/div>Country, mainland Southeast Asia. Area: 198,117 sq mi (513,120 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 65,998,000. Capital: Bangkok
. The population is predominantly Thai, with significant Chinese, Khmer
, and Malay minorities. Language: Thai (official). Religions: Buddhism; also Islam. Currency: baht. The country encompasses forested hills and mountains, a central plain containing the Chao Phraya River
delta, and a plateau in the northeast. Its market economy is based largely on services (notably trade) and light industries; agriculture employs a large proportion of the workforce. Thailand is a major producer of tungsten and tin. Among its chief agricultural products are rice, corn, rubber, soybeans, and pineapples; manufactures include clothing, canned goods, electronic equipment, and cement. Tourism is also important. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; its head of state is the king, and the head of government is the prime minister. The region of Thailand has been continuously occupied for 20,000 years. It was part of the Mon
and Khmer kingdoms from the 9th century CE. Thai-speaking peoples immigrated from China c.
the 10th century. During the 13th century two Thai states emerged: the Sukhothai kingdom
, founded c.
1220 after a successful revolt against the Khmer, and Chiang Mai
(which evolved into the kingdom of Lan Na with Chiang Mai as its capital), founded in 1296 after defeating the Mon. In 1351 the Tai kingdom of Ayutthaya
(Siam) succeeded the Sukhothai. Myanmar (Burma) was its most powerful rival, Burman armies occupying it briefly in the 16th century and destroying it in 1767. The Chakri
dynasty came to power in 1782, moved the capital to Bangkok, and extended its empire along the Malay Peninsula
and into Laos and Cambodia. The empire was formally named Siam in 1856. Although Western influence increased during the 19th century, Siam's rulers avoided colonization by granting concessions to European countries; it was the only Southeast Asian country able to do so. In 1917 Siam entered World War I on the side of the Allies. Following a military coup in 1932, it became a constitutional monarchy and was officially renamed Thailand in 1939. It was occupied by Japan in World War II. It participated in the Korean War
as a member of the UN forces and was allied with South Vietnam in the Vietnam War
. The country subsequently became a regional economic powerhouse, though serious social problems also emerged, including a growing gap between rich and poor and a major AIDS epidemic.