Thailand country profile

  • 16 October 2016
  • From the section Asia

Thailand is the only country in south-east Asia to have escaped colonial rule. Buddhist religion, the monarchy and the military have helped to shape its society and politics.

The military has ruled for most of the period since 1947, with a few interludes in which the country had a democratically elected government.

Since 2001, Thai politics have been dominated by the irreconcilable split between supporters and detractors of Thaksin Shinawatra, who served as prime minister until he was ousted by the military in 2006.

Thaksin's sister Yingluck became prime minister following the 2011 election but was in her turn ousted by a military coup in 2014.


Kingdom of Thailand

Capital: Bangkok

  • Population 69.9 million

  • Area 513,115 sq km (198,115 sq miles)

  • Major language Thai

  • Major religion Buddhism

  • Life expectancy Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 78 years (women)

  • Currency baht


Head of state: Vacant

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The revered king died on 13 October 2016 after 70 years on the throne.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej assumed the throne in June 1946 and was the world's longest-reigning monarch until his death on 13 October 2016 at the age of 88.

Officials have said that Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has asked for his coronation to be delayed and that he was not ready to be king. Correspondents say questions about his capabilities have been raised in the past.

Prem Tinsulanonda, a 96-year-old close advisor to the late king, has been named as regent pending the coronation of the new king.

Prime minister: Prayuth Chan-ocha

Image copyright Getty Images

General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power in a coup in May 2014 and was named as prime minister by the military-appointed parliament a few months later.

Thailand's military has a history of intervening in politics and has seized power 12 times since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.


Image copyright Getty Images

The government and military control nearly all the national terrestrial television networks and operate many of Thailand's radio networks.

The media are free to criticise government policies, and cover instances of corruption and human rights abuses, but journalists tend to exercise self-censorship regarding the military, the monarchy, the judiciary and other sensitive issues.


Some key dates in Thailand's history:

1932 - Absolute monarchy gives way to constitutional monarchy with parliamentary government.

1947 - First post-WWII military coup. The military retains power continuously until 1973.

2001 - Thaksin Shinawatra becomes prime minister for first time.

2006 - Military leaders stage a bloodless coup while Thaksin Shinawatra is at the UN General Assembly.

2011 - Pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai party wins a landslide victory in elections. Thaksin's sister Yingluck becomes prime minister.

2014 - Army again seizes power.

2016 - King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies after 70 years on the throne.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thailand is known for its flavourful cuisine

Related Topics

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites