Population & People of Thailand

The population of Thailand is about 61.4 million and currently growing at a rate of 1 % to 1.5% per annum (as opposed to 2.5% in 1979), thanks to a vigorous nationwide family-planning campaign.

Over a third of all Thais live in urban areas. Bangkok is by far the largest city in the kingdom, with a population of over six million (more than 10% of the total population) – too many for the scope of its public services and what little ‘city planning’ exists. Ranking the nation’s other cities by population depends on whether you look at thetsabaan (municipal district) limits or at meuang (metropolitan district) Emits.

By the former measure, the four most populated cities in descending order (not counting the densely populated ‘suburb’ provinces of Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi, which rank second and third if considered separately from Bangkok) are Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Khon Kaen. Using the rather misleading meuang measure, the ranking runs Udon Thani, Lopburi, Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) and Khon Kaen. Most of the other towns in Thailand have populations below 100,000.

The average life expectancy in Thailand is 69 years, the highest in mainland South-East Asia. Yet only an estimated 59% of all Thais have access to local health services; in this the nation ranks 75th worldwide, behind even countries with lower national incomes such as Sudan and Guateinala. There is only one doctor per 4316 people, and infant mortality figures are 26 per 1000 births (figures for neighbouring countries vary from 110 per 1000 in Cambodia to 12 in Malaysia). Thailand has a relatively youthful population; only about 12% are older than 50 years and 6% over 65.

About 75% of citizens are ethnic Thais, who can be divided into the Central Thais, or Siamese, of the Chao Phraya Delta (the most densely populated region of the country); the Thai Lao of North-Eastern Thailand; the Thai Pak Tai of Southern Thailand; and the Northern Thais. Each group speaks their own Thai dialect and to a certain extent practises customs unique to their region. Politically and econon-iimly the Central Thais are the dominant group, although they barely outnumber the Thai Lao of the North-East.

People of Chinese ancestry make up 11 % of the population, most of whom are second or third generation Hakka, Chao Zhou, Hain- anese or Cantonese. In the North there are also a substantial number of Hui – Chinese Muslims who emigrated from Yunnan to Thailand in the late 19th century to avoid religious and ethnic persecution during the Qing dynasty.

The second largest ethnic minority group living in Thailand are the Malays (3.5%), most of whom reside in the provinces of Songkhla, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. The remaining 10.5% of the population is divided among smaller non Thai-speaking groups like the Vietnamese, Khmer, Mon, Semang (Sakai), Moken (chao leh or sea gypsies), Htin, Mabri, Khamu and a variety of hill tribes.

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