While many people were surprised by the Military coup in 2006, the effect on the running of the country has been minimal so far. The new regime has promised to look at democratic elections in the short term, although as yet no date has been set. While obviously force was used to eject the old ruling regime, it seems that there has been no backlash towards the population although there has been come censorship of the media.
For those not aware, Thailand has one of the biggest cities in the world in the shape of Bangkok that has a population approaching 7 million people (although unofficially many suggest the figure could be as high as 14 million). Thailand is the world’s 50th largest country and the city of Bangkok is the centerpiece of the country and listed as the 21st most popular city in the world – a great attraction for tourists and expats who visit the country.
Even though Bangkok seems to take all of the headlines, the country is actually made up of some 76 provinces, offering differing insights into Thai life and culture. Surrounded by Burma on the North West, Laos on the North East and Cambodia to the South, Thailand is a fairly sizeable country.
While the country offers a mix of ethnic groups and cultures, apart from the Thai population, there is a large contingent of Chinese immigrants, and other smaller groups from around the area. Religion is as diverse as the cultures although Buddhism plays a major part in the makeup of the country, with Christianity a smaller but significant religion. English is widely taught in schools, although generally speaking the standard of education is well below that of Europe and other developed nations.
While there is obvious concern about the coup situation, the hope of democratic elections (as and when they happen) should clarify the short to medium direction of the country. Until further details are made available, many expats are holding off any decision about moving to Thailand.
Economy in Thailand
Thailand has been one of the success stories of the Far East with economic growth between 1985 and 1995 amongst the highest in the world, averaging 9% per annum. The economy did go into a nosedive in 1998 when the currency came under immense pressure and had to be “revalued”. Expansion has since resumed with growth of 5% in 2006 and a forecast of 4.3% in 2007. It seems that the population of Thailand and there are foreign trade partners are not overly concerned about the coup of 2006. With the global financial recession of 2008, the meteoric growth of Thailand has somewhat been limited, but the country still registered positive growth despite the economic slump.
Thailand is predominately an export led economy with particular skills in the fields of rice, textiles, footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewellery and an array of electronic equipment. Exports have show a marked increase in recent years, and it seems as though this is set to continue, along with the expansion of the economy. The unemployment figure has obviously benefited from this period of substantial economic growth, and while the unemployment rate was only 2.9% in 2003, it fell to a low of 1.5% in 2005 – it has since increased slightly to 1.8% but is well under the average in the vast majority of developed countries.
Thailand is typical of many of the smaller, yet successful, Far Eastern economies because successive governments have ensured that the country adapts to changes in the international market place, and introduced various new areas of business to the country. Low unemployment also allows the promotion of the country overseas, with foreign nationals offered a great chance to be part of a developing country.
Prospects in Thailand
While there is still some concern on the ground with regards to the coup last year, and the lack of detail about democratic elections, this has not really impacted upon international trade as yet. There may be some negative consequences if the authorities were to take a more hard line approach to governing, or restrict trade or entry to the country. This has not happened as yet.
Overall Thailand is a growing country with an expanding economy, and as close to full employment as you could ever wish. Bangkok is most definitely the jewel in the crown and attracts many millions of visitors a year in its own right, which then offers the authorities the opportunity to promote the country overall.
Property prices are pushing ahead, although they may stabilize in the short term ahead of further details about the plans of the authorities. An interesting opportunity for expats looking to move abroad has presented itself, although many may prefer to wait at the sidelines for the moment. While awaiting the changes in the world’s financial markets, many prospective buyers have limited their spending in the country, as reflected in the slumping real estate prices in the country and this may affect overall growth in the long run. In order to be sure of your investments, an expat provided a guide as to how to retire in the country, in a post at the Thailand Expat Forum last September 2, 2009:
Your overall strategy needs serious thought.
First, and most important, you’ve never been to Thailand.
You have no idea what it’s like to live here.
Nothing in any guidebook, nothing on any internet forum, will prepare you for the culture shock.
So, your first step, set aside some time and money and get over here for at least a month; two or three months if you can.
A two week trip is not enough, because you need time to get acquainted with actual living here: get a haircut, get your laundry done, make an appointment with the dentist and get your teeth cleaned, go shopping in the local market, try to find a pair of shoes that fit you, and other simple things of daily life.
Once you get over here, you’ll learn that the simple things are not so simple.
And while you’re here on that first, exploratory trip, sign up for a class in Thai language.
Most schools have classes 4-6 weeks long.
Not only will you get an introduction to the language, but you may also meet a few other men who are following the same path as you are.
You’ll have a chance to discuss what you see, and, perhaps, to make some new friends.
Job wise you can not get any kind of public relations job.
The rule here, for foreigners who want to work, is quite simple:
If a Thai person can do the job, the foreigner is not allowed.
The Thai person may have much less education, much less experience, and far less skill, but, if there is any possibility at all, the Thai will be hired, and the foreigner will not be granted a work permit.
No work permit, no job.
The English teacher schools are in the business of getting customers for their schools.
If you get a real job afterward, that will be nice, but don’t count on it.
The Thai authorities have been steadily increasing the requirements for foreign language teachers.
Let’s say you get lucky, and get a job offer.
You don’t have a degree in teaching, you don’t have any experience teaching, so where will your job be located?
99-to-1 says it will not be in Phuket.
The jobs available to new graduates of English teacher schools are up-country, way out in the boondocks.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to ride a bus into Phuket on your days off.
The bus won’t cost much, but it will take hours and hours to get to Phuket, or any other major city.
And hours and hours to get back home.
I could go on and on, but the main point is to actually come here to look around, before you make any long-term decision about moving here.
Reading guidebooks and Internet forums is good enough to plan a vacation trip, but it is nowhere near enough to decide on a long-term move here.
Key Facts on Thailand:
Bordered by Laos, Burma and Cambodia.
Food: A blend of hot and spicy dishes, with strong sauces.
Temperature: 8% to 40% with high humidity
Industries: Rice, textiles, footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewellery and an array of electronic equipment. Export driven economy.
Education: 9 years compulsory education
Health: Life expectancy 70 years