Thailand is an independent country that lies in the heart of Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast and Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea to the southwest.
The country is a kingdom, a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, who has reigned since 1946, making him the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. The king is officially titled Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, an Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and the Defender of all Faiths.
The largest city in Thailand is Bangkok, the capital, which is also the country's center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities.
Thailand is the world's 50th largest country in terms of total area (slightly smaller than Yemen and slightly larger than Spain), with a surface area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), and the 21st most-populous country, with approximately 64 million people. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thai, 14% is of Chinese origin, and 3% is ethnically Malay; the rest belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers and various hill tribes. There are approximately 2.2 million legal and illegal migrants in Thailand. Thailand has also attracted a number of expatriates from developed countries. The country's official language is Thai. It is primarily Buddhist, which is practiced by around 95% of all Thais.
Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1995 and is a newly industrialized country with tourism, due to well-known tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Ko Samui, and exports contributing significantly to the economy.
Bangkok, Singapore and Tokyo have been ranked as the top three most popular destinations in the Asia-Pacific region for international tourists, according to the results of the inaugural MasterCard Asia Pacific Destinations Index released here on Wednesday.
The MasterCard Asia Pacific Destinations Index polls 167 destinations, including island resorts as well as towns and cities across the region. These 167 destinations represent 90.1 percent of all international overnight arrivals within the region.
According to the index, Thailand's capital city Bangkok topped the survey, with international overnight visitors breaking the 20 million mark for the first time last year. Thailand also dominated the top 10 destinations, taking three of the top 10 rankings, with Phuket securing fifth place and the coastal city of Pattaya coming in at eighth place.
Following Bangkok is Singapore and Tokyo, which both welcomed 11.8 million international overnight visitors last year. Other top 10 cities include Seoul, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bali and Osaka.
Chinese tourists have become the tower of strength in the growth of international tourists for the Asia Pacific region, which contributed to about one-third of the total growth in number of tourists from 2009 to 2015, at least five times higher than that from the second country, South Korea, according to Matthew Driver, Group Executive, Global Products and Solutions, Asia Pacific of MasterCard.
Thailand is raising the fee for visa on arrival for visitors from 19 countries and regions.
From Sept 27, the charge for a visa on arrival allowing visitors a 15-day stay will go up to 2,000 baht from 1,000 baht.
The countries and regions affected by the hike include the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, India, Saudi Arabia and Maldives.
China generated 7,954,791 visits in 2015, up by an astounding 71%. This year, it is likely the tally will reach 10 million.
A Thai government spokesman said the reason for the doubling of the fee was due to the fact that many tourists applied for visas at immigration checkpoints in Thailand rather than applying at Thai embassies or consular offices overseas.
This, the spokesman said, has caused congestion at immigration checkpoints and also compromised immigration checks "which may pose a security threat and allow undesirable elements to enter the country more easily".
The fees for applying for a Thailand visa ahead of travel haven't changed.