her long history, Thailand has absorbed immigrants. Many were skilled
as writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians, and architects. These
immigrants helped to enrich Thailand's indigenous culture.
Minorities of Thailand
include the Chinese, Thai Malays, and the Laotian. Anything between 9%
- 15% of Thailand's population is thought to be Sino-Thai (depending on
how Chinese is defined). In the early 19th and 20th Century, Chinese immigrants
came and settled down here. They married Thai women, took Thai names,
most of them adopted Buddhism (although they were not required to renounce
their ancestor worship) and learnt Thai. As elsewhere in the region, these
Chinese immigrants proved to be remarkably adept at money making and today
control a disproportionate slice of businesses.
The Thai Malays are
found mostly in the southern region. They speak Malay rather than Thai
and the majority are Muslims instead of Buddhists. The Laotian of the
northeastern region, though constituting nearly one-third of the nation's
population, are the least visible. Known better as the "Isan", they are
often regarded by the central Thais as being equivalent to "country bumpkins".
Today, the people
of Thailand share a rich ethic diversity - mainly of Mon, Khmer, Tai,
Chinese, Malay, Laotian, and Indian stock - with the result that there
is no typically Thai physiognomy or physique. There are petite Thais,
statuesque Thai, round faced Thais, dark-skinned Thais, and light-skinned
About 80% of all
Thais are connected in some way with agriculture, which (in varying degrees)
influences and is influenced by the religious ceremonies and festivals
that help make Thailand such a distinctive country.
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