Although it experienced some industrial development after 1960, it still remains a country fundamentally based on the primary sector – around 80% of the active population and over 80% of the country’s exports (but only less than a third of the gross national product.) -, first of all on agriculture, in which more than 75% of the active population is still involved. Agriculture, despite having experienced some changes in the fifteen years, continues to present, as in the past, most of the negative characteristics of underdevelopment.
The prevalence – even if decreased compared to the past – of a single crop, rice, which still occupies more than 50% of arable land (1960: more than 70%) and accounts for more than half of the physical volume of agricultural production is very clear. Crop diversification is still very limited: after 1960 there was a notable expansion of only three crops (maize, kenaf, cassava). The physical increases in agricultural production were obtained almost exclusively following a conspicuous increase in cultivated areas (from 7.5 million ha in 1960 to over 12 million) made possible by the availability of “free” land. Irrigation, although increased, covers less than 25% of cultivated land (including only 35% of rice crops), while every year floods destroy about 10% of rice crops. The use of chemical fertilizers and mechanization are very limited. Agricultural yields remain very low (rice: 14 q / ha in 1960, 18 in 1975 against about 60 in Japan).
The mining sector has seen some improvement, but limited substantially to the vastly predominant tin sector, whose production has more than doubled in the fifteen years tin, metallic tin, for which Thailand has become the second largest producer in the capitalist world). The other traditional mineral productions have simply seen an increase, sometimes conspicuous, in the extraction, totally or in a very large part destined for export to the developed capitalist countries (minerals of tungsten, manganese, iron, antimony, lead and zinc; as well as fluorite, of new production). For Thailand 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.
The secondary sector continues to be very small, occupying about 7% of the active population (1960: 3%) and giving a little more than 20% of the gross national product. Moreover, it has presented a rather significant enlargement over the last fifteen years.
The traditional industrial sectors – food, textile, woodworking – in which factories of small and very small dimensions, often of an artisanal nature, prevailed, have seen the rise of numerous factories of the same type and a certain number of medium and large plants, preferably installed in the Bangkok area. But, in addition to this, and to the multiplication of artisanal workshops for repairing industrial items, there have been numerous new factories, mostly of modern size, which have sprung up – mostly in the Bangkok area – due to lack of production (some of the base): objects of galvanized iron; tools for the construction sector; electrical equipment; various chemicals, including chemical fertilizers (two plants, including one in Mae Moh); tires. And again, oil refineries; assembly systems for tractors, cars and motor vehicles, cycles, radios; the aforementioned tin foundry; as well as steel plants (steel mills and rolling mills), three new cement plants and some new paper mills. The creation of the new modern factories involved the construction of over a dozen electrical, thermal (oil-fired, imported) and – starting from 1964 – hydroelectric (rivers Ping, Pong, Nan and others). The investments of the developed capitalist countries – in the first place of Japan – have had great importance in the whole process of growth of the secondary sector, which today control (mainly in the form of mixed companies) 70% of the new industrial plants, including all major.
The tertiary sector, already characterized by hypertrophic dimensions linked to underdevelopment, has further expanded following the capitalist growth of the other sectors. It now employs more than 15% of the active population and produces over 45% of the gross national product. The most used sector remains that of commerce (about 8%; 1960: 6.5), followed by services (about 7%; 1960: 5) and transport and communications. The sectors most directly connected to the Vietnamese war have had considerable development, financed from outside: for the needs of the US military bases, about twenty airfields have been created, as well as a whole network of modern roads (over 4000 km in the fifteen years). On the other hand, the number of cars remained modest (about 400,000, of which just over half were cars). Foreign trade,
The overwhelming majority (over 80%) are exported to raw products from the primary sector, both vegetable and mining. Rice still predominates among them, of which Thailand continues to remain one of the top world exporters, despite the reduction in the quota destined for export (from over 20% of national production in 1960 to just over 5%), in following the increase in domestic consumption. Moreover, the importance of traditionally exported agricultural products has decreased (rice: from over 35% of the total value of exports in 1960 to just over 15%; rubber from over 20% to 10%; teak from 3% to the%) for the benefit of others (tapioca, corn, jute and kenaf). The importance of tin has instead increased. In addition, new export items appeared – sugar, cement, etc. At importation, industrial products continued to predominate, but the percentage of machinery and equipment, raw materials and chemicals went from 40% of the total value to over 60%, while the percentage of products of consumption (including food). Imports have been increasing much faster than exports, so that currently exports cover just over 70% of the value of imports. Almost all the interchange passes, as before, through the port of Bangkok (since 1967, however, a new port for ocean-going ships has been operating in Sattahip).