Geographic setting and environment

Physical geography

Thailand’s 514,000 square kilometres can be divided into four natural regions: the mountainous northern region; the fertile central plains of the Chao Phraya River Basin; the Khorat Plateau in the north-east; and the densely forested southern peninsula. At 2,596 metres Doi Inthanon, in the northern region, is the highest peak in Thailand.

Climate

Most of Thailand has three distinct seasons: the cool season from November to February; the hot season from March to June; and the monsoon or rainy season from July to October. Rainfall varies from region to region. The north-east is the driest area and the southern peninsula is always hot and humid.

Environment

Thailand is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna but deforestation has caused loss of habitat and some species have suffered from poaching. The double-horned rhinoceros and Schomburgk’s deer are already extinct, while the tiger and gaur (a wild ox) are endangered species. Mammals include elephants, panthers, gibbons and wild boars. Forest trees include teak, mangrove, rattan and palm.

The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex is World Heritage listed. It is home to a number of endangered and vulnerable animal species and is vital for the survival of many of the other 800 animal species living there. The Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries cover 600,000 hectares along the Burmese border and feature almost all the forest types found in South-East Asia as well as elephants and tigers.

Population

Two-thirds of Thailand’s 69 million people live in the rural areas. The Thai capital, Bangkok, is a crowded and busy city with more than 10 million inhabitants. Other major cities include Khorat, Chang Mai, Hat Yai and Khon Kaen.