THAILAND GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMY
Thailand Government and Economy
Thailand is governed by a constitutional monarchy, with a prime minister, an elected 360 seat lower house and an upper house of 270 appointed senators.
There are similarities with the UK system, although the Thai monarchy remains more influential, in both an advisory capacity and through practical development projects initiated by the King and other members of the Royal Family.
Ostensibly within the constitutional framework, the military has traditionally been a powerful force in politics, staging numerous coups.
There are indications, however, that that moves towards true democracy are beginning to gain ground. Although a pro democracy demonstration was bloodily suppressed by the military in May 1992, the event did succeed in raising public commitment to democracy, while the military was reflected in a poor light.
In administrative terms, Thailand is divided into 76 provinces, each with a governor and provincial capital city.
The next subdivision is that of district, while the traditional social and administrative base is the rural village, where authority is popularly invested in a village headman.
Rapid material gains have been made in the last decade and Bangkok's bristling highrise skyline is the most obvious outward sign of an unprecedented economic boom.
The annual economic growth rate averaged just over 7% between 1986 and 1996, but the bubble burst in June 1997, when a severe financial downturn forced the devaluation of the baht.
Economic depression persisted into 1998 when the decline bottomed out, followed by the revival as the country entered the new milennium.
Thailand's single largest foreign exchange earner is tourism. A Visit Thailand Year promotion brought in a then record 3.5 million visitors in 1987.
The figure is now well over 10 million, and in spite of outbreaks of SARS and bird flu in 2003/4, sustained growth is expected.