Thailand was Siam for most of its history. It is unique among southeast
countries because it was never colonized by Europe. This phenomena affects the
very nature of the land and its people to this day. The Thais call their country
"Prathet Thai," which can be translated as "Land of the

Free." Thai people came from China's Pamir Plateau around the 10th century

A.D. because of the agricultural potential in the region. Modernization of

Thailand began in the 19th century under King Mongkut and his son, Chulalongkorn.

He ended slavery and exposed the nation to Western concepts and technology. The
exposure lead to a revolution in 1932, and the absolute monarchy was replaced.

Siam became Thailand in 1939. For many years there was continual conflict
between military and civil forces for control of the country. In 1988 there was
a democratic transfer of power, and 1992 saw a constitutional reform which
stated that no military member could serve as the Prime Minister. The democratic
transfer of power was a smooth one. (Exergy). Today Thailand is a constitutional
monarchy. The king is the chief of state but has few executive responsibilities.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been king for 50 years and is very respected. The
prime minister, currently Chuan Leekpai, heads the government. The legislative

National Assembly consists of two houses: a 270-member Senate, whose members are
appointed by the king, and a 360-seat House of Representatives, whose members
are directly elected. The judicial branch consists of three court levels, of
which the highest is the Supreme or Sarndika. All over the age of 18 are able to
vote. In villages, local chiefs are elected by the people. (1,5). Thailand is
located in Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of

Thailand, southeast of Burma. It borders Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia.

Thailand has a tropical climate characterized by three seasons. From May to

October the southwest monsoon brings warm, heavy rain. From November to February
during the northeast monsoon the weather is dry and cool. The hot season, from

March to May is characterized by high temperatures, humidity, and an absence of
rain. (8) Topographically Thailand can be divided into four regions. The North
is a mountainous region consisting of natural forests, ridges and deep, narrow,
alluvial valleys. The Central region, the basin of the Chao Phraya River, is a
lush, fertile valley. It is the richest and most extensive rice-producing area
in the country and has often been called the "Rice Bowl of Asia."

Bangkok, the capital and most populated city, is located here. The Northeast, or
the Korat Plateau, is an arid region characterized by a rolling surface and
undulating hills. Harsh climactic conditions often result in this region being
subjected to floods and droughts. The South is a hilly to mountainous area with
thick virgin forests and rich deposits of minerals and ores. This region is the
center for the production of rubber and the cultivation of other tropical crops.

Thailand's minerals and resources consist of the following: tin, tungsten,
timber, rubber, natural gas, lead, tantalum, gypsum, lignite, fluorite, and
fish. (9) Local transportation in Thailand are usually by bus or taxi. While
most people do not have cars, greater ownership has significantly increased
urban traffic problems. (Traffic moves on the left side of the road.) Railways

4,623 total km Highways 56,903 total km 52,806 paved km 4,097 unpaved km Canals
are often used for transportation in rural and some urban areas. The Chao Phraya

River serves as the most important waterway for Bangkok. Merchant and commuter
traffic on this river is common. There are 3,999 km of principal waterways and
numerous minor waterways navigable by shallow-draft native craft. Ports and
harbors are in Bangkok, Laem Chabang, Pattani, Sattahip, Si Racha, and Songkhla.

There are about 40 international airlines with 288 flights in and out of

Bangkok's Don Muang International Airport per day. International flights are now
available to provincial centers such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Had Yai. Domestic
air services also connect Bangkok with the Kingdom's provincial cities. Airports

100 total 86 paved runways 14 unpaved runways Heliports 2 total The government
communications system is well developed, and the public telephone system is
adequate for most needs. There are 1,553,200 telephone sets in use. (5,8,9) The
most interesting thing Thailand has to offer, though, are its people. Thailand's
total population is at 60 million. Other significant information include the
following: growth rate 1% birth rate 17 births/1,000 pop. death rate 7.05
deaths/1,000 pop. age breakdown mean 25.6 -14 25% 15-64 69% 65- 6% (8) sex

49.91% male 50.09% female net migration rate 0/1000 pop. doubling