Small Cap Wired
September 15, 2020
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A Travellers Guide to Thailand

Author: Administrator
Formerly 'Siam', Thailand took on its present name in 1939 shortly after a change from absolute to constitutional monarchy.

For much of the time since then the military has been involved in government. An unbroken period of civilian rule that began in 1992 was ended with a 2006 military coup, suspension of the constitution and declaration of martial law.

An interim government has been formed and a new constitution is being drafted with elections promised in late 2007.

Roughly twice the size of the United Kingdom, Thailand has a similar sized population. By far the largest city is Bangkok with a population of over 9m.

Thailand has borders with Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. It is landlocked to the north but has a long coastline to the south bordering onto the Gulf of Thailand to the south and east, and the Andaman sea to the west - where the major tourist resort of Phuket and neighbouring islands are to be found.

It was the south that was badly affected by the tsunami surge wave that hit six provinces in 2004 resulting in five thousand deaths and eight thousand injuries.

The country's major industries include tourism and IT, electronics, and vehicle manufacturing.

According to the Foreign Office Thailand's economy made a good recovery from the Asian financial crisis in 1997 with average annual growth of around 6 per cent between 2002 and 2004. But the sharp rises of world oil prices, the tsunami disaster, and drought have dampened its economic growth to four and a half per cent in 2005.

Rising oil prices caused inflation to increase to six per cent in the first quarter of 2006. The Bank of Thailand reacted by raising the short term interest rates.

The Foreign Office rates Thailand's human rights record as 'generally good'. Prior to the military coup it was one of the liveliest democracies in the region, it said. 'The media was relatively free and vibrant by regional standards, although government interference and self censorship had increased in recent years.

Demonstrations for or against past governments were common and recent large scale street protests had passed off peacefully.

However, political activities are currently banned, as are groups of demonstrations involving more than five people.

The Foreign Office rates the threat if terrorism throughout Thailand as 'high'. Attacks could be indiscriminate and against civilian targets in public places including those places frequented by foreigners.

The 'fluid border' with Burma is also a potential problem with large numbers of refugees, illegal immigrants and drugs crossing into Thailand. Relations with Cambodia have also caused concerns in the past.

The Foreign Office also warns visitors that penalties for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs are severe and can include the death penalty, which the Thai Government has used as a high profile part of its fight against drugs.

Crime is also a potential problem including theft of passports and credit cards. Passport fraud is high and penalties are severe, says the Foreign Office. By law, tourists are expected to carry their passports with them at all times in Thailand. There have been incidents where tourists have been arrested because they were unable to produce their passport.

'There has been a number of incidents where tourists have had their drinks drugged (in both tourist areas and red light districts)'.

British passport holders may enter Thailand for up to thirty days, without obtaining a visa in advance of arrival. Longer stays require an extension. 'The only legal way of obtaining a new visa, entry permit or extension of stay is from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate, an Immigration Officer at a point of entry into Thailand or one of the Immigration Offices around the country', says the Foreign Office.

Thailand climate has three seasons - monsoon (June to October), cool (November to February), hot (March to May). The rainy season in much of Thailand commences in May with September and October being the height of the monsoon season (November to March in Koh Samui and the south east of the Thai peninsula).

Thai law restricts foreigners' land ownership possibilities. Limited short term investment is allowed, otherwise foreigners may own leases of up to thirty years (renewable) or invest in land via registered companies in which Thai nationals own a majority.

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