U.S. Department of State
Background Notes:  Thailand, November 1997


Official Name: Kingdom of Thailand 

PROFILE 

Geography 

Area: 513,115 sq. km. (198,114 sq. mi.); about the size of Texas. 
Cities: Capital--Bangkok (pop. 9 million est.). Other cities--Chiang Mai 
(160,000), Hat Yai (140,000), Nakon Ratchasima (190,000). 
Terrain: Densely populated central plain; northeastern plateau; mountain 
range in the west; southern isthmus joins the land mass with Malaysia.
Climate: Tropical monsoon. 

People 

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Thai(s).
Population: 59 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.4%.
Ethnic groups: Thai 89%, other 11%.
Religions: Buddhist 95%, Muslim 4%, Christian, Hindu, other.
Languages: Thai (official language); English is the second language of 
the elite; regional dialects.
Education: Years compulsory--nine. Literacy--93%. 
Health: Infant mortality rate--7/1,000. Life expectancy--66 yrs. male, 
71 yrs. female. 

Government 

Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Constitution: December 22, 1978; new constitution approved December 7, 
1991; amended January 4, 1995.
Independence: Never colonized; traditional founding date 1238. 
Branches: Executive--king (chief of state), prime minister (head of 
government).
Legislative--National Assembly (bicameral). Judicial--three levels of 
courts; highest is Supreme Court (Sarndika).
Administrative subdivisions: 76 provinces subdivided into 767 districts.
Political parties: Multi-party system; Communist Party is prohibited. 
Suffrage: Universal at 18. 

Economy 

GDP (1995): $167 billion.
Annual growth rate (1995): 8.6%
Per capita income (1995): $2,747.
Natural resources: Tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, 
lead, fish, gypsum, lignite, fluorite.
Agriculture (10% of GDP): Products--rice, tapioca, rubber, corn, 
sugarcane, coconuts, soybeans. 
Industries: Tourism, textiles, garments, agricultural processing, 
cement, integrated circuits, jewelry.
Trade (1995): Exports--$56 billion: textiles and footwear, fishery 
products, computers and parts, jewelry, rice, tapioca products, 
integrated circuits, rubber. Major markets--U.S., Japan, Singapore, Hong 
Kong, EU. Imports--$70.8 billion: machinery and parts, petroleum, iron 
and steel, chemicals, vehicles and parts, jewelry, fish preparations, 
electrical appliances, fertilizers and pesticides. Major suppliers--
Japan, U.S., Singapore, Taiwan, Germany, South Korea, EU. 

U.S.-THAI RELATIONS 

Since World War II, the United States and Thailand have developed close 
relations, as reflected in several bilateral treaties and by both 
countries' participation in UN multilateral activities and agreements. 
The principal bilateral arrangement is the 1966 Treaty of Amity and 
Economic Relations, which facilitates U.S. and Thai companies' economic 
access. Other important agreements address civil uses of atomic energy, 
sales of agricultural commodities, investment guarantees, and military 
and economic assistance.  

The United States and Thailand are among the signatories of the 1954 
Manila pact of the former Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). 
Article IV(1) of this treaty provides that, in the event of armed attack 
in the treaty area (which includes Thailand), each member would "act to 
meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes." 
Despite the dissolution of the SEATO in 1977, the Manila pact remains in 
force and, together with the Thanat-Rusk communique of 1962, constitutes 
the basis of U.S. security commitments to Thailand. Thailand continues 
to be a key security ally in Asia, along with Australia, Japan, and 
South Korea.  

Thailand's stability and independence are important to the maintenance 
of peace in the region. Economic assistance has been extended in various 
fields, including rural development, health, family planning, education, 
and science and technology. However, the bilateral aid program is now 
being phased out, as Thailand becomes more developed. The U.S. Peace 
Corps in Thailand has about 185 volunteers, almost half of whom teach 
English. The remainder are engaged in education, agricultural and rural 
development, and health programs.  

Thailand has received U.S. military equipment, essential supplies, 
training, and assistance in the construction and improvement of 
facilities and installations since 1950. In recent years, U.S. security 
assistance has consisted of military training programs carried out 
primarily in the U.S. A small U.S. military advisory group in Thailand 
oversees the delivery of equipment to the Thai armed forces and the 
training of Thai military personnel in its use and maintenance.  

As part of their mutual defense cooperation over the last decade, 
Thailand and the United States have developed a vigorous joint military 
exercise program, which engages all the services of each nation and now 
averages 40 joint exercises per year.  

Thailand is a key route for Golden Triangle--the intersection of Burma, 
Laos, and Thailand--heroin trafficking to international markets, 
including the United States. While Thailand is no longer a significant 
opium producer, money laundering, police and military corruption, and a 
continuing narcotics flow out of Burma have hindered efforts to limit 
its role as a transfer point.  

The United States and Thailand work together and with the United Nations 
on a broad range of programs to halt the flow of narcotics. A memorandum 
of understanding was signed in 1971 affirming U.S.-Thai cooperation, 
resulting in a strengthened Thai enforcement program. With U.S. support, 
Thailand has a good record in crop control, law enforcement, and demand 
reduction but would benefit from greater efforts to stem money 
laundering.  

