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中国株レポート
投資の視点
新興成長国基礎データ
中華人民共和国
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Geography

The Kingdom of Thailand occupies a strategic position in South East Asia. Its main land mass adjoins Cambodia and Laos to east and north, and Burma to the west. Thailand is flanked by the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, with a 2,400 km long coastline whilst south of its border lies Malaysia. It has an area of 514,000 square kilometres.

Demography

In mid-1992 the population of Thailand totalled 59.4 million. The annual rate of population growth between 1982 and 1989 was 1.5%. This comparatively slow rate of growth, by regional standards, resulted from a vigorous family planning programme. Some 35% of the population is under 15 years of age. In some areas of the country, notably in the northern valleys, the rate of increase has been significantly lower than the national average, at 1% per annum. Thailand's population is still predominantly rural, with the urban population forming 18% of the total in 1990. The capital, Bangkok, with a population of more than 8.5 million is by far the largest urban centre. Thailand's population is the most homogeneous in South East Asia; 95% are Thai speaking Buddhists and the remainder are Sino-Thais who have emigrated from China, and are well assimilated.

Thailand has long had a system of universal primary education, although even now this may not reach each child, especially in the remotest rural areas and in urban slums. Secondary education requires more substantial outlays by parents and only slightly over 40% of school children of the relevant age are therefore enrolled. About 70% of the adult population are literate.

The labour force in 1990 was estimated at 30.5 million, of which 58% worked on the land, 10% in commerce and services, 8% in manufacturing, 6% in the public sector and 3% in construction. Since the 1989-90 economic boom, the demand for industrial labour has increased significantly and estimates of unemployment have fallen to 4.6% of which only 1% may actually be looking for work.

History and Political Situation

The Kingdom of Thailand has its origins in the 13th century with the migration of the Thai people from south west China. The centuries that followed were plagued by wars with the Burmese, Khmers and later the Vietnamese, whilst from the 16th century onwards there was constant contact with Siam (as it was then known), by Portuguese, Dutch, English and French traders. In 1798 Bangkok was formed by Chao Phraya Chakri, later crowned King Rama I and the founder of the present dynasty. His rule was marked by constant military activity and it was not until the second half of the 19th century, under the role of King Mongkt Rama III, that western ideas were introduced into the country. A constitutional monarchy was established in 1932 and since 1946 King Bhumibol Adulyadej Rama IX has been Head of State and head of the armed forces. The monarchy, and the respect shown for it, have provided continuity over many changes of government.

For over 50 years, the country has been governed alternately by military and civilian leaders with some 15 coup attempts: the most recent, which took place in 1991, was seen as a partial set back to the evolution of democratic government.

In 1978 a permanent constitution, a form of controlled parliamentary government, was promoted. This provides for a bicameral National Assembly comprising a 357 member house of Representatives, elected by universal suffrage for four year terms and a 268 member Senate, appointed for six year terms by the King on the recommendation of the Prime minister who then advises on the appointment of a council of Ministers for Cabinet.

From March 1980 until July 1988 the Prime Minister was Prem Tinsulanonda, Thailand's longest serving civilian prime minister. In what can be seen as an example of Thailand's transition to democracy, Prem stepped down in the general election in 1988 in favour of a coalition led by a retired major general, Chatichai Choonhaven, the country's first elected Prime Minister in twelve years. His government was composed of four larger and two smaller parties; Chatichai's own Chart Thai ( Nation) party headed the grouping, the other three main partners being the Social Action Party now headed by Siddhi Savestila, the Democrats led by Phichai Rattakul and Rassadorn, led by Surisamphan. Altogether the coalition controlled 185 seats in the lower house. Given that support for the government was inconsistent, it usually relied on the support of the appointed senate, which was dominated by the military and reflected the important role of the army in internal issues.

While the smooth transition of power appeared to indicate a steady maturing of Thai democracy, factionalism and overt corruption in the civilian government led to another military coup in February 1991. In an attempt to give themselves respectability in the face of foreign opposition, the generals of the National Peacekeeping Council (NPC) appointed an interim government of respected technocrats led by Anand Panyarachun, a former diplomat and businessmen, which ruled until fresh elections in March 1992.

However, the NPC attempted to construct a new constitution that would ensure their hold on power through an appointed senate and created a front political party to ensure strong support in the lower elected House of Representatives. While this strategy appeared to have worked, in as much as pro-military parties gained a majority of seats, events proved that the generals had miscalculated the strong feeling, at least among Bangkok's middle class, that the prime minister should be elected. When the pro-military parties turned to the army commander, General Suchinda Kraprayoon, as premier, people took to the streets of Bangkok provoking an over-reaction by poorly trained military riot suppression forces. Through the King's intervention, Suchinda stepped down and, after a further Anand interim government, fresh elections in September 1992 brought an obviously pro-democracy grouping together in government under the leadership of the Democrat Party leader, Chuan Leekphai, a man of humble origins from the south of the country.

Economy

Thailand's economy has undergone dramatic change over the past 25 years. From being an agricultural economy based on a narrow range of export commodities - rice, rubber, tin and teak - the country has begun to be numbered among the world's "Newly Industrialising Countries". Although Thailand has retained its position as one of Asia's main agricultural exporters, the growth of the manufacturing and services sectors, particularly tourism, have reduced agriculture's dominance over the past five years.

In the early 1980s, several major threats emerged which conspired to endanger the momentum of Thailand's economic growth ; sharp oil price increases between 1979 and 1980 and the presence of Vietnamese forces on Thailand's borders which entailed a substantial upturn in defence spending. As a result, foreign debt increased rapidly. A further difficulty was to find solutions to the employment gap problem between Bangkok and the country's peripheral regions.

The government emphasised the improvement in the balance of payments through the intensified promotion of exports, particularly by enhancing the competitiveness of industrial production. They drew the private sector into playing a more central role in the whole national development process through involvement in infrastructure development, and partnership in the development of commercial agriculture. Since 1987, Thailand has received massive foreign direct investment from, in particular, Japan and Taiwan in new labour incentive industries such as integrated circuits and electronics assembly, footwear manufacture and toy making. These products have contributed most to the recent manufacturing boom.

This policy has paid rich dividends. Between 1988 and 1990 GDP growth rate averaged 11.7% per annum, making Thailand the fastest growing economy in the world. Growth in the last two years has fallen to a more sustainable rate of around 8%, affected by recession in USA and Japan (these two countries share almost two fifths of Thailand's foreign trade). However, income is not evenly distributed within the country, either in interpersonal terms or between the country's major regions. The north-east region, the country's poorest, now has per capita income levels equal to only one quarter of the national average and one eighth that of the Bangkok metropolitan area.

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