Thailand . Its official name is Kingdom of Thailand. It is a country in Southeast Asia and its capital is Bangkok .
According to its geographical location, it borders Laos and Cambodia to the east, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia to the south, and the Andaman Sea and Burma to the west.
The country was previously known as Siam. This name was first changed in 1939 to Prathet Thai and again in 1949 (having been reversed during World War II ). Prathet means “country” and the word Thai means “free” or “freedom” in the Thai language, a word that is also the name of the majority ethnic group in Thailand (an ethnic group that found their freedom more than two millennia ago, when they reached this region fleeing the Chinese). This means that Prathet Thai can be translated as Country of Free People. When translated into English Prathet Thai became Thailand (Land of the Thai) and from there to Thailand in Spanish.
Due to its geographic location, Thai culture has traditionally been influenced by the cultures of China and India . However, Thailand has generated different indigenous cultures since the Baan Chiang period .
The Buddhist kingdom of Sukhothai is conventionally considered the first Thai state in the region. It is founded in 1238 , and its development coincides in time with the debacle and fall of the Khmer Empire, between the 13th and 15th centuries.
A century later, in the middle of the 14th century , the kingdom of Ayutthaya replaces Sukhothai as the dominant power in Siam. Following Ayutthaya’s sack of Angkor in 1431 , much of the Khmer court was forced into exile in Ayutthaya, bringing with them their Hindu-inspired Khmer rituals and customs. Many of these customs are later assimilated by the Ayutthaya culture.
After the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767 , Thonburi became the capital of Thailand for a brief period under King Taksin the Great , until the coup of 1782 .
The current era (Ratthanakosin) of Thai history begins in 1782 , during the reign of Rama I the Great , of the Chakri dynasty, who establishes the capital of Siam in Bangkok.
European powers begin to establish contacts with Thailand in the 16th century . Despite European pressure, Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has never been colonized by a European power. The main explanation for this fact is that, throughout the 19th century , Thailand had a long succession of skilled rulers, who demonstrated an enormous capacity to use the Franco-British rivalry in the region to their advantage.
As a result, the country acquired buffer state status between the French Southeast Asian countries ( Indochina ) and India and Burma , held by Great Britain . Despite its independence, Western influence led to many reforms during this period, including the granting of major concessions in favor of British commercial interests. One such concession was the handover of the three southern provinces of Thailand, which are currently part of Malaysia .
In 1932 , a revolution without bloodshed results in the establishment of a new constitutional monarchy. During World War II , Thailand allied with Japan . After the defeat of the Japanese and the end of the war, Thailand realigned, becoming an ally of the United States of America .
Since the start of the Cold War and until the 1980s, Thailand remains a politically unstable country. During this period there is a succession of changes of government as a result of individual coups. After overcoming this period, the country is configured, from the last military coup in 1991 , as a modern participatory democracy.
In 1997 , the Asian financial crisis hit Thailand harshly. The value of the Thai baht plummets, from 25 baht per dollar to 56 baht per dollar. The economic crisis caused by this event has already been overcome. GDP growth in 2003 was 7%.
In 2001 , Thaksin Shinawatra of the Thai Rak Thai party (Thais love Thais) became Thai Prime Minister, after winning the elections held that same year. In 2005 , Thaksin renewed his mandate for another four years. However, during this same period, accusations intensify of, among other things, coercion of press freedom, vote buying, use of power to favor their companies, police abuses in the war against drug trafficking , and inability to stop the Islamist insurgency in the south of the country.
In April of 2006 re-elections and Thaksin revalida back office. However, after the boycott of the opposition to the new government, the Thai Supreme Court ruled the annulment of the electoral results and the calling of a new appointment with the polls. On September 19, 2006, while Thaksin was in New York , the military of the self-styled “Council for Democratic Reform”, under the command of Sondhi Boonyaratglin, took power, ending fifteen years of democracy in the country.
Later, normality returned to Thailand and Thaksin’s party prevailed, ruling until October 2008 when the followers of APD, dressed in their yellow shirts, blocked the Bangkok airport and forced the entry into the PDN government. To this day, Thaksin’s supporters continue to speak out for what they consider to be unfairly imposed government.
The 514,100 km² of Thailand are located in the center of Southeast Asia. Thailand’s position as the hub of the area has influenced many aspects of its society and culture. It controls the only land passage from Asia to Malaysia and Singapore .
It has a tropical climate in which the Monsoon occurs . Temperatures typically range from a mean annual high of 38 ° C to a low of 19 ° C. The monsoons in the south-west occur between May and July (except in the south) and signal the arrival of the rainy season (ridu fon), which lasts until October. November and December are the beginning of the dry season. Temperatures start to rise in January.
The dry season is shorter in the south due to the proximity of the sea to all areas of the Malay Peninsula . With few exceptions, all areas of the country receive abundant rain, although the length of the rainy season and the amount of rain vary very substantially according to region and altitude. The Northeast has a long dry season, and its porous soil retains little water , so its agricultural potential is limited.
The Thai population is dominated by the Thai and Lao ethnic groups, which make up three-quarters of the population. There is also a large Chinese community that has historically played a disproportionately significant role in the economy. Other ethnic groups include the Malays in the south, the Mon, the Khmer, and various indigenous mountain tribes.
