FACTS ABOUT THAILAND
- The real full name of Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. It means “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest.”
- Thailand is home to the world’s largest gold Buddha, the largest crocodile farm, the largest restaurant, the longest single-span suspension bridge, and the world’s tallest hotel.
- The world’s smallest mammal, the Craseonycteris thonglongyai (the bumble bat), is found in Thailand.
- Medicine man Hoo Sateow from Thailand has the world’s documented longest hair at 16′ 11″ long.
- Siamese cats are native to Thailand. In Thai they are called wichen-maat, meaning “moon diamond.” A 14th-century book of Thai poems describes 23 types of Siamese cats; today only six breeds are left. Giving a pair of Si Sawat cats (a type of Siamese cats) to a bride is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage.
- Both the Hollywood movie and Broadway play of The King and I are banned in Thailand. Based on the Siamese ruler King Mongkut and a teacher named Anna Leonowens, the movie is seen as insulting to the king. While the movie depicts him as uncultured, he is believed to be the first Asian ruler to speak, read, and write English fluently. He also is considered highly intelligent, cultured, and well read. Further, he is known as the father of Thai scientists.
- Thailand’s and the world’s longest reigning monarch is Bhumibol Adulyadej, who became King Rama IX in June 1946. He was born in the U.S. in 1927 when his father was studying medicine at Harvard. He owns a patent on a form of cloud seeding and holds a degree in engineering from Switzerland. He also plays the sax and composed Thailand’s national anthem.
- The brothers who gave the world the term “Siamese twins” were born in 1811 in a village near Bangkok. The twins Eng and Chang were joined at the chest and left Thailand for the U.S when they were 17 years old. Each brother married, and between them they had 22 children. In 1873, Eng caught pneumonia and died. Chang died a few hours later.
- Thailand is the world’s largest producer of tin.
- Around 2000 B.C. people built settlements in the hillsides of Thailand. The first one is thought to be Ben Chiang. Pieces of pottery, tools, and jewelry from 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. have been dug up in this area.
- Thailand, which means “land of the free,” was known as Siam until 1939.
Geography & Nature
- Thailand is in the heart of Southeast Asia. Cambodia and Laos border the country to the east and northeast, and Myanmar lies to the northwest.
- To the west is the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, southeast of Burma.
- The long southern region, connecting with Malaysia, is hilly and forested. The highest mountains are in northern Thailand.
- Rain falls almost every day between the months of May and September. The moist and humid weather encourages the diverse and abundant wildlife in Thailand.
- Lotus flowers are common and the favorite flower in Thailand. Lotus flowers live above the surface, but they are rooted in the mud. There are many flowering trees and shrubs, and fruit trees. In the jungle, one can find carnivorous (meat-eating) plants such as the mysterious insect-eating pitcher plant.
- The deep forests are home to tigers, elephants, wild ox, leopards, and the Malayan tapir. The tapir is covered in black fur on the first half of its body and white fur to the rear. Cobras and crocodiles are also found in Thailand.
People & Culture
- The population of Thailand is over 68 million people. The population is growing at a rate of approximately 383,000 people per year.
- Only 0.5 percent of Thai people claim to be Christians. About 94.5 percent of the people are Buddhist, but about three million Muslims live in the south near the border with Malaysia. To the Thai people, to be Thai is to be Buddhist.
- Thai children go to elementary school for six years. Then they may attend high school for another six years, but their families must pay for the education. Boys begin military training in ninth grade.
- Food in Thailand is influenced by Chinese and Indian cultures. Most Thai dishes are spicy and many common dishes include hot chilies, lemongrass, basil, ginger, and coconut milk.
- Thai farmers cultivate mulberry trees that feed silkworms. The worms create silk, which is made into beautiful silk clothing in Thailand, France, and the United States.
- 1 in 10 Thais live in Bangkok, the nation’s capital and largest city. Bangkok is called the Venice of the East because there are 83 canals. As many as 10,000 boats full of fruits, vegetables, and fish crowd the canals and create a floating market.
- The city of Bangkok is home to many impressive Buddhist structures featuring gold-layered spires, graceful pagodas, and giant Buddha statues.
Government & Economy
- Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. A revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy.
- The king is the leader of the country. The prime minister is picked from among members of the House of Representatives, but is appointed by the king.
- Agriculture and tourism are the most important industries in Thailand.
- In December 2004, the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami hit Thailand, but the country’s economy has largely recovered from the disaster’s effect.
- On 22 May 2014, the Royal Thai Armed Forces, led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Commander of the Royal Thai Army (RTA), launched a coup d’état, the 12th since the country’s first coup in 1932, against the caretaker government of Thailand, following six months of political crisis. The military established a junta called the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to govern the nation.
- After dissolving the government and the Senate, the NCPO vested the executive and legislative powers in its leader and ordered the judicial branch to operate under its directives. In addition, it partially repealed the 2007 constitution, declared martial law and curfew nationwide, banned political gatherings, arrested and detained politicians and anti-coup activists, imposed internet censorship and took control of the media.
- The NCPO issued an interim constitution granting itself amnesty and sweeping power. The NCPO also established a military dominated national legislature which later unanimously elected General Prayut as a new prime minister of the country.