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Thailand Information

Hello. This page has some basic info on Thailand. Nothing to specific but just  a general overview of the country and people.

I've been living in North Thailand since 1998 and I have a reasonable understanding of what happens and why, but I am still a foreigner or as the Thais call us; "phalang". That term applies to anyone that is not a native Thailander.

Personally, it would take me forever to write down everything, so much of this is excerpts from other published information.

Firstly though, in regards to visa applications and length of stay:  There are several countries who's citizens will get an automatic 30 day transit visa stamp on arrival at Bangkok International airport.  Some countries are only allowed a 15 day stamp on arrival and some are not allowed at all without prior visa application. It will be up to you to sort this out beforehand. If you plan to stay for more than 30 days, the best thing is to apply for a 60 day tourist visa at the Thai consulate in your country. Regardless of what visa you come in on, you need to show proof of a return ticket if requested. They don't always ask, but if they do, you need to show proof otherwise it may cause you unwanted grief.

Regarding the KING:

                                  The King of Thailand is I believe the longest ruling king in current history. Although he is out of the mainstream politics, he and his family are quite revered. There is absolutely no tolerance for any defamation towards the royal family. This is something that shouldn't need to be mentioned but it's something you need to understand as a tourist. Making statements in regards to the current political divisions in Thailand is not really recommended either. We are all guests here and should conduct ourselves as such.

Prohibited Items

All kinds of narcotics (hemp, opium, cocaine, morphine, heroin), obscene literature, pictures or articles.

Fire Arms
:
Importation of firearms and ammunition can be done only after a permit has been obtained from The Police Department or local Registration Office.

Personal Effects
:A reasonable amount of clothing for personal use, toilet articles, and professional instruments may be brought in free of duty.

Cameras : One still-camera or one movie camera can be brought in without duty. Five rolls of still-camera film or three rolls of 8 or 16
M.M. movie- camera film may be brought in free of duty.

Tobacco, Alcoholic Beverages
:
Cigarettes, cigars, or smoking tobacco each or in total must not exceed 250 grams in weight but cigarettes not exceeding 200 in quantity. One litre each of wine or spirits may be brought in free of duty.

People

Though the great majority of Thailand’s 61 million people are ethnically Thai and Buddhist, the country has a substantial number of minority groups who have historically lived together in harmony.  Of these, the Chinese are perhaps the most numerous (particularly in urban areas), though they have become so thoroughly assimilated it would be difficult to isolate them as a distinct group.  Similarly, while there are Lao and Khmer groups in the Northeast and East, nearly all regard themselves as Thai, culturally as well as by nationality.  More clearly defined as an ethnic group are the Muslims, who are mainly concentrated in the southern provinces, and assorted hill tribes who live in the far North; there are also sizeable communities of Hindus and Sikhs in large cities like Bangkok.   

Some 80 percent of all Thais are connected in some way with agriculture, which, in varying degrees, influences and is influenced by the religious ceremonies and festivals that make Thailand such a distinctive country.

 

Food

Most Thai food is highly spiced, chili hot, and varies from region to region. The traditional ingredients of Thai food have changed little up to the present day, consisting largely of seafood and locally grown vegetables and fruits, a diet common to most of the country. What gives the distinctive Thai flavor, and the differing taste from region to region, is the carefully blended sauces and chilies. These go into dishes ranging from salty and bland soups to the spiciest salads and sweetest desserts, often all present within a single meal. The wide variety of Thai food tastes is a reflection of the combination of influences from various surrounding nations, which, with Thai ingenuity, have culminated in one of the world's favorite cuisines. 

The Northeast is famous for its spicy dishes, but it really covers all taste extremes, being also strongly sour and salty. Its most famous dish, a regional staple that can also be found all over the country, is som tam, a Thai salad that simultaneously covers the four extremes of taste, and is eaten with a form of sticky rice. 

For those whose taste buds shy away from the grand taste of the Northeast, the generally milder taste of northern dishes may be more palatable. The Burmese influence is present here, as several mild curries are integral to many of the dishes. 

The cuisine of the Central Plains has over the years come to include the influences of all the surrounding regions, and a meal usually includes everything from hot, spicy dishes to relatively bland ones. Here the sticky rice of the North is less common than plain rice, either steamed or fried. Many of the spicy soups, like tom yam and popular coconut milk curries, have their roots in this region. 

The proximity of India, and the religious Muslim influence have both shaped the taste of southern Thai cuisine, with the focus always on seafood and vegetables, both in abundance in the region. 

Government

Thailand is governed by a constitutional monarchy with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej as Head of State. 

Official power rests with the government, personified by the Prime Minister, the Parliament, and a bureaucratic system that reaches down to the village level. Over past decades the Prime Minister's personal power has steadily increased, largely because of the Thai tendency to express their concerns to the highest-ranking authority, in nation as well as family. This frequently results in provincial delegations appearing at Government House requesting decisions on local problems. The Constitution is the highest law of the land, and provides for governing through a system of centralization.

