Monday, October 27, 2008

Thailand: A Short Summary

Differentiating characteristics:

1) Name was Siam until 1939. Had able rulers and was not colonized from outside.

2) Respect for elders essential to Thai’s spiritual practices as well as daily lifestyles. Social hierarchy important. Greeting “wai” offered first by youngest and visitors as a sign of respect: fingertips pointing upwards as the head is bowed to touch face to hands.

3) Religion is 95% Buddhist. Hospitality and generosity are also important.

Historical and geographical facts:

1) Thailand, a constitutional monarcy, means “Land of the free”. Has never been colonized by a European power, is a regional buffer state and an American ally. On December 23, 2007, achieved democracy with a King and Prime Minister, a 1997 constitution and elected government (after quelling organized military resistances).

2) Size of California, world’s 50th largest country. North: mountainous, center: flat, south: Kra Isthmus and Malay Peninsula.

3) Tropical climate characterized by wet monsoons mid-May to September, dry, windy monsoons November to mid-March. Southern isthmus is always hot and humid.

Economic facts:

1) World’s No. 1 exporter of rice (jasmine is their favorite), also manufacturing electric appliances, computer parts and automobiles. Currency: Baht. Thailand has an “Immemorial tradition of trade”.*

2) Buddhism and temples are tied to lives of Thais. Sons are often educated with monks. Government provides free education through grade 12, and there is a private system as well.

3) Books are revered. Thailand has the largest newspaper market in South East Asia.

General facts :

1) Bangkok, capital and largest city pop: 10,061,726. Recent geological surveys suggest that the giant tsunami that hit Thailand and the South Pacific region December 26, 2004 was a one-in- 600-year event.*

2)” English, on the increase at least in quantity if not in quality”** is a mandatory school subject, but fluent speakers remain low, especially outside cities.

3) Years are numbered B.E. (Buddhist Era) in education, civil service, government, newpapers. Banking, industry are increasing use of Western year. 2008 is 2551 B.E.



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