Thailand 2000

By | December 17, 2021



According to official United Nations estimates, in 1998 the population of Thailand had exceeded 60 million residents; in recent decades there has been a decrease in the annual growth rate, from 3.2% in 1972 to the current 1.4%, one of the lowest in all of Asia. 25% of the total population is under the age of 15, 69% is between 15 and 65 and only 6% is over the age of 65.

The agglomeration of Bangkok exceeded 5.5 million residents in 1996; the city itself has a very modern aspect in which it is increasingly difficult to find traces of ancient religious architecture and the most characteristic aspects of spontaneous construction, typical of Siam (this was the name of the country until 1939), for the most part demolished to make way for modern buildings, American-style skyscrapers and wide but always congested streets with chaotic traffic.

Economic conditions

In the last ten years, the economy of Thailand has undergone considerable development, with a growth in GDP that has been constant over the years and which in 1995 reached 8.7%. This has led to a marked improvement in the standard and quality of life of a large part of the population, while the average annual income per capita it practically doubled ($ 2,200 in 1998). However, between the end of 1996 and the first months of 1997, much to the surprise of international observers, this growth came to a sudden halt and a severe economic crisis hit the country. In addition to the reduction in the growth rate, the fall in the stock market index by more than 40% between April 1996 and the same month of the following year, the increase in the balance of payments deficit (8.2% of GDP) and public debt (61% of GDP in 1997), there was a sharp decline in corporate profitability and a slowdown in private investment (which fell from 12.4% in 1995 to 6.5% in 1996). Added to this was a decline in exports, while real interest rates remained very high. For Thailand business, please check

To cope with this difficult economic situation, the Thai government resorted to the International Monetary Fund, which asked for a severe austerity policy, the reform of the banking and financial system and a reorganization of the tax system as a counterpart for the credits granted. However, the prospects for the Thai economy remain favorable, as the country can count on a solid productive diversification, which adds to the benefits of a thriving agriculture those of an established industrialization (manufactured products represent 80% of exports). and developed tourism (7.7 million visitors in 1998). Thailand remains a large agricultural country: first producer of natural rubber (2.2 million tons in 1998, 32% of the world total), fifth of cane sugar, sixth (and first exporter) of rice. Also noteworthy is the production of kenaf (variety of jute), tropical fruit and opium poppy, for which Thailand held the primacy until a few years ago. Today, at least officially, there is an attempt to combat this crop, which ensures high incomes in the hilly areas on the border with Laos (the so-called golden triangle) and feeds very rich clandestine currents of derivatives, largely controlled by foreign interests.

Breeding is relatively developed, which also includes working elephants, mainly employed in forest areas. These provide various species of precious wood (teak, yang, sandalwood, sapan and ebony), but the once very high production has been considerably reduced, following a series of serious hydrogeological disturbances that have made us understand the environmental risk of uncontrolled deforestation. Both sea and freshwater fishing are very important: in particular, crustaceans have great value for export, which are launched on international markets after being frozen.

The manufacturing industry has grown dramatically, thanks to the freedom granted to private initiative, the lack of controls and very low wages, and is mainly directed towards sectors with high added value and strong exports. Thus, despite the traditional agri-food and textile sectors still play an important role (they contribute to the formation of industrial added value respectively for 28% and 24%), the sectors of automobile, electronics and electrical equipment.

Thailand is part of the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and during the 1990s it intensified its commercial relations with other member states.


Traditionally subject to the dominance of the military, who in fact have been the referees of political life since the Second World War, Thailand has been characterized by limited periods of civil government and repeated coups d’état. Since the 1980s, the country has experienced natural economic growth which, although accompanied by the persistence of both imbalances in the distribution of wealth and pockets of particularly high poverty, especially in the countryside, has nevertheless allowed for a general improvement in living conditions and greater articulation of civil society, also creating the conditions for a gradual democratization of political life.

In the early 1990s, despite the persistence of strong pro-military opposition, the government led by the leader of the Democratic Party (Pak Prachatipat) Chuan Leekpai (in office since 1992), under pressure from the emerging urban middle classes and organizations of the intellectuals and students, gradually reduced the political role of the Senate, a traditional stronghold of the armed forces, which culminated in January 1995 in the approval by Parliament of a constitutional amendment that reduced the number of senators to one third of the members of the Chamber. Instead, attempts to initiate a policy of administrative decentralization and a program of economic and social reforms met with greater resistance, while the phenomenon of corruption continued to grow and the link between the political world and the economic and financial world was strengthened. The heavy conditioning that arose from this intertwining of interests made the political situation particularly unstable and determined an uncontrolled expansion of economic activities, the effects of which did not take long to manifest.

After the crisis of the Chuan Leekpai government (May 1995) and the victory of the Nationalist Party (Chart Thai) in the early elections of July 1995, a center-right coalition government was formed which remained in office for only one year, overwhelmed by the accusations. of inefficiency and corruption. The new consultations of November 1996 recorded the Party’s affirmation of the new aspiration (Pak Kwam Wang Mai), a conservative, whose leader, General Chaovalit Yongchaiyut, was appointed prime minister.

In foreign policy, regional relations intensified, favored by the process of detente between the United States, Russia and China: in 1995 an agreement was reached with Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia for the development of the Mekong basin and the common exploitation of its resources and, in April 1997, agreements were also signed with China aimed at increasing trade relations between the two states.

Invested in 1997 by a very heavy financial crisis, which involved numerous South-East Asian countries with Thailand, the government entered into crisis in autumn 1997, immediately after the approval (September) by Parliament of a new Constitution, promulgated by the sovereign in October. Among other things, the new text provided for: an increase in the number of representatives of the Chamber, from 393 to 500, of which a fifth elected with a proportional system with list scrutiny; the eligibility of the 200 members of the Senate, prior to direct appointment; the establishment of an independent body, the Electoral Commission, with the task of supervising the proper conduct of political consultations; guarantees on freedom of information.

In November 1997, Chaovalit Yongchaiyut resigned. A new majority was formed based on the Democratic Party and Chuan Leekpai again assumed the post of prime minister. The new executive tried to stem the crisis, which had entailed very high social costs, by starting in 1998, in agreement with the International Monetary Fund, a recovery plan that provided for the reduction of the state deficit through cuts in public spending, the reform of the system finance and banking to try to stem the withdrawal of foreign capital, the repatriation of illegal foreign workers and support for emigration. In August 1998In addition, the rules that limited the possession of property to foreigners were abolished and in March 1999, for the first time, the latter were granted the possibility to also purchase land. In April, Chaovalit Yongchaiyut left the leadership of the party of the new aspiration.

Thailand 2000