THE PEOPLE OF THAILAND, THAI ETHNIC GROUPS
The People Of Thailand, Thai Ethnic Groups
The population of Thailand is about 62 million, of which more than 10% lives in Bangkok. The growth rate is currently less than 1.5%.
Ethnic Thais account for the majority of the population, although there are several regional subdivisions, each having their own dialect - Thai Yai (Shan) in the Northwest, Pak Thai in the South, Thai-Lao and Thai Khorat in the Northeast, among others.
As a result of various migratory patterns in the past, Chinese, Malay, Mon, Khmer, Burmese and Indian ethnic strains are also found in varying degrees througout Thailand.
Assimilation of the main minorities is almost total. Other distinct minorities - various northern tribal people, Khmer, Lao and Vietnamese refugees and a small foreign community - account for less than 10% of the population.
About 60% of the people continue to derive a living directly or indirectly from the land. The rural village tied to the agricultural cycle remains an important social unit, although a middle-class urban culture is now developing.
With a population of some 10 million, Bangkok is by far the largest city, and the biggest towns - Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Korat, Hat Yai - scarcely number more than 250,000 inhabitants.
All major administrative, financial, industrial and commercial activity is concentrated in the capital. The pattern is slowly shifting, with tentative moves towards decentralization.
In terms of national traits, Thailand has been dubbed 'The Land of Smiles', and it is true that the people are essentially hospitable, fun loving and easy going - mai pen rai, meaning 'it doesn't matter', is one common Thai phrase everyone soon learns.
But the national character is rooted in adherence to traditional values resulting in a well developed sense of national identity and pride.