Head of state: King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy.
Its king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, assumed the throne in June 1946 and is the world's longest-reigning monarch.
The royal family is revered by many Thais.
Thailand has strict lese-majeste laws, and those deemed to have offended the monarchy - which is still a powerful force in the country - are often dealt with severely.
Prime minister: Yingluck Shinawatra
Yingluck Shinawatra, the youngest sister of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, led the opposition Pheu Thai party to a landslide victory in July 2011 and became Thailand's first woman prime minister.
In the country's first general election since 2007, Pheu Thai won 265 seats out of a possible 500 - enough to form a single-party government.
However, in what was seen as a shrewd political move, the party announced it would form a coalition with four smaller parties, thus broadening its support in parliament for promised reforms.
Ms Yingluck, aged 44 at the time of her election and a successful businesswoman, promised to bring stability and reconciliation to what had for some years been a deeply polarised country. However, critics were quick to point out her inexperience, given that she had never before run for office nor held a government post.
The influence of her brother, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and convicted of graft two years later, loomed large throughout the election and beyond. Despite living in self-imposed exile, Thaksin Shinawatra is still seen by many as pulling the strings of government behind the scenes.
The opposition claimed that Ms Yingluck's primary role was to marshal the Thaksin faithful - the mainly poor rural voters who kept him in power - and serve as his proxy as he governed from abroad.
Though Thailand enjoyed relative stability for the first two years of Ms Yingluck's premiership, an attempt to pass a political amnesty bill in the autumn of 2013 - which would have allowed Mr Thaksin to return from exile without serving his jail term - reignited simmering political tensions.
The opposition brought its supporters out onto the streets in their tens of thousands, and mass protests continued for months.
In December, Ms Yingluck dissolved the lower house of parliament and called early elections for February 2014 in a bid to defuse the crisis. This does not appear to have satisfied the opposition, which continues to call for her to step down and has announced that it will boycott the elections.
Analysts say that despite the protests, Ms Yingluck still enjoys a strong rural support base, which could be enough to return her to power in the next elections.
Yingluck Shinawatra has degrees in politics and before running for election she had a corporate career in telecommunications and property. She is married and has one son.