After a 1991 coup in Thailand, the U.S. made clear its full support for 
a quick return to a democratically elected government. As required by 
law, U.S. military and economic assistance to Thailand was suspended, 
with the exception of counternarcotics programs. However, after the 
democratic elections in September 1992, assistance was restored.  

Trade and Investment  

While many areas of agreement strengthen understanding and cooperation 
between the United States and Thailand, U.S. calls for Thailand to play 
a role in the world economic structure proportionate with its industrial 
diversification and growing economic importance have led to trade 
frictions and strains on otherwise excellent bilateral relations.  

Thailand has made considerable progress in improving legal protections 
for intellectual property. In recognition of this progress and following 
passage of a new copyright act in 1994, Thailand was removed from the 
priority watch list. Thailand remains on the watch list, however, and 
the U.S. Government continues to work with Thailand to secure additional 
improvements in its legal regime and to encourage effective enforcement 
of existing legislation.  

The United States also has an ongoing dialogue with Thailand on 
promoting worker rights. U.S. legislation links worker rights with U.S. 
trade policy and continues to seek improved access for U.S. products and 
services in the Thai market.  

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials  

Ambassador--William Itoh 
Political Affairs Counselor--Barbara Tobias 
Economic Affairs Counselor--David R. Moran 
Public Affairs Counselor--William Kiehl 
Consul General--Thomas P. Furey  

The U.S. embassy in Thailand is located at 120/22 Wireless Road, Bangkok 
(tel. 66-2-205-4000). There is a consulate at Chiang Mai, Vidhyanond 
Road (tel. 66-2-252-629/30-33).  

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS  

Following a 1932 revolution which imposed constitutional limits on the 
monarchy, Thai politics were dominated for half a century by a military 
and bureaucratic elite. Changes of government were effected primarily by 
means of a long series of mostly bloodless coups.  

Beginning with a brief experiment in democracy during the mid-1970s, 
civilian democratic political institutions slowly gained greater 
authority, culminating in 1988 when Chatichai Choonavan--leader of the 
Thai Nation Party--assumed office as the country's first democratically 
elected prime minister in more than a decade. Three years later, yet 
another bloodless coup ended his term.  

Shortly afterward, the military appointed Anand Panyarachun, a 
businessman and former diplomat, to head a largely civilian interim 
government and promised to hold elections in the near future. However, 
following inconclusive elections, former army commander Suchinda 
Kraprayoon was appointed prime minister.  

Thais reacted to the appointment by demanding an end to military 
influence in government. Demonstrations were violently suppressed by the 
military; in May 1992, soldiers killed at least 50 protesters.  

Domestic and international reaction to the violence forced Suchinda to 
resign, and the nation once again turned to Anand Panyarachun, who was 
named interim prime minister until new elections on September 13, 1992. 
In the subsequent elections, the political parties that had opposed the 
military in May 1992 won by a narrow majority, and Chuan Leekpai, a 
leader of the Democratic Party, became Thailand's 20th prime minister. 
Following the dissolution of parliament on May 19, 1995, new elections 
were held July 2. The Thai Nation Party won the largest number of 
parliamentary seats, and its leader, Banharn Silpa-Archa, became 
Thailand's 21st prime minister.  

The king has little direct power under the constitution but is a symbol 
of national identity and unity. The present monarch--who has been on the 
throne for 50 years--commands enormous popular respect and moral 
authority, which he has used on occasion to resolve political crises 
that have threatened national stability.  

Thailand's legal system blends principles of traditional Thai and 
Western laws; Koranic law is applied in the far south, where Muslims 
constitute the majority of the population. The Supreme Court is the 
highest court of appeals, and its judges are appointed by the king.  

Thailand's 76 provinces include the metropolis of greater Bangkok. 
Bangkok's governor is popularly elected, but those of the remaining 
provinces are career civil servants appointed by the ministry of 
interior.  

Principal Government Officials  

Chief of State--Bhumibol Adulyadej 
Prime Minister--Banharn Silpa-Archa 
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Amnnay Viravan 
Ambassador to the U.S.--Nitya Pibulsonggram 
Charge d'Affaires--Akrasid Amatayakul 
Ambassador to the UN--Asda Jayanama  

Thailand maintains an embassy in the United States at 1024 Wisconsin 
Ave. NW, Washington DC 20007 (tel. 202-944-3600). Consulates are located 
in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION  

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at (202) 647-5225 
or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular Affairs Bulletin 
Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem with standard 
settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on obtaining 
passports and planning a safe trip abroad are available from the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.  

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225.  

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280, price 
$14.00) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.  

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication).  

Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to 
register at the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" 
listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you 
in case of an emergency.  

Further Electronic Information  

Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB 
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful 
information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to 
anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications software, and 
a telephone line.  

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press 
briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. 
DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at ; this site has a link to the DOSFAN 
Gopher Research Collection, which also is accessible at 
gopher://gopher.state.gov or gopher://gopher.state.gov.  

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis 
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Priced at 
$80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and 
Macintosh compatible) and are available from the Superintendent of 
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, 
PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.  

Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy 
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government 
Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS 
information, call (202) 512-1530.  

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information.  

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