General Introduction

Politics and government



Thailand has been ruled by a king since the thirteenth century and officially became a democratic constitutional monarchy in 1932. The King is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of the government.

From 1997 until the coup was staged by the Council for National Security (CNS) on September 19, 2006, Thailand was governed by two political parties. From 1997 to 2001, the Democrats, with several parties in coalition, ruled Thailand with Chuan Leekpai as the Prime Minister. However, in 2001, their opponents, the Thai Rak Thai party, led by Thaksin Shinawatra, won a landslide victory and maintained power through 2006. During these years, the Constitution of 1997 was the predominant law of the land.

After the coup of September 2006, the CNS declared martial law and abrogated the 1997 Constitution. An interim constitution was established. A Constitution Drafting Council was then appointed to draft a permanent constitution and on August 19, 2007, a referendum was accepted and a new Constitution was enacted as law.

Following the coup, Thailand was governed by three Prime Ministers from the People's Power Party, in the following order: (1) General Surayud Chulanont, (2) Samak Sundaravej, and (3) Somchai Wongsawat.

Abhisit Vejjajiva was appointed Prime Minister on December 17, 2008, after the Constitutional Court removed Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from office. Throughout 2009 and 2010 he faced major protests, and in May 2011 he called for House dissolution. Subsequently, a general election date was set for July 3, 2011.

The Pheu Thai Party, which maintained close ties with Thaksin Shinawatra, nominated Yingluck Shinawatra as its candidate for Prime Minister in the 2011 general election. The Pheu Thai Party won a landslide victory, winning 265 seats in the House of Representatives. After the election, Yingluck Shinawatra, who in only 49 days rose to Thailand’s top political post, set up a coalition government consisting of five political parties.

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Thailand is 514,000 sq. km. in area, about the size of France or Texas, with a population of over 67 million, a current growth rate of approximately 15.-2.8% per annum (forecast for 2011), and a per capita GDP (PPP) of about US$5,17.71 (forecast for 2011). Inflation is 3.8% (forecast for 2011).
Thailand has four geographic regions: the mountainous and forested North, the fertile Central plain, the arid Northeast, and the hilly South. Located in the middle of Southeast Asia, Thailand’s immediate neighbors and Loas, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Nearly are China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia.

The local climate is tropical and characterized by monsoons. There is a rainy, warm, and cloudy southwest monsoon from mid-May to September, as well as a dry, cool northeast monsoon from November to mid-March. The southern isthmus is always hot and humid.

Thailand was traditionally an agrarian economy, but since the Second World War, as a market-driven economy, it has developed sizeable industrial and services bases. Since the mid-1970s, industrialization has increased and investment has been directed toward export-oriented activities and the services industries. Between 1984 and 1994, Thailand had the most rapid economic expansion of any country in the world. Social institutions, social capital, and costs failed to keep pace, leaving the country vulnerable to corruption, cronyism, money politics, systemic frailty, and an unorganized civil society. Thailand has received criticism over its inability to cope with recent demands on its infrastructure. Improvements are marked by indecision, delays, political conflicts, contract irregularities, corruption, and cost overruns.

Airports. Thailand has 39 civilian airports. In the North, there are airports in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Tak, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phrae, Lampang, Mae Sot, Phitsanulok, Pai, Uttaradit, and Sukhothai. In the Northeast, there are airports in Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon, Khon Kaen, Loei, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Nakhon Phanom, Roi-et, Surin, and Ubon Ratchathani. In the South, there are airports in Phuket, Hat Yai, Chumphon, Pattani, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Surat Thani, Trang, Narathiwat, Krabi, Ranong, and Koh Samui. In central Thailand, there are airports in Cha-am (Hua Hin), Phetchabun, Nakhon Sawan, and two terminals in Bangkok at Don Mueang Airport. Don Muang airport was temporarily closed due to flooding starting October 2011, but is scheduled to be reopened in April 2012.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (opened in 2006) is located on an 8,000-acre plot of land in the Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan Province, only 25 kilometers away from central Bangkok. Built to accommodate 45 million passengers per year with a high level of competence, the government uses Suvarnabhumi Airport to strengthen the Kingdom as a future regional aviation hub.

Commercial air service is provided largely by the national flag carrier, Thai Airways. A few much smaller airlines have been allowed to operate along very limited routes: Bangkok Airways, Happy Air, Kan Air, Nok Air, Orient Thai Airlines, Phuket Airlines, Thai Air Asia, and Solar Air. The newest low-cost airline in Thailand, Crystal Thai Airlines, is supposed to launch operations in 2012.

Railroad Systems. Many people as well as goods in Thailand are transported by trains. From Bangkok, trains run regularly to the outer surrounding areas as well as to farther destinations north, south, east, or west. International trains only run to Malaysia and Singapore. There are three classes of passenger train travel and sleepers, with or without air-conditioning, are available on longer trips. The trains are clean and run on time.

