A map of Thailand coloured to show highland and lowland areas and vegetationLying close to the Equator, Thailand has a tropical climate, with hot, humid weather all year round and a rainy season between May and October. High, forested mountains mark its northern and western borders with Burma, while, farther south, the land slopes to the flat, fertile plains of the Chao Phraya River valley, home to most of the country’s population. At the mouth of the Chao Phraya River lies Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. To the east, on the Korat Plateau, the land is mostly level at an average altitude of 200 metres (660 feet). In the southwest, a long, narrow strip of land extends southwards, opening out into a hilly region of tropical forests, lakes and islands where it joins Malaysia at its southern tip. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. However, in May 2014 the Thai government was overthrown by the army, since when the country has been governed by a military junta (a committee of army leaders).
Around three-quarters of the population of Thailand are ethnically Thai. It is believed they are descended from settlers who arrived in the region from southern China over 2000 years ago. Other peoples represented in Thailand include Chinese, Malay, Khmer, Mon and the “hill tribes” of the northern regions, such as the Karen and Hmong.
Buddhism is an important part of daily life. In Bangkok, huge Buddhist temples called pagodas rise above the city, and people make pilgrimages to visit giant statues of the Buddha. Although most Thai are Buddhists, Thailand is also home to around 3 million Muslims, the majority of whom live in the south near the Malaysian border.
Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej reigned for 70 years, from 1946 to 2016. Before his death, he was the world’s longest-serving head of state.
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