Thailand's People
Thailand :: People

Population: 65 million (July 2007 est.)
0-14 years: 21.6% (male 7.2 million; female 6.9 million)
The traditional Thai greeting is not a handshake but a "wai" (pronounced why) - a slight bow of the head accompanied by pressing both palms together and raising them in front of the chin. It is a gesture of respect shown to elders or people in position of authority. A wai is always returned, unless it is from a child.
Population distribution
urban: 32% - concentrated in Bangkok
rural: 68% - concentrated in the rice-growing areas
About one-third of Thais live in cities with the largest concentration in Bangkok. The other two-thirds live in villages concentrated in the rice-growing areas. Most Thai villagers live in traditional wood houses on stilts for protection against floods during the monsoon season. Each Thai village has a wat (Buddhist temple-monastery), which serves as the religious and social center of the community.
Ethnic groups:
Thai 75%,
Chinese 14%,
Others 11%
  • The Mokens are an Austronesian ethnic group who live among the islands in the Andaman Sea on the west coast of Thailand. The Mokens are also called sea gypsies because they traditionally lead nomadic lives on their boats which serve not just as a means of transportation, but also as their kitchen and bedroom. Thais called them "Chao Ley" or people of the sea. When the monsoon rains make the seas rough, they set up temporary huts on islands.

    National Geographic Video: Moken - living near and off the sea

  • There are several indigenous tribes in northern Thailand such as the Karen, the Hmong (Meo), the Yao (Mien) and the Akha. Each tribe has its own traditions and is most readily recognized by their distinctive traditional clothes.

  • The women of the Karen-Padaung tribe are distinguished by their seemingly "long necks". From childhood, the women wear brass rings around their necks. As longer rings are added, the shoulder and chest are pushed down and the rib cage is compressed ... giving the illusion of a long neck. The Karens are refugees, who have escaped persecution in Myanmar, and are not legal citizens of Thailand. They live off the tourism trade ... tourists who pay to take photographs of them.

    National Geographic Video: Brass Shackles
Buddhist 94.6%;
Muslim 4.6% - concentrated in the southern isthmus;
Christian 0.7%;
Others 0.1% (2000 census)
Most Thais are Theravada Buddhists. Many boys and young men become Buddhist monks for a period of time to earn merit - living a life of study and meditation to seek better understanding of Buddha's teachings. Many Thais also believe that spirit houses, amulets and tattoos can protect them from evil spirits and misfortune.
Thai (official language) - a language with five tones,
English (secondary language of the elite),
Ethnic and regional dialects

Literacy rate: 92.6% (of those age 15 and above) can read and write (2000 census)