Bangkok, known in Thai as Krung Thep (“City of Angels”), is Thailand’s capital and largest city, and it dominates the country politically and economically. A seaport located in the southern part of the central plain on the estuary of the Chao Phraya, it became the capital of Siam in 1782, following Thon Buri, which was the capital from 1767 to 1782, and Ayutthaya (1351-1767). Bangkok is a vibrant city, in which the old blends with the new. Within the city, traditional, multicolored temples (wat) and royal palaces are dwarfed by modern skyscrapers. Bangkok suffers from notorious traffic congestion, annual flooding, and severe air pollution. Migration to Bangkok from north and northeast Thailand has swelled the city’s population.
Other important Thai cities include Nakhon Ratchasima, an industrial city in east Thailand; Nonthaburi, a suburb of Bangkok; Chiang Mai, the largest city in the northern mountains; and Songkhla, a coastal city in the southern peninsula. Chiang Mai and Songkhla are noted for their tourist attractions.
Although the majority of Thailand’s people (about 75 percent) are classified as Thai, the country has a complex ethnic composition. The Thai themselves vary considerably, with those of the central plain differing markedly in culture and language from those of the north and northeast, known as the Lao.
Many Thai have some Chinese ancestry, and Chinese constitute the largest single minority group in the country (about 14 percent of the total population).
The mountains of northern Thailand are home to a number of different hill peoples, including the Akha, the Hmong (also known as the Meo or Miao), the Karen, and the Lua’. Most of these peoples practice slash-and-burn agriculture. Many produce dry hill (or upland) rice, and some, such as the Hmong, produce opium. Farther south are populations of Mon people as well as groups of Khmer (Cambodian) and Vietnamese refugees. The southern peninsula is home to ethnic Malays. "Thailand" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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