The Kingdom of Thailand is an independent country that lies in the heart of Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Laos and Myanmar, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and Myanmar. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast and Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea to the southwest. The capital and largest city of Thailand is Bangkok. It is also the country’s center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities.
Thailand is the world’s 50th largest country in terms of total area (slightly smaller than Yemen and slightly larger than Spain), with a surface area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), and the 21st most-populous country, with approximately 63 million people. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thai, 14% is of Chinese origin, and 3% is ethnically Malay; the rest belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers and various hill tribes. The country’s official language is Thai.
Thailand is one of the most devoutly Buddhist countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism which is practiced by more than 94.7% of all Thais. Muslims make up 4.6% of the population and 0.7% belong to other religions. Culture and traditions in Thailand are significantly influenced by India, as are Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, as the ruling monarch. The King has reigned for more than sixty-three years, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch and the longest reigning current monarch in the world. The King is recognized as the Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, the Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and Defender of the Faith. Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has never been colonized by a European power.
Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1995 and today is a newly-industrialized country with an emphasis in exports and a flourishing tourism industry, thanks to various world-famous tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Bangkok, and Phuket.