Thailand is a meeting place, where people of diverse backgrounds have come together to pool their culture and racial characteristics, giving rise to something new, strong and vital. With a territory and population about the same size as France, Thailand's people are mostly ethnic Thai, with other ethnic groups mixed in: Burmese, Chinese, Lao, Khmer and hilltribes. The people are mostly Buddhist, less than 10 percent believe in other faiths: Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Brahmanism.
There are conflicting opinions as to the origins of the Thais. Three decades ago it could be said with presumed certainty that the Thais originated in Northwestern Szechuan in China about 4,500 years ago and later migrated down to their present homeland. However, this theory has been altered by the discovery of remarkable prehistoric artifacts in the village of Ban Chiang in the Nong Han District of Udon Thani Province in the Northeast. These include evidence of bronze metallurgy going back 3,500 years, as well as other indications of a far more sophisticated culture than any previously suspected by archaeologists. It now appears that the Thais might have originated here in Thailand and later scattered to various parts of Asia, including some parts of China.
The Kingdom of Thailand, located in Southeast Asia on the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, shares boundaries with Myanmar (Burma) on the west and northwest, Laos on the east and northeast, Cambodia (Kampuchea) on the southeast, and Malaysia on the south. Thailand, although rich in rubber and in mineral resources, was never colonized by Europeans and has existed as a unified monarchy since 1350. The capital, BANGKOK, an attractive blend of Western and Thai architecture, was established in 1782. Thailand covers a land area of 513,115 square kilometers, from North 5° 30¨ to 21° and from East 97° 30¨ to 105° 30¨, and extends about 2,500 kilometers from north to south and 1,250 kilometers from east to west, with a coastline of approximately 1,840 kilometers on the Gulf of Thailand and 865 kilometers along the Indian Ocean.