Legislative power is vested in the Parliament, and exercised through a bicameral National Assembly consisting of the publicly elected House of Representatives and the Senate. The Parliament must approve all legislative matters of national policy, which then require the King's signature before becoming the law of the land. 



Judicial power is exercised through the Law Courts with three levels, namely the Courts of First Instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court.

Executive power is exercised through a Cabinet headed by a Prime Minister. Essentially, the Royal Thai Government is composed of a Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, who head 15 major ministries.

These ministries are  the Office of the Prime Minister; the Finance Ministry; the Foreign Affairs Ministry; the Defense Ministry; the Agriculture and Co-operatives Ministry; the Education Ministry; the Transport and Communications Ministry; the Commerce Ministry; the Public Health Ministry; the Science,Technology and Environment Ministry; the Ministry of University Affairs; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare; the Ministry of Industry; and the largest and most powerful, the Interior Ministry, under whose auspices come a wide range of responsibilities, from provincial government to the police department, reaching down to the villages at the base of the pyramidal government structure.

The system of administration is centralized but divided into regional and provincial administrations. The city of Bangkok has its own administrative bodies and elects its own governor. Provincial administration is the responsibility of the Interior Ministry, which appoints a governor for each of Thailand's 75 provinces. Regional administration has its own regional electoral system governed by the administrative bodies.

 

 

 

 

 

Topography

Thailand is naturally divided into four topographic regions: 1) the North, 2) the Central Plain, or Chao Phraya River basin, 3) the Northeast, or the Korat Plateau, and 4) the South, or Southern Isthmus. 

The North is a mountainous region characterized by natural forests, ridges, and deep, narrow, alluvial valleys.

Central Thailand, 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 of Thailand, is located in this region. 

The Northeastern region, or Korat Plateau, is an arid region characterized by a rolling surface and undulating hills. Harsh climatic conditions often result in this region being subjected to floods and droughts. 

The Southern region is hilly to mountainous, 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

 

History

The Thais, most historians believe, began migrating from southern China in the early part of the Christian era. At first they formed a number of city-states in the northern part of what is present-day Thailand, in places like Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, but these were never strong enough to exert much influence outside the immediate region. Gradually the Thais migrated further south to the broad and fertile central plains, and expanded their dominance over nearly the entire Indochina Peninsula. Contradictory as it may seem, however, recent archaeological discoveries around the northeast  hamlet of Ban Chiang suggest that the world’s oldest Bronze Age civilization was  flourishing in Thailand some 5,000 years ago.

Sukhothai Period ( 1238 - 1350 A.D. )
By the early 1200s the Thais had established small northern city-states in Lanna, Phayao, and Sukhothai.  In 1238 two Thai chieftains, Khun Bang Klang Tao and Khun Pha Muang, successfully  rebelled against Khom suzerainty and established the first truly independent Thai kingdom in Sukhothai – a kingdom that was short-lived but of immense cultural importance in the nation’s history.

Sukhothai saw the Thais’ gradual expansion throughout the entire Chao Phraya River basin and the establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the paramount Thai religion. It was here that the first evidence of written Thai was left, along with distinctively Thai styles of art such as painting, sculpture, architecture, and literature, which survived after Sukhothai was absorbed by the kingdom of Ayutthaya – a dynamic young kingdom  further south in the Chao Phraya River valley.


Ayutthaya Period (1350 - 1767 A.D.) 
During Ayutthaya’s 417 years as the capital, under the rule of 34 kings, the Thais brought their distinctive culture to full fruition, totally rid their lands of Khom presence, and fostered contact with Arabian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and European powers.  Contact with the West, especially, flourished during the reign of King Narai the Great (1656-1688), in which an envoy was sent to France to establish foreign diplomacy.  Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya remained the Thai capital until it was sacked and burned by the Burmese in 1767.

Thonburi Period (1767 - 1782 A.D.) 
Ayutthaya’s downfall was a severe blow to the Thais. However, a Thai revival occurred within a few months, and  the Burmese were expelled by King Taksin, who ushered in the Thonburi Period (1767-1782).  King Taksin made Thonburi the capital, but it was the shortest-lived capital in Thai history.  In 1782 the first king of the present Chakri dynasty, Rama I, established his new capital on the site of a riverside hamlet called Ban Kok (Village of the Wild Plums).

Rattanakosin Period (1782 - present) 
During the Rattanakosin Period (1782 – present), two Chakri monarchs, King Mongkut (Rama IV), who reigned between 1851 and 1868, and his son King  Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910), saved Thailand from the powerful tides of  Western colonialism through adroit diplomacy and selective modernization. 

Today, Thailand is a modern constitutional monarchy.  Since 1932, Thai kings, including the present monarch H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), have exercised their legislative powers through a national assembly, their executive powers through a cabinet headed by a prime minister and their judicial powers through the courts of law. 


 

 
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