Ports. An estimated 85% of Thailand’s trade goes through Klong Toey Port on the Chao Phraya River. There are also deep seaports at Map Ta Phut and Laem Chabang on the Eastern Seaboard, and at Songkhla and Phuket in the South, which are playing ever-increasing roles in international and coastal trade.

Public Transportation. Bangkok’s road system is inadequate to deal with the large number of vehicles in the city. City road traffic suffers gridlock much of the business day. An overhead electric mass transit system has been in operation since December 1999, while an underground train has been in operation since July 2004. In 2006, the Cabinet approved in principle four expansion projects of the mass transit system to five routes (Red Line, Dark Green Line, Light Green Line, Purple Line, and Blue Line), involving a total distance of 118 kilometers. In 2007, the Cabinet approved the Purple Line project (Bang Yai to Bang Sue route) involving a distance of 23 kilometers. The Airport Rail Link and City Air Terminal systems were opened for operations in 2010 and span a distance of 28 kilometers, providing a link from the Bangkok city center to Suvarnabhumi Airport.

On August 12 2011, an extension to the east of the Light Green Sukhumvit line (from On Nut station to Bearing station) was opened. There are plans for this line to be further extended eastwards by 10.6 kilometers to Samut Prakarn in 2012–2014.

It is hoped that these systems will help relieve pressure on the capital’s too few roads and too much vehicular traffic.

Road System. Thailand has had an active road-building program since the early 1960s and now boasts a vast network of all-weather highways linking all parts of the nation. Thousands of trucks and buses transport goods and passengers among and within provinces. Thailand is the world’s second-largest market for pickup trucks.

Official language: Thai
Business languages: Thai and English, and in some circles Japanese, several Chinese dialects, Bahasa Malay, and languages of South Asia.

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The country's official name was Siam until June 23, 1939, when it was changed to Thailand. It was then renamed Siam from 1945 to May 11, 1949, after which it was again renamed Thailand.
The word Thai (ไทย) is not, as commonly believed, derived from the word Tai (ไท) meaning "freedom" in the Thai language; it is, however, the name of an ethnic group from the central plains (the Thai people). A famous Thai scholar argued that Tai (ไท) simply means "people" or "human being" since his investigation shows that in some rural areas the word "Tai" was used instead of the usual Thai word "khon" (คน) for people.
The Thai use the phrase "land of the free" to express pride in the fact that Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never colonized by a European power. While the Thai people will often refer to their country using the polite form Prathet Thai (Thai: ประเทศไทย), they most commonly use the more colloquial word Mueang Thai (Thai: เมืองไทย) or simply Thai (Thai: ไทย); the word mueang (Thai: เมือง) meaning nation but most commonly used to refer to a city or town. Ratcha Anachak Thai (Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย) means "Kingdom of Thailand" or "Kingdom of Thai".
Etymologically, its components are: -Ratcha- (from Sanskrit raja, meaning "king, royal, realm") ; -ana- (from Pāli āṇā, "authority, command, power", itself from Sanskrit ājñā, same meaning) -chak (from Sanskrit cakra or cakraṃ meaning "wheel", a symbol of power and rule). The Thai National Anthem , composed and written by Peter Feit during the extremely "patriotic" 1930s, refers to the Thai nation as: prathet-thai. The first line of the national anthem is: prathet thai ruam lueat nuea chat chuea thai (Thai: ประเทศไทยรวมเลือดเนื้อชาติเชื้อไทย) and was translated in 1939 by Colonel Luang Saranuprabhandi as: "Thailand is the unity of Thai blood and body."

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Politics and government

The politics of Thailand is currently conducted within the framework of a constitutional monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government and a hereditary monarch is head of state. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislative branches.
In accordance with the 2007 Constitution, the National Legislative Assembly is composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Of the 480 members of the House of Representatives, 400 members are directly elected by the people on a constituency basis, and 80 members are elected on a proportional basis. A general election is held every four years.

The 150 senators are elected or appointed for six-year terms from the date of election or appointment respectively. The number of members directly elected on a provincial constituency basis is equal to the number of provinces, and the remaining members are selected by the Senate Selection Commission.

The President of the House of Representatives also adopts the position of President of the National Assembly.

The Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister and no more than 35 other ministers who are appointed by the King. The Prime Minister must be an elected member of the House of Representatives and is not allowed to serve for more than eight consecutive years.

In May 2011, Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Democrat Party government called for dissolution of parliament, and set July 3, 2011, as a general election date.

The then opposition Pheu Thai Party won the majority with 265 seats, resulting in Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin Shinawatra’s youngest sister and number-one party list candidate, becoming the country's first female Prime Minister. The Democrat Party then became the main opposition party with a total of 159 seats.
References:, and Guide to Doing Business in Thailand 2012
History of Intellectual Property in Thailand

Based on existing historical records, Intellectual Property Law (IP Law) was introduced in Thailand more than 100 years ago to provide Copyright protection, especially for literary works. The protection of Intellectual Property works has since been developed and improved so that it now broadly provides protection for various types of innovations.

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