in general the wealthy have contempt for the poor.

Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP
2005: 1.8%

People

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Living in an urban area
2010: 34%
2008: 33%

Literacy, Age 15 and Older
2002: Males 94.9%, females: 90.5%

Religion
The nation is 95 percent Buddhist, 3.8 percent Muslim, one out of 200 is Christian (0.5 percent) and one out of 1,000 (0.1 percent) is Hindu.

Geography

Between Burma to its west and Laos to its east, Cambodia to its southeast and Malaysia to its south. Borders the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Thailand -- 3, 219 miles of coastline. Twice as big as Wyoming. Tropical.

Government

Constitutional monarchy.

The Thai constitution requires that the monarch be Buddhist.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and states that discrimination against a person because of "a difference in religious belief" shall not be permitted. The government limits the number of foreign missionaries that it permits in the country.

Capital: Bangkok

Recent History

A Thai kingdom, Siam, a constitutional monarchy since 1932, became Thailand in 1939.

Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power.

During World War II, Thailand was allied with Japan.

Bangkok was once an agricultural and fishing village where people traveled mainly by rowing boats. (Bang means village, kok means olive.) That serenity ended with the increase in population and the introduction of motors on boats. And Bangkok is, of course, crowded with automobiles. It is not uncommon to take an hour or so to go 2 or 3 miles by car through town. And there is smog.

World Factbook: With a well-developed infrastructure, a free-enterprise economy, generally pro-investment policies, and strong export industries, Thailand enjoyed solid growth from 2000 to 2008 – averaging more than 4% per year – as it recovered from the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.

May 18, 2010 Rural people support and make up a large portion of the red-shirt protests in Bangkok. They are outraged over the 2006 military coup that overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He helped small farmers with low-interest loans for planting, which they still appreciate. Thaksin, writes Wikipedia, "introduced a range of partly effective policies to alleviate rural poverty; highly popular, they helped reduce poverty by half in four years. He launched the country's first universal healthcare program ... His re-election in 2005 had the highest voter turnout in Thai history."

Those who support the overthrow of Thaksin tend to be affluent urbanites who support economic conservatism and oppose government programs. Among them are people who favor more power to the monarchy and less to parliament. They accuse Thaksin of corruption.

Affluent urbanites call farming people water buffalo, suggesting that farming people are stupid. (Urbanites are only 34% of the population.)

Many in rural and urban Thailand have looked upon the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, as a father figure and as someone to solve the kingdom's conflicts, but the king is 82 now and in poor health. The New York Times reports that his influence has waned. Writes the NYT: "The king has disappointed many by saying nothing that might calm the turmoil, as he did in 1973 and 1992 when with a few quiet words he halted eruptions of political bloodletting."

The monarchy has appeared to side with those who favor order over democracy. It is the royal army that is killing people in Bangkok.

Wikipedia describes the king as "the richest monarch in the world, with an estimated personal net worth of US$35 billion." He is said to have a controlling stake in numerous businesses.

In Thailand one can be arrested and imprisoned for saying anything critical about the king.

 

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.