Facts about Thailand

Surface area: 514,000 km2

Capital: Bangkok

Population: 67.8 million

Ethnic structure: Thais, Laos, Shans and other Tai-speaking groups, altogether 78%, Mons, Chinese, Indians, Malays etc.

Languages: 76 including Thai, Lao, Shan, Mon, Khmer, Akha, Lisu, Burmese, Bahasa Malaysia, and several Chinese dialects

Religions: Theravada Buddhists 89%, Christians 4%, animists etc.

Thailand is a melting pot of Southeast Asian culture. The influence of Chinese and Indian civilization has been felt in the area of present-day Thailand for over two millennia, and the Malay Peninsula provided access to the cultural sphere of Malaya and Indonesia. The Tai-speaking people are believed to have moved gradually into their present areas from Southern China. Before they established their rule, the present territory of Thailand was ruled by several kingdoms influenced by India and some areas were part of the Khmer empire with its centre in present-day Cambodia.

The original religion of the Thais was a form of animism, and the worship of spirits (phi) is still very much part of Thai everyday life. From the Mons the Thais adopted Theravada Buddhism and, through a long process, elements of Hinduism from the Khmers. Thailand is predominantly Theravada Buddhist country, but, as in many Southeast Asian countries, a syncretistic belief system, combining elements of several religions, has also evolved there.