We will split Thai and Lao to different pages.
Approximately 50 million people speak Thai worldwide. It is used by about 85% of the population in Thailand, as well as by small groups of people in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore. Thai stipulates different ways to address people to show varying degrees of respect or to acknowledge a person’s social rank. For example, there are particles that can be added at the end of a sentence to indicate deference to the person being spoken to, or to communicate the speaker’s opinion about what is being described.
Thailand’s economy will remain one of the fastest growing in East Asia for the next several years.
Thai, Central Thai (historically Siamese; Thai: ภาษาไทย), is the sole official and national language of Thailand and the first language of the Central Thai people. It is a member of the Tai group of the Kra–Dai language family. Over half of Thai vocabulary is derived from or borrowed from Pali, Sanskrit, Mon and Old Khmer. It is a tonal and analytic language, similar to Chinese and Vietnamese.
Thai has a complex orthography and system of relational markers. Spoken Thai is mutually intelligible with Lao and Isan, fellow Southwestern Tai languages, to a significantly high degree where its speakers are able to effectively communicate each speaking their respective language. These languages are written with slightly different scripts but are linguistically similar and effectively form a dialect continuum.
Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam, is a country at the centre of the Southeast Asian Indochinese peninsula composed of 76 provinces. At 513,120 km2 (198,120 sq mi) and over 68 million people, Thailand is the world's 50th-largest country by total area and the 21st-most-populous country. The capital and largest city is Bangkok, a special administrative area. Thailand is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Myanmar. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest. It is a unitary state. Although nominally the country is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, the most recent coup, in 2014, established a de facto military dictatorship under a junta.
Tai peoples migrated from southwestern China to mainland Southeast Asia from the 11th century; the oldest known mention of their presence in the region by the exonym Siamese dates to the 12th century. Various Indianised kingdoms such as the Mon kingdoms, Khmer Empire and Malay states ruled the region, competing with Thai states such as the Kingdoms of Ngoenyang, Sukhothai, Lan Na and Ayutthaya, which rivaled each other. Documented European contact began in 1511 with a Portuguese diplomatic mission to Ayutthaya, now one of the great powers in the region. Ayutthaya reached its peak during cosmopolitan Narai's reign (1656–1688), gradually declining thereafter until being ultimately destroyed in the 1767 Burmese–Siamese War. Taksin (r. 1767–1782) quickly reunified the fragmented territory and established the short-lived Thonburi Kingdom. He was succeeded in 1782 by Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (r. 1782–1809), the first monarch of the Chakri dynasty and founder of the Rattanakosin Kingdom, which lasted into the early 20th century.
Through the 18th and 19th centuries, Siam faced pressure from France and the United Kingdom, including forced concessions of territory; nevertheless, it remained the only Southeast Asian country to avoid direct Western rule. Following a bloodless revolution in 1932, Siam became a constitutional monarchy and changed its official name to "Thailand". While it joined the Allies in World War I, Thailand was an Axis satellite in World War II. In the late 1950s, a military coup under Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat revived the monarchy's historically influential role in politics. Thailand became a major ally of the United States, and played a key anti-communist role in the region as a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Apart from a brief period of parliamentary democracy in the mid-1970s, Thailand has periodically alternated between democracy and military rule. In 2013, Thailand endured a political crisis that culminated in two coups and the establishment of its current and 20th constitution by a military junta.
Thailand is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and remains a major ally of the US. Despite its comparatively sporadic changes in leadership, it is considered a regional power in Southeast Asia and a middle power in global affairs. With a high level of human development, the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, and the 20th-largest by PPP, Thailand is classified as a newly industrialized economy; manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism are leading sectors of the economy.
A unified Thai kingdom was established in the mid-14th century. Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. In alliance with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US treaty ally in 1954 after sending troops to Korea and later fighting alongside the United States in Vietnam. Thailand since 2005 has experienced several rounds of political turmoil including a military coup in 2006 that ousted then Prime Minister THAKSIN Chinnawat, followed by large-scale street protests by competing political factions in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Demonstrations in 2010 culminated with clashes between security forces and pro-THAKSIN protesters, elements of which were armed, and resulted in at least 92 deaths and an estimated $1.5 billion in arson-related property losses. THAKSIN’s youngest sister, YINGLAK Chinnawat, in 2011 led the Puea Thai Party to an electoral win and assumed control of the government. YINGLAK’s leadership was almost immediately challenged by historic flooding in late 2011 that had large swathes of the country underwater and threatened to inundate Bangkok itself. A blanket amnesty bill for individuals involved in street protests, altered at the last minute to include all political crimes—including all convictions against THAKSIN—triggered large protests in Bangkok. In late 2013 demonstrations led by former opposition deputy leader SUTHEP Thaugsuban called for the establishment of an unelected “people’s council” to replace YINGLUCK’s government and reform the Thai political system. YINGLUCK dissolved parliament in December 2013 and proposed a new election for February 2014. Thailand’s Constitutional Court invalidated the election in March 2014 on grounds that it was not completed within one day throughout the nation. Thailand has also experienced violence associated with the ethno- nationalist insurgency in Thailand’s southern Malay-Muslim majority provinces. Since January 2004, thousands have been killed and wounded in the insurgency.
Separatist violence in Thailand’s predominantly Malay-Muslim southern provinces prompt border closures and controls with Malaysia to stem insurgent activities;
Southeast Asian states have enhanced border surveillance to check the spread of avian flu; talks continue on completion of demarcation with Laos but disputes remain over several islands in the Mekong River; despite continuing border committee talks, Thailand must deal with Karen and other ethnic rebels, refugees, and illegal cross-border activities; Cambodia and Thailand dispute sections of boundary; in 2011 Thailand and Cambodia resorted to arms in the dispute over the location of the boundary on the precipice surmounted by Preah Vihear temple ruins, awarded to Cambodia by ICJ decision in 1962 and part of a planned UN World Heritage site; Thailand is studying the feasibility of jointly constructing the Hatgyi Dam on the Salween river near the border with Burma; in 2004, international environmentalist pressure prompted China to halt construction of 13 dams on the Salween River that flows through China, Burma, and Thailand; 140,000 mostly Karen refugees fleeing civil strife, political upheaval and economic stagnation in Burma live in remote camps in Thailand near the border.
(End of text/excerpt from the CIA World FactBook. You can download the book via a CIA-post on our frontpage.)
The Thai and Lao Language Learning Pack (updated version).
Download from the Thai language learning package with e-books and audio / video courses, or just take a quick look at the Thai Language Learning Pack study material catalogs.