Thailand is an ethnic melting pot of peoples from surrounding lands. Chinese, Khmer, Laotian, Malaysian, and Vietnamese people have come together in this nation, intermarried, and merged into the Thai culture. This is especially true in urban areas like Bangkok, where Thai, Chinese, Malay, and even English are all spoken in the streets.
Thailand is located in the center of Southeast Asia and shares its borders with Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Thailand's tropical climate creates a landscape dominated by lush tropical rainforests in the south and rich agricultural valleys in the north.
Although the Thai economy still is dominated by agricultural commerce, it is quickly industrializing. Thailand is following the paths of Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong (the so-called "Four Tigers") toward rapid, export-driven industrialization. The economy has been booming, with a growth rate of about 8 percent annually for the past several years, until the recent economic crunch in Asia. Major industries include agriculture, fishing, tin mining, rice, tapioca, and fine arts. Within the manufacturing sector, appliance manufacturing, furniture, high-tech products, and plastics are all important. Tourism also is an important source of revenue.
Thailand and the southernmost regions of China share a common ancient history. About four thousand years ago, people from these areas began a period of cross-migration, a process that blended the region's people and cultures.
In 1782, King Rama I established Bangkok as the capital of what was then called the kingdom of Siam. During the era when most non-European nations were subject to European colonial rule, Thailand managed to remain free by playing the competing French and British against each other. In 1932, the Siamese government became a constitutional monarchy, and seven years later the nation changed its name from Siam to Thailand. Loosely translated, Thailand means "land of the free."
During World War II, Japan occupied Thailand. After the war, the United States dominated much of the region and enlisted Thailand and several neighboring nations in the anti-Communist alliance SEATO, the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization. Under this alliance, Thailand's government allowed U.S. armed forces to maintain bases in Thailand during the Vietnam War. The current Thai king, Rama IX, also known as Bhumibol Adulyedej, has ruled the nation since just after World War II, and despite repeated military coups and continuing political unrest, he continues to rule as a symbol of national identity.
Thai nationals often boast that theirs is the only Asian country never to have been dominated by a foreign power. Although this is technically true, a quick look around Bangkok - complete with McDonalds, Burger Kings, and American Express billboards - offers plenty of evidence that the West is coming. Whether this bodes well for Thailand, the bustling international commerce overtaking the country is a boon for English teachers. Whether aspiring to be waiters in fancy hotels, businessmen, factory workers, or shop owners, most young Thai people want to learn English.
Thailand has a well-educated population with a 93 percent literacy rate, the product of a state-mandated, six-year, compulsory public education program. University admission is very hard to come by, and is determined through competitive tests. Teaching in Thailand is a wonderful opportunity for a newly qualified teacher to gain teaching experience and to see a bit of the world. If you are serious about teaching, your attitude will be appreciated. Thailand is a developing country and many people need to improve their English-speaking skills. It is unbelievable what is happening in Thailand with the construction of roads, the factories, the telephone system, and just about everything that makes a country's economy work. As a result, there should be plenty of opportunities for English teachers for some time to come.