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General country information
Formerly ‘Siam’, Thailand took on its present name
in 1939 shortly after a change from absolute to constitutional
monarchy. For much of the time since then the military has been
involved in government. An unbroken period of civilian rule that
began in 1992 was ended with a 2006 military coup, suspension
of the constitution and declaration of martial law.
An interim government has been formed and a new constitution is
being drafted with elections promised in late 2007.
Roughly twice the size of the United Kingdom, Thailand has a similar
sized population. By far the largest city is Bangkok with a population
of over 9m.
Thailand has borders with Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia.
It is landlocked to the north but has a long coastline to the
south bordering onto the Gulf of Thailand to the south and east,
and the Andaman sea to the west – where the major tourist
resort of Phuket and neighbouring islands are to be found. It
was the south that was badly affected by the tsunami surge wave
that hit six provinces in 2004 resulting in 5,000 deaths and 8,000
The country’s major industries include tourism and IT, electronics,
and vehicle manufacturing.
According to the Foreign Office Thailand's economy made a good
recovery from the Asian financial crisis in 1997 with average
annual growth of around 6 per cent between 2002 and 2004. But
the sharp rises of world oil prices, the tsunami disaster, and
drought have dampened its economic growth to 4.5 per cent in 2005.
Rising oil prices caused inflation to increase to 6 per cent in
the first quarter of 2006. The Bank of Thailand reacted by raising
the short term interest rates.
The Foreign Office rates Thailand’s human rights record
as ‘generally good’. Prior to the military coup it
was one of the liveliest democracies in the region, it said. ‘The
media was relatively free and vibrant by regional standards, although
government interference and self censorship had increased in recent
years. Demonstrations for or against past governments were common
and recent large scale street protests had passed off peacefully’.
However, political activities are currently banned, as are groups
of demonstrations involving more than five people.
The Foreign Office rates the threat if terrorism throughout Thailand
as ‘high’. Attacks could be indiscriminate and
against civilian targets in public places including those places
frequented by foreigners. It advises against all but essential
travel to the provinces in the far south: Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat
and Songkhla where there are frequent attacks, including bombings
and shootings arising from insurgency and civil unrest.
The ‘fluid border’ with Burma is also a potential
problem with large numbers of refugees, illegal immigrants and
drugs crossing into Thailand. Relations with Cambodia have also
caused concerns in the past.
The Foreign Office also warns would-be visitors that penalties
for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs are severe
and can include the death penalty, which the Thai Government has
used as a high profile part of its fight against drugs.
Crime is also a potential problem including theft of passports
and credit cards. Passport fraud is high and penalties are
severe, says the Foreign Office. By law, tourists are expected
to carry their passports with them at all times in Thailand. There
have been incidents where tourists have been arrested because
they were unable to produce their passport.
‘There has been a number of incidents where tourists have
had their drinks drugged (in both tourist areas and red light
British passport holders may enter Thailand for up to 30 days,
without obtaining a visa in advance of arrival. Longer stays
require an extension (90 days maximum in any six months). ‘The
only legal way of obtaining a new visa, entry permit or extension
of stay is from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate, an Immigration
Officer at a point of entry into Thailand or one of the Immigration
Offices around the country’, says the Foreign Office.
Thailand climate has three seasons – monsoon (June to October),
cool (November to February), hot (March to May). The rainy season
in much of Thailand commences in May with September and October
being the height of the monsoon season (November to March in Koh
Samui and the south east of the Thai peninsula). Widespread
flooding in the north, north eastern and central regions is routine,
often resulting in flash floods and mud slides.
Thai law restricts foreigners’ land ownership possibilities.
Limited short term investment is allowed, otherwise foreigners
may own leases of up to 30 years (renewable) or invest in land
via registered companies in which Thai nationals own a majority.
information - Thailand
||Bangkok, Nokorn, Ratchasima,
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