An overview of
There are conflicting opinions as to the origins of the
Thais. Three decades ago it could be said with presumed certainty that
the Thais originated in the southern part of what is now
The population of
The official national language, spoken by almost 100 percent of
the population, is Thai. It is a tonal language, uninflected, and
predominantly monosyllabic borrowed mainly from Khmer, Pali,
or Sanskrit. Dialects are spoken in rural areas. Chinese and Malay are also,
spoken in some areas, and English is spoken and widely in
Buddhism is the faith of 95 percent of the population. There is absolute freedom of religion; Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and other faiths are practiced and protected by the constitution.
The only country in
There are roughly three key ingredients to Thai politics. The first and foremost is that His Majesty the King is the head of the armed forces and upholder of Buddhism and all other religions. Every constitution provides that His Majesty the King’s person is sacred and inviolable. His sovereign power emanates from the people, and he exercises his legislative power through parliament, executive power through the cabinet headed by a prime minister and judicial power through the country. The monarch is empowered with the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to admonish warnings whenever the government appears not to be administering the state affairs for the good of the people.
The second concept concerns the legislative branch. The first constitution was a cautious document that created a bicameral National Assembly with two categories of members, the House of Representative (the lower house) which were elected by the popular vote, and the Senate (the Upper House) which were appointed by the King on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers/Cabinet. The number of members in the House of Representatives is determined by the size of the population, while the number of senators is not to exceed 75% of the total number of representatives.
The third concept concerns the executive branch. Every constitution holds that the Prime Minister is head of the government and chief executive.
The most recent political development is the approval of the new constitution in September 1997. Under the previous electoral system, voters elected one or more candidates in their local districts. This produced Members of Parliament who focused on providing benefits to their districts, not to their party nor to the nation as whole. The new constitution creates a two-part electoral system, in which each voter votes for one candidate in the district and another from a party list of candidates who are nationally elected. This system will produce more MPs with a national outlook, and attract into politics qualified people, such as technocrats and academic experts, who otherwise would not run in an election.
During the 51 years of His Majesty King Bhumibol
Up until July of last year,
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