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Thailand has changed names a few times throughout history. Called "Siam" until 1939 and either "Kingdom of Thailand" or simply Thailand a few times through history, the country is now officially called the Kingdom of Thailand. Thailand has a history of unstable government.
While monarchy hasn't existed in Thailand since 1932 and the country is now a democracy, the royal family is still recognized as ruler of the state. A military revolt, known as the 2006 coup, took over the government of Thailand in September 2006, declaring martial law and abolishing the constitution. A new constitution was adopted in 2007, with multi-party elections held late that year.
Thailand has a population of over 62 million people, 7 million of whom are permanently living in the capital, Bangkok. Because of its importance in international trade and commerce, the city also attracts million of workers and business people every day, making it one of the busiest commuting metropolis in Southeast Asia.
Thailand is a tourist's paradise because of its geography. Covered with waterfalls, green mountains, and white beaches, Thailand has a tropical weather with hot summers and warm winters, interrupted only briefly by the monsoon storms in the summer. Despite this, tourism is one of Thailand's newest industries, and it generates only about 5 percent of the total revenue of the country. Thailand's main source of national income is exports, with rice and electronic appliances taking the first places. In fact, Thailand exports more rice than China and Vietnam combined. Textiles and footwear, computer parts, and rubber are also major industries.
Thai is Thailand's official language, although there are at least four variations of Thai, depending on region. This makes it somewhat hard for people to communicate with each other, even within their own country. English is not widely spoken, except in the areas where tourists and foreigners congregate. Theravada Buddhism is practiced by 95 percent of the population of Thailand, and temples abound in almost every corner of the country. Respect for ancient tradition and elder reverence is at the core of Thai culture, and is one of the few areas where the impact of Westernization has not been felt.
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