Thailand : Facts and Figures

Map of Thailand

Thailand is situated in South-East Asia, covering an area of nearly 513,115 square kilometres. It is roughly the size of France. It shares land borders with Myanmar (Burma) in the north and west, the Andaman Sea in the west, Laos in the north and north-east, Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand in the east, and Malaysia in the south.

The shape of the country is similar to the profile of an elephant with a long trunk stretching down the peninsular. At school, students are taught that their country resembles the shape of an ancient axe with the peninsular being the handle.


Geography :

Thailand covers a land area of 513,115 square kilometres (198,114 square miles), extends about 1,620 kilometres (1,007 miles) from north to south and 750 kilometres (482 miles) at its widest point from east to west, or approximately the same size as France, with a coastline of approximately 2,700 kilometres (1,143 miles) on the Gulf of Thailand and 865 kilometres (537 miles) along the Indian Ocean.

Lowest point:   Gulf of Thailand 0 m
Highest point:   Doi Inthanon 2,576 m
Geographic coordinates:   15 00 N, 100 00 E
Natural resources:   tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, fish, gypsum, lignite, fluorite
Climate:   The climate is sub-tropical with long hours of sunshine and high humidity. There are three seasons. The hot season lasts from March to June. The rainy season, from July to October. The cool season from November to February. Average low temperature is 20c and high temperature is 37c. The geographic and climatic conditions make the country suitable for the cultivation of a wide range of tropical and semi-tropical agricultural crops.
Land use:   arable land: 34%, permanent crops: 6%, permanent pastures: 2%, forests and woodland: 26%, other: 32%.
Irrigated land:   49,860 sq km (2003)

Thailand is divided into four geographical regions : Central Thailand (including Bangkok), Northern Thailand, Northeastern Thailand, and Southern Thailand. The country has also an Eastern Region which is often included into the Central Region.

People :

Population : About 67,091,089 people (2012 est.).
Life expectancy at birth : male 73.83 years ; female : 76.33 years ; total population 71.45 years (2012 est.).

Infant mortality rate 15.9 deaths/1,000 live births ; total fertility rate 1.66 children born/woman (higher in provinces, lower in Bangkok, 2012). Birth rate 12.81/1000 population ; death rate 7.38/1000 population. All 2012 estimates. Infant mortality rate as well as birth rate declining steadily. See : Thailand's declining fertility rate.

Ethnic groups : Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, other 11%

Religions : Buddhism 95%, Muslim 4.6%, Christianity 0.7%, Other 0.1% (2000 census).

Languages : Thai (English language and Chinese language newspapers available)

Literacy (age 15 and over who can read and write) : 92.6%


Government :

The conventional long name of the country : Kingdom of Thailand. Short name : Thailand, formerly named Siam.
Thailand has a constitutional monarchy. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is head of state. Bangkok is the capital of Thailand. The country has 76 provinces.

Recent political developments :

General parliamentary elections in Thailand were last held on 3 July 2011. The Pheu Thai Party obtained a clear majority of the seats (265). It formed a coalition government with a number of other small parties : Chart Thai Pattana (19), Chart Pattana Puea Pandin (7), Phalang Chon (7), Mahachon Party (1), New Democracy Party (1).
The Democrat Party (which headed the previous government of Abhisit Vejjajiva) with 159 seats in parliament, is the main opposition party.
Yingluck Shinawatra, a sister of deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, became the first female prime minister of Thailand, on 5 August 2011.

See also :
Recent summary of political developments from 2006-2014 : prime ministers, political unrest

The National Assembly (legislative branch) consists of the Senate (200 seats) and the House of Representatives (500 seats). Members to both are elected every four years.

Judiciary : Supreme Court or Sandika (judges appointed by H.M. the King)


Economy :

Thailand enjoyed very high growth rates between 1985 and 1995 (9% annually). A severe economic crisis followed in 1997. At the time the baht was allowed to float (before that, it was pegged to the dollar at about 25 baht for one dollar). After years of languishing at a low exchange rate, through 2007 the Thai Baht has been rising in value and the exchange rate now is about 30 baht for one dollar early 2013.  Under the government of Khun Thaksin Shinawatra(2001-2006), the economy recovered with growth rates between 5-7%. 2009 was a dismal year, mirroring the global economic downturn. Substantial growth in 2010, was followed by a very bad 2011, this mainly due to severe flooding in the Central Region (where a lot of manufacturing is located) and parts of Bangkok. While the first quarter of 2012 still saw slow growth, the economy picked up after that, with a provisional growth rate of 6.4 as estimated by NESDB.

