by Delia Toh
Thailand was formerly known as Siam and is the only Southeast Asian nation to not have been colonised by any Western power throughout its history. Civilisation in Thailand began with the indigenous Mon-Khmer and Malay people. Gradually, following the immigration of the Tai people from Southern Yunnan in the 10th Century, the people and traditions of the nation became as it is known today. The Siamese revolution in 1932 officially ended the absolute monarchy governance of the country and placed it on the path of military rule. Today, the people continue fighting for a democratic government.
Thai culture is a mix of Burmese, Laotian and Malay influences. Nearly 95% of the people are Buddhists, and the Thai are a people who value ancestry and traditional beliefs. As a society, Thais are approachable and non-confrontational on a personal level, hence the nickname “Land of Smiles”. Apart from the very well-known Thai greeting known as the wai, various other traditions exist within the community, such as the belief in bun khun, or fillial piety, and the tendency to avoid public conflict.
A lot of art in Thailand is primarily based on Buddhism- the paintings, architecture and sculptures mainly depict Buddha. Some other forms of art include antique artifacts which have been preserved. Locals and foreigners alike enjoy Khohn performances (a drama-dance conglomeration based on Ramakian stories) and traditional Thai puppetry.
Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation to be free from foreign influences throughout its history and has had the longest era of monarch governance. At present moment, Thailand is known as the kingdom of Thailand and exists as a constitutional monarchy. The current ruler of Thailand is Rama IX and his Cabinet consists of five political parties, namely the Democrat, Chart Thai Pattana, Bhumjaithai, For the Motherland and the Thai United National Development Parties and the Friends of Newin Group.
The most commonly known sport that originated from Thailand is Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing). However, some of the traditional sports that are indigenous to the Thais also include Sepak Takraw. Common western sports like volleyball and soccer are also very popular among the Thai people.
Various forms of old media are still popular and thriving in Thailand, the most common of which is the television. The internet is not free from government scrutiny, as offensive sites are blocked, and politically sensitive content is usually censored. Apart from that, the internet is a relatively free online portal for information in Thailand.
Thailand's recent and rapid economic development have brought about pollution and environmental threats to the country. However, after 1992, efforts have been put in place to reduce the amount of pollutants in the air and to step up on quality in water treatment.