Introduction to Thailand
In the middle of mainland Southeast Asia, the former Kingdom of Siam is located on the Indo-Chinese Peninsula.
Its hilly upland areas are home to minority groups, whilst the wide floodplains of the Chao Phraya river are home to the lowland Thai people.
The only country in Southeast Asia never formally colonized, the Thai people have a confidence that is distinguishable from their neighbors.
The Tai people came from Southwest China into Thailand in around the 11th century and Thai Kingdoms coexisted with the many other powerful Southeast Asian Kingdoms.
Fighting off colonial control by the Portuguese, French and British, Thailand became an absolute monarchy under King Chulalongkorn in 1868.
It sided with the Allies in the Second World War and became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, changing its name from Siam to Thailand.
Successive military coups have removed democracy from the Thai people.
Theravada Buddhism, its rituals and practices, is a central tenet of Thai culture. Art, architecture, music and literature are strongly influenced by Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
As in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, respect for ancestors, elders, educators and monks is a pivotal aspect of social life, hierarchy and status.
62 minority groups make up 34% of Thai society. They have distinct languages, traditions, dress and cuisine. Chinese culture is becoming more significant in urban and political life.