About 95% of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravāda tradition but there are also minorities of Muslims, Christians and Hindus. The Tai language is the national language of Thailand, written with its own alphabet, despite the existence of ethnic and regional dialects; and also despite the fact that English is widely taught in schools.
Thailand is divided into 76 provinces, grouped into 5 groups – in some cases the eastern and western provinces are grouped together. The name of each province is that of its capital city, sometimes with the prefix Mueang (or Muang) to avoid confusion with the province. With the exception of Songkhla province, the capital is also the largest city in the province.
Bangkok is at the same time the most populated province. The largest province is Nakhon Ratchasima , the smallest is Samut Songkhram . Mae Hong Son province has the lowest population density, and Ranong has the lowest absolute population (figures taken from the 2000 census ).
Each province is administered by a governor, appointed by the Minister of the Interior. The only exception is Bangkok, where the governor is elected.
The provinces are divided into 877 districts. The fifty districts of Bangkok are called khet. The districts are divided into tambon (communes or sub-districts) and mubaan (towns).
After enjoying the world’s highest growth rate from 1985 to 1995 – averaging 9% per year – speculative pressure on the Thai currency, the baht, increased, which in 1997 led to a crisis that uncovered weaknesses in the financial sector and forced the government to sell currency.
Largamente estancado en los 25 frente al dólar estadounidense, el baht alcanzó su cota más baja de 56 frente al dólar estadounidense en enero de 1998 y la economía se contrajo alrededor del 10.2% en ese mismo año. La crisis se extendió hasta convertirse en una crisis financiera asiática.
Thailand entered a recovery phase in 1999 , expanding to 4.2% and growing by 4.4% in 2000, mainly due to strong exports that increased by around 20% during that same year. Growth was softened by the slowdown in the global economy during 2001 , but recovered in subsequent years due to strong growth in China and thanks to various internal stimulation programs within the “Dual-Track” policies promoted by the First Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Growth in 2003 was estimated at 6.3% and was projected at 8% and 10% for the years 2004 and 2005 respectively. Thailand is on its way to becoming the most economically powerful state in Southeast Asia and one of the most powerful states in Asia, competing with advanced countries in the West.
The Buddhism Theravada is central to modern Thai identity and belief. However, in the southernmost areas of the country Islam prevails .
There are a large number of different ethnic groups that inhabit the country and many of them remain marginalized. Some of these groups intersect with Myanmar , Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia and have maintained a distinctively traditional lifestyle despite a strong Thai cultural presence.
Chinese ethnicity also forms a significant part of Thai society, particularly in and around Bangkok. His successful integration into Thai society has allowed him to maintain positions of social and political power, the prime minister being the most notorious.
Respect for ancestors forms a large part of Thai spiritual practices, as well as charity towards Buddhist Monks . Thais have a very strong sense of grace and hospitality, but also a great sense of social hierarchy. Honor is important in Thai daily speech, especially seniority titles, an important concept in Thai culture.
Thais respect their elders so much that some natives wai or krab (bow) at the feet of their parents and grandparents. They honor the first in seniority, who in any type of ceremony takes precedence in all decisions of the family.
The standard greeting is a prayer gesture called wai. The Taboos include touching someone’s head or pointing with the feet, since the head is considered the most sacred and feet the dirtiest part of the body. Stepping on someone or food is considered an insult. Despite this, Thai culture like many other Asian cultures is succumbing to the influence of Westernization and some of its traditional taboos are slowly disappearing. Books and other documents are among the most revered secular objects, so one should not slide a book on a table or place it on the floor.
Thai cuisine mixes five fundamental flavors: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty. Some common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic , chili pepper , lemongrass, and fish sauce. The staple food in Thailand is rice , which is in almost every meal.
Thai culture has been greatly influenced in recent years by its vibrant and free press. There are numerous English, Thai and Chinese newspapers in circulation and Thailand is the largest newspaper market in South-East Asia with an estimated circulation of 13 million copies per day in 2003 .
Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand and is a native Martial Art . It reached popularity around the world during the 1990s . Although there are other similar martial arts in other East Asian countries, few enjoy the recognition that Muay Thai has received with its full-contact rules allowing strikes with the elbows and knees, creating a new specialty, Kick Boxing.
The Football professional, however, has possibly taken the position Muay Thai as the favorite and most watched sport in contemporary society in Thailand and it is not uncommon to see Thais supporting their favorite teams in the Premier League Inglés. Another widely enjoyed pastime is flying small kites. Additionally, Thailand hosted the 1966 Asian Games , 1970 , 1978 , and 1998 .
The Karen tribe is located 40 km from Mae Hong Song in Thailand. They follow an ancient tradition that consists of having the neck as long as possible. To achieve their goal, they use golden rings that surround the neck until it is lengthened to incredible dimensions. The transformation begins from an early age, by placing earrings on the neck, gradually as the years go by. The lives of these women are marked by their necklaces. They never take them off. Neither to sleep, nor to wash, nor to eat …
A forensic museum turned macabre attraction
In the heart of Bangkok, on the banks of the Chao Praya River and very close to some of the most beautiful temples in Thailand, there is a fascinating and sinister place created by the department of forensic medicine at Siriraj Hospital, the forensic hospital of the same name.
Mummies of executed murderers, malformed fetuses and organs preserved in formaldehyde are some of the attractions of this macabre Thai museum.