2001 2.29 2007 4.93
2002 5.32 2008 2.46
2003 7.14 2009 -2.3
2004 6.34 2010 7.8
2005 4.6 2011 0.1
2006 5.15 2012 6.5
    2013 4.0*
*NESDB ( National Economic and Social Development Board of Thailand) - estimated for 2013.


Contribution to GDP (2010) : Agriculture 12.2 % (although a much larger proportion of the population is working in this sector) ; non-Agriculture 87.8%.
GDP Thailand 601.1 billion US Dollar (PPP) ; standard GDP 345.7 billion US Dollar.(2011 World Bank)

Labour force by occupation : agriculture 40.7 %, industry 13.2 %, services 46.1 %. Employment in the agricultural sector is slowly decreasing.

GDP - per capita (purchasing power parity) : US$ 8,646 (much higher in Bangkok, much lower in many rural areas). [ 2011]
'Standard GDP' : 160,556 baht per year (2010, NESDB).
See Graphs and Analysis of GDP Data for Thailand and its provinces.

Exports during 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively : 222.6 , 229.2 and 228.5 billion U.S. Dollars. Basically exports have been showing flat growth the last three years up to 2013.

Imports during 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively : 228.8 , 250.0 and 250.7 billion U.S. Dollars. (Thailand : Ministry of Commerce, MOC)
During 2012 and 2013 Thailand had a trade deficit of just more than 20 billion U.S. Dollars.

Interestingly, newspapers articles often feature business and industry leaders complaining about the ever-strengthening Thai baht (that is, the weakening US dollar), since this would dramatically impair Thai exports. They got what they wished for during 2013. At the beginning of the year the dollar stood at around 30 Thai baht for 1 U.S. Dollar. Value of the Thai baht declined towards 33 Thai bath for 1 U.S. Dollar by the end of the year.

For 2013, exports of agricultural products and agro-industrial products totalled 40 billion U.S. Dollar, or 17.5 % of exports by value. Rubber, rubber products, rice, prepared and preserved seafood, are major agricultural exports.

Manufactured exported goods in 2013 were valued at 172,8 billion U.S. Dollars (79.05 %) while mining and fuel products totalled 14,7 billion U.S. Dollars (6,45 %).
Important exported manufactured goods include : cars, computer and accessories, refined fuel products, precious stones, chemicals, ethylene and propylene, electronic integrated circuits, machinery, iron and steel, air conditioning units.

Crude oil is the single major imported good by value. Furthermore : machinery, silver and gold (!), iron and steel, chemicals, parts of vehicles, electronic integrated circuits, computers and parts, metal ore, household appliances, natural gas.

Total foreign currency reserves stand at 167,4 Billion US Dollar in November 2013 (IMF).

The target of the Bank of Thailand's policies, is to keep core inflation between 0.5 and 3.0 %.
Headline Inflation for 2010, 2011 and 2012, measured 3.3%, 3.8 % and 3.9 % respectively.
CPI inflation in Januari 2014 stood at 1.94%, with core inflation lower than this.

Interest rates have been lowered during 2008 and 2009. In 2009 they stood at 1.25 %. In 2010 and 2011, with increasing inflationary pressure, the Bank of Thailand slowly increased rates. In November 2013, the Policy Interest Rate stood at 2.25 % (down from a maximum of 3.50% in the present cycle).

Important industries : Besides the above mentioned exports, which basically also cover the most important goods in Thailand, tourism is a very important industry. Revenue from tourism in 2012 totalled 983,928 billion Thai baht, which was around 34 billion U.S. Dollar at the exchange rate during that time. It should be a big chunk higher for 2013 in view of increasing arrivals, even with a declining value of the Thai baht.

One last important comment : Household debt in Thailand in the beginning of 2013 is at a very high level and approaches 80% of GDP, while still rising. This likely is some kind of ominous sign. Corporate debt though has been declining over the past decade. (JPMorgan Chase Bank).

Communications :

There are many Thai language T.V. stations. English-language programs are also widely available through cable TV (including BBC, CNN, NSBC etc.)
Mobile phone use is widespread, with 78.668 million phones (2011). There are many more mobile phones than fixed line phones.
Internet access is available throughout the country. Cities and towns in Thailand have Internet-Cafes with cheap rate of access (less than 1 dollar per hour usually). Broadband services are also available and are now being heavily promoted, though the country is lagging when compared to most of the rest of Asia.