Thailand - Beyond the Beach

Originally known as Siam, The Kingdom of Thailand is a small, Southeast Asian country which is renowned for its deliciously spicy food, beautiful beaches, and, more recently, its political instability. We've got the 411 on this sunny get-away in the midst of one serious show-down.

Thailand - Where is It?

Thailand is in Southeast Asia where it borders Laos and Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south. The Andaman Sea and Myanmar (formerly Burma) sit to the west of Thailand.

Thailand - A Very Brief History

Indigenous Thai cultures have existed from around 4000 BC onwards but the country's culture has been heavily influenced by Cambodia, China and India. Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to be overtaken by a European nation. However, it did give up three of is southern provinces to Malaysia after pressure from the British in the 19th century. In 1932, the Thai people revolted against the monarchy, resulting in a constitutional monarchy, in which the government is elected and the royal family acts more as a figurehead or national ambassadors (much like in the UK). Shortly afterward, the country changed its name from Siam to Thailand. "Thai" means freedom in the Thai language. In the coming years, Thailand experienced a number of coups (sudden, usually armed, overthrowing of the government), but moved towards democracy from the 1980s on. In December 2004, thousands of people were killed and even more were displaced by the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Thailand - Recent Conflicts

On September 19, 2006, Thai military leaders staged a coup while the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was in the US for a United Nations convention. The crisis traces its roots back to January 2006 when the Prime Minister sold his family's stake in a telecoms firm. Many Thais became angry because they said the family had avoided paying tax and had passed control of an important national asset to foreign investors. In an effort to show he still had the support of the voters, the Prime Minister called a snap election in April. The Prime Minister won 57 percent of the vote but the vote was declared unconstitutional. Eventually, an armed group decided to take matters into their own hands. They say they will call a new election soon and restore democracy to the nation.

Thailand - Did U Know?

  • The Siamese cat was brought to Britain from Thailand in 1884 by the British Consul General of Bangkok.
  • The Beach, the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is set in Thailand.
  • A popular tourist activity in Thailand is riding elephants.
  • The fifth season of Survivor was shot in Thailand.
  • King Ramkhamhaeng, who ruled at the end of the 13th century, created the first Thai alphabet.
  • In Thailand, there is a law against leaving your house without wearing underwear.
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