Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Official Name: Kingdom of Thailand
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Political Affairs Counselor--Barbara Tobias
Economic Affairs Counselor-Robert Fitts
Public Affairs Counselor--William Kiehl
Consul General-Alice C. Moore
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. Following elections held in November 1996, Chavalit Youngchaiyudh formed a coalition government and became Thailand's 22nd 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-Chavalit Youngchaiyudh
Minister of Foreign Affairs-Prachuab Chaiyasan
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 country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)
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) 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).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country (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:
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 magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at .
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual 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. Contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is available on the Internet () and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
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