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Posted by bender 03/04/2009 @ 18:14

Tags : thailand, asia, world

News headlines
WHO raises swine flu tally to 33 countries - Livemint
Finland, Cuba and Thailand are new to the list. WHO said on Wednesday the total of cases is 5728, with 61 deaths. The United States has reported 3009 cases, including three deaths. Mexico has 2059, with 56 deaths. Canada has 358 and Costa Rica eight,...
Thai CP Foods Q1 net profit up 71 pct, above f'cast - Reuters
BK, Thailand's largest chicken exporter, said on Wednesday its first-quarter net profit rose 71 percent, better than expected, due to improving gross margins and lower raw material prices. It earned a net profit of 770.5 million baht ($22.3 million) in...
Daimler To Cut 2300 Jobs At Japanese Truck Unit - Wall Street Journal
In Southeast Asia, the company will close its Thailand plant by end of 2009. The plant, located in Lardkrabang near Bangkok, produces trucks for the domestic market. Daimler said Fuso will cut its fixed costs by 25% and significantly increase global...
Thailand confirms first two flu cases - AsiaOne
Thailand on Tuesday confirmed its first two cases of influenza type A (H1N1) in patients who had returned from Mexico, becoming the 31st country to be hit by the virus so far. The tests carried out by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in...
Thailand fails to reconvene Asian summit: Thai PM - AFP
BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand, which was forced to cancel a key Asian summit in April amid chaotic anti-government protests, has failed to reconvene the meeting next month, the prime minister admitted Wednesday. The government had hoped the regional meeting...
SE Asia Stocks-S'pore extends gains, Thailand up for 8th day - Forbes
By Viparat Jantraprap Other gainers included commodities firm Noble Group , which rose 1.3 percent, and top developer capitaland , which was up 1.9 percent. pricey. It's possible that the Thai rally can extend a little bit Securities up 0.7 percent and...
Thai stocks may see profit-taking after 8-day rise - Reuters
BK Thailand's largest olefins maker reported a net loss in the first quarter on Wednesday, due mainly to weak margins and a foreign exchange loss. [ID:nBAK000768] Thaicom PCL THCOM.BK Thailand's leading satellite operator posted a net loss of 220...
Thailand hospital e-health system saves money, lives - Computerworld
A renowned hospital in Thailand provides something of a model for the benefits of an e-health system, but it also highlights a challenge that medical centers in more developed economies may face. Thailand's Bumrungrad International Hospital has...
Cowboy rides through Santa Cruz on human rights mission - San Jose Mercury News
Their destination is the Thai consulate, where the plain-spoken cowboy plans to address the plight of the indigenous Akha hill tribe of Thailand. His wife, Michu Uaiyue, is a native Akha; they met and married in Thailand during McDaniel's 13 years...
Cambodia duns Thailand for 2 million dollars in damages - Earthtimes (press release)
Bangkok - Cambodia has demanded about 2 million dollars from Thailand in compensation for destroying a market near Preah Vihear temple during a brief border clash last month, the Thai Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday. In a letter published on the...

Cinema of Thailand

The Siam cinema in Siam Square with The Tin Mine by Jira Maligool on its marquee on May 26, 2005. The Tin Mine was Thailand's entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar.

The cinema of Thailand dates back to the early days of filmmaking, when King Chulalongkorn's 1897 visit to Berne, Switzerland was recorded by Francois-Henri Lavancy-Clarke. The film was then brought to Bangkok, where it was exhibited. This sparked more interest in film by the Thai Royal Family and local businessmen, who brought in filmmaking equipment and started to exhibit foreign films. By the 1920s, a local film industry was started and in the 1930s, the Thai film industry had its first "golden age", with a number of studios producing films.

The years after the Second World War saw a resurgence of the industry, which used 16 mm film to produce hundreds of films, many of them hard-driving action films. Competition from Hollywood brought the Thai industry to a low point in the 1980s and '90s, but by the end of the '90s, Thailand had its "new wave", with such directors as Nonzee Nimibutr, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul as well as action hero Tony Jaa being celebrated at film festivals around the world. For every genre that Hollywood or other film industries offer, there is an example from Thailand that favourably compares.

Auguste and Louis Lumière had a film exhibition that toured in Southeast Asia in 1894, and on June 9, 1897, “the wonderful Parisian cinematograph” was screened in Bangkok, and is the first known film screening in Thailand.

That same year, the film of the visit to Europe by King Chulalongkorn was brought back to Thailand, along with camera equipment acquired by the king's brother, Prince Sanbassatra. The prince, considered "the father of Thai cinema", made many films and his work was shown commercially.

Japanese businessmen opened the first permanent cinema, the Japanese Cinematograph, in 1905. Japanese films were so popular that nang yipun became the generic term for all moving pictures. European and American films were called nang farang (after the nang drama (shadow puppet plays) that were a Thai traditional art).

Under another member of the royal family, Prince Kambeangbejr, the Topical Film Service of the State Railway of Thailand was set up. The service produced many promotional documentaries for the railroad and other government agencies and became an important training ground for many filmmakers. One of the early works produced was Sam Poi Luang: Great Celebration in the North (Thai: สามปอยหลวง), a docudrama that became a hit when it was released in 1940.

Another of the first Thai films was Nang Sao Suwan, or Miss Suwanna of Siam, a Hollywood co-production with the Topical Film Service that was directed and scripted by Henry MacRae. It premiered on June 22, 1923 in Bangkok at the Phathanakorn Cinematograph. Unfortunately, Miss Suwanna has been lost over the years.

The first all-Thai feature was Chok Sorng Chan (Double Luck), produced by the Wasuwat brothers' Bangkok Film Company in 1927 and directed by Manit Wasuwat (Thai: มานิต วสุวัต). That same year, another film company, Tai Phapphayon Thai Company, produced Mai Khit Loei (Unexpected).

Seventeen films were made between 1927 and 1932, but only fragments have survived, such as a one-minute car chase from Chok Sorng Chan or a two- to three-minute boxing match from Khrai Di Khrai Dai (None But the Brave).

Hollywood would also make other movies in Siam during this time, including the documentary, Chang, by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, about a poor farmer struggling to carve out a living in the jungle. In making the film, they were assisted by Prince Yugala Dighambara, grandfather of modern-day filmmaker Chatrichalerm Yukol.

Robert Kerr, who served as assistant director to Henry MacRae on Miss Suwanna returned to Siam in 1928 to direct his own film, The White Rose. It was shown in Bangkok in September 1928.

By 1928, the first "talkies" were being imported, providing some heavy competition for the silent Thai films. In the tradition of the benshi in Japan, local cinemas had entertaining narrators to introduce the films as well as traditional Thai orchestras that were often as big an audience pleaser as the films themselves, and but within two or three years, silent movies had given way to the talkies.

The first Thai sound film was Long Thang (Gone Astray), produced by the Wasuwat brothers, and premiered on April 1, 1932. Considered an ideological film in the period of political reform, the film proved a big success and led to the building of the Sri Krung Talkie Film Company in Bang Kapi. It produced three to four films a year.

In 1933, Sri Krung made the first colour Thai film, Grandpa Som's Treasure (Pu Som Fao Sap).

This period up until 1942 is regarded by scholars as the "Golden Age" for Thai film.

Among the hit films of this period was the 1938 musical, Klua Mia (Wife-phobia) by the Srikrung studio. It was shot on 35-mm colour stock. The stars were Chamras Suwakhon and Manee Sumonnat, the first Thai actors to be recognized as movie stars by having their names painted on their chairs while filming at the studio.

As the Second World War loomed, and the country being led by a dictatorship under Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram film companies were pressed into service to make propaganda films to whip up nationalism.

Opposition politics found their way into film, too, with statesman Pridi Phanomyong producing King of the White Elephant, in 1940. With all the dialogue in English, Pridi hoped to send a message to the outside world that he was unhappy with the militaristic direction his country was taking. The film depicts the story of an ancient Siamese king who only goes to war after he's been attacked.

The advent of sound raised another problem for cinemas in Thailand: the language of the talkies. Soon a dubbing method developed in which a dubber would provide a simultaneous translation of the dialogue by speaking Thai into a microphone at the back of the theater. The first Thai dubber was Sin Sibunruang, or "Tit Khiaw", who had worked for Siam Film Company and was the editor of the company's film magazine. Tit Khiaw