Thailand Table of Contents
Population: About 53 million in 1987; 1.9 percent annual growth rate in 1986, down from 3.1 in 1960 and 2.5 in late 1970s. Level of urbanization 17 percent in 1987, mostly concentrated in capital region. Bangkok metropolitan area population estimated at 5.5 million in 1987; ten next largest cities range between 80,000 and 110,000 in population. Overall density 100.5 persons per square kilometer in 1987, varying from 62 in Chiang Mai Province to 3,292 in Bangkok.
Languages: More than 85 percent of population speak dialect of Thai (a member of Tai language family); most prevalent are Thai-Lao, spoken in Northeast, and Central Thai, which is official language taught in schools and used in government. Other languages spoken by members of ethnic minorities include Chinese (chiefly Teochiu), Malay, Karen, and Khmer. Smaller groups speak Tai languages such as Shan, Lua, and Phutai. Many minority peoples, especially Chinese, also speak Thai.
Ethnic and Regional Groups: Four regional categories make up core Thai population: Central Thai (32 percent); Thai-Lao (30 percent); Northern Thai (17 percent); and Southern Thai (5 percent). Largest minority consists of Chinese (11 percent), followed by Malay (3-4 percent), and Khmer (1 percent). Remaining minority groups, including numerous hill tribes, together constituted no more than 2 percent of the population.
Religion: Almost all core Thai, some other Tai speakers, Khmer, and Mon practice Theravada Buddhism. Islam represented chiefly among Malay. Christians found among hill peoples and Vietnamese.
Education: Government supports universal free primary education. Most children attend school several years at least, and more than 85 percent of population literate. Fewer than three out of ten children continue beyond elementary level. More than a dozen universities and specialized postsecondary institutions provide higher education for about 3 percent of youth.
Health: Access to modern medical care and trained physicians chiefly in Bangkok and provincial towns, although government developing rural health centers. Unavailability of potable water for most of rural population contributes to disease. In 1986 life expectancy at birth sixty-one years for men, sixty-five years for women.
Data as of September 1987