Amazing Thailand - One of the most original places on earth to visit and often the last.
It is said that you should not visit Thailand until you have seen the rest of the world since Thailand is the place you will keep returning to. The reason is that Thailand is singularly the most amazing place you will discover on earth. The unique identity of Thailand, warm climate and the attractiveness of the people make it irresistibly unique to millions of foreigners.
One of the reasons for this is that Thailand, formerly the Kingdom of Siam, is the one place in South East Asia that was never colonised by a European power. The consequence of this is Thailand's unique and extraordinary cultural tradition. The strong and active culture of the country is shaped by Buddhism and is also very much alive in everyday Thai life. Thai people speak their own language and their quiet, friendly manner has led some to label it as the 'Land of Smiles.'
Background and current affairs of Thailand
Thailand is the 20th largest country in the world in terms of population with over 63 million people. 90% are Thai while about 10% are of Chinese origin. 95% of the population is Buddhist with nearly 4.5% being Muslim.
From 1985 to 1996, Thailand was the fastest growing economy in the world. The Asian financial crisis in 1997 resulted in a severe economic collapse triggering an effective devaluation of the Thai currency, the baht. However since then, Thailand has remained an emerging economy with an impressive export performance despite political turmoil which erupted in 2006.
Political unrest since 2006
Thailand's political unrest worsened in 2013 resulting in a dip in economic indicators. The country has been slowly to recovering lead by a stunning performance of Thailand's tourism industry. Political instablity as well Thailand's ageing population and a chronic household debt problem are key issues which are hampering the country's economy.
The Thai army intervened by staging a coup in 2014 to preserve stability after quite serious street protests and the effective paralysis of government. The current Prime Minister is the former army chief at the time of the coup. General Prayuth Chan Ocha is overseeing a programme of reform and a return to a new democratic era. In 2016 there are signs of economic improvement lead by the still growing tourist industry. In fact, 2015 was Thailand's most successful year for tourism and 2016 is expected to top that with over 30 million visitors projected.
Briefing for foreigners to Thailand
If you are considering a trip to Thailand or want to know more about the country, the following pointers may be helpful:
- A constitutional monarchy since 1932, the King of Thailand is widely revered within the country. King Bhumibol, the ninth in the Chakri dynasty which has ruled Thailand since 1782, is the nation's longest serving monarch. The love felt by Thai people towards the King is difficult for most foreigners to comprehend.
- Thailand has a very high level of participation in education with a flourishing system of public and private institutions. The Thai tradition of respect for elders and learning contributes to an impressive commitment to education within the country.
- Thailand is well known for its nightlife and vice trade . It is estimated that out of 10 million or so people living in Bangkok (or Krung Thep) that nearly 400,000 are sex workers. A complex set of economic and social factors has brought about this situation.
- In 2006, Thailand was plunged into political crisis beginning with protests and then an army coup which deposed elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Despite a new constitution and successful elections in 2007, the political problems, which led to the 2006 coup, still exist.
- Anti-government protesters occupied Government buildings and Thailand's main airport in 2008 protesting against the then Prime Minister, a brother-in-law of Mr. Shinawatra. This government was subsequently dissolved by the constitutional court and a new government installed.
- A new wave of anti-government riots broke out in 2008 in Bangkok, this time in support of Mr. Shinawatra. These culminated in 2010 with violent confrontations between the 'Red Shirt' and the army resulting in loss of life and a fire being set to commercial shopping centres throughout Bangkok and in some other parts of Thailand.
- The protests were against the government led by Prime Minister Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva which was elected after the previous governing party was dissolved by court order. Mr. Vejjajiva was the leader of the Democratic Party which traditionally held power in Thailand before Thaksin Shinawatra, a dynamic businessman and former police officer, went into politics. This government oversaw a country which was making some economic progress but faced a tense standoff against the 'Red Shirt' movement aligned with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra but including a broad range of groups opposed to the 2006 coup.This movement claimed that the government led by the Democrat party was not democratic and called for reforms to Thailand's constitution adopted after the 2006 coup.
- Thailand's first female Prime Minister: On the 3rd July 2011 Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, became Thailand's first female Prime Minister and the youngest in sixty years. She led the new Pheu Thai party, seen as a successor to her brother's former party, Thai Rak Thai. It was the first election since her brother's party had been dissolved. Her government faced stiff opposition from the same forces that led the political movement against her brother. This led to widespread protests in 2013 led by a movement styled as the People's Democratic Reform Committee which vowed to introduce reforms in the country. The movement was led by a former secretary general of the Democrat Party, Suthep Thaugsuban. The resulting widespread street protests lead to Yingluck Shinawatra calling a snap election which was engulfed in mounting tensions. The election was finally declared null and void. The government continued to resist the street protests until the army intervened with another coup in 2014 aimed at restoring order to the country.
- 2014 Coup and planned elections for 2018: The former army chief and leader of the military junta which took power, Prayuth Chan Ocha, emerged as the Prime Minister. He is still in office guiding through a process aimed at reintroducing a reformed democracy to Thailand. A proposed new constitution for the country was approved in August 2016 and elections are expected in mid 2018. The military will retain and involvement in political affairs until the country fully returns to stability.
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