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Thailand
Facts
Area: 513,115 sq km
Population: 67.8 million
Languages: Thai, English, ethnic languages
Religions: Buddhism, Muslim, Christian
GNI per capita: US$7,940
Currency: Baht: 1USD = 33.37 Thai Baht
 

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. Religion, the monarchy and the military have helped to shape the country’s society and politics. 

Thailand boasts a diverse landscape with rolling hills, mountains, and miles of rice fields. Rice is considered the country’s lifeblood, and many families earn their living harvesting the crop in the country’s central basin, the largest and richest region for growing rice. Thailand is also one of the world’s largest producers of rubber, which is grown in the southern peninsula.

The 1980s brought economic boom, and the agriculture-based economy changed as Thais flocked to work in industry and the services sector. But the bubble burst in 1997 with the Southeast Asian financial crisis. Stock and property prices plummeted, dragging down the currency and leading to bankruptcies, recession and unemployment.

Rural poverty has prompted many families to move to urban centers in search of employment and a better quality of life for their children. However, poverty in the city is often more desperate. Child labor, prostitution, HIV infection, and drug addiction are serious problems among children. The number of children who drop out of school and migrate to cities has been increasing every year. 


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