Location: Thailand is located in the center of peninsular Southeast
Asia. Burma is to the west, Laos to the north and east, Cambodia to
the southeast, and Malaysia to the south. The south coast of Thailand
faces the Gulf of Thailand, while the Isthmus of Kra is bordered on the
west by the Andaman Sea (part of the Indian Ocean) and on the east by
the Gulf of Thailand. Thailand also has coastal islands in the Andaman
Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. The largest, with provincial status, is Phuket,
off the west coast; on the gulf side, the largest islands are Samui and
Size: Estimates vary. Official Thai sources report 513,115 square
kilometers. U.S. Government sources state that Thailand has a total
of 511,770 square kilometers of land area and 2,230 square kilometers
of water area for a total of 514,000 square kilometers.
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Land Boundaries: The total land boundary is 4,863 kilometers in length, including borders with Burma (1,800 kilometers), Laos (1,754 kilometers), Cambodia (803 kilometers), and Malaysia (506 kilometers). Thailand and Laos agreed that in 2005 they would complete demarcation of their boundary. Thailand has significant differences with Burma over the alignment of their boundary. There are disputed sections of the Thai-Cambodia border where border markers are missing. Land mines, the remnants of former conflicts, are still to be found—sometimes with lethal consequences—along Thailand’s borders with Cambodia and Laos. Although Thailand has no actual border dispute with Malaysia, terrorist and insurgent activities in the frontier area lead to frequent border closures and tight security.
Length of Coastline: The coastline is 3,219 kilometers long: 750 kilometers on the Andaman Sea and 2,469 kilometers on the Gulf of Thailand.
Maritime Claims: Thailand claims a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea, a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, and a continental shelf to a 200-meter depth—or to the depth of exploitation.
Topography: Topography and drainage define four main regions: north, northeast, central, and south. In the north, the chief topographic features are high mountains along the borders with Burma and Laos and extending down the Isthmus of Kra to the southern border with Malaysia. The central plain, which extends to the Gulf of Thailand, is a lowland area drained by the Chao Phraya and its tributary rivers. The upland Khorat Plateau in the northeast drains into the River Mun. The narrow, tropical Isthmus of Kra runs from mainland Thailand to the border with peninsular Malaysia. It has a low-lying range of hills at the narrowest part, about 600 meters in height. The highest point is Doi Inthanon, in Chiang Mai Province in northwestern Thailand, at 2,565 meters above sea level. The lowest point is along the Gulf of Thailand at zero meters above sea level.
Principal Rivers: The principal river is the Chao Phraya, which, with its tributaries, drains about 33 percent of the national territory and flows south into a delta at Bangkok. The Mun and many other smaller upland rivers are tributaries of the Mekong, which forms the border between Thailand and Laos before flowing into Cambodia and Vietnam and into the South China Sea. Together, the Chao Phraya and Mekong systems sustain Thailand’s agricultural economy and provide waterways for inland navigation.
Climate: A tropical country, Thailand has three distinct seasons. The first is a hot and dry season from February to May, with an average temperature of 34E C and 75 percent relative humidity. This season is followed by a rainy, cooler season brought by the southwest monsoon from June to September, with an average daily temperature of 29E C and 87 percent relative humidity. A cooler, dry season, caused by the northeast monsoon, lasts from November to January, with temperatures ranging from 32E C to less than 20E C and lower relative humidity. The Isthmus of Kra is always hot and humid and has the heaviest rainfall. The lightest rainfall is in the northeast. Temperatures in Bangkok range between 20E C and 35E C.
Natural Resources: Thailand’s major natural resources are fluorite, gypsum, lead, lignite, natural gas, rubber, tantalum, tin, and tungsten. Renewable resources include fish and timber.
Land Use: Roughly 20 percent of Thailand is covered by mountains and hills, the steepness of which generally precludes agriculture. As of 2001, rich arable land accounted for nearly 29.4 percent of the total area. Nearly 6.5 percent was planted to permanent crops. Some 47,490 square kilometers of land were irrigated according to 1998 estimates.
Environmental Factors: The depletion of the water table around Bangkok has led to land subsidence. Despite the annual southwest monsoon, Thailand is subject to drought. Other environmental issues include air pollution from vehicle emissions, water pollution from organic and factory wastes, deforestation, soil erosion, and wildlife population depletion from illegal hunting. Thailand is also vulnerable to devastating tsunamis, such as the one that struck the Andaman Sea coast on December 26, 2004. It killed more than 5,300 people, including foreign visitors, and left another 2,900 missing.
Time Zone: Thailand has one time zone—Bangkok time (Greenwich Mean Time—GMT—plus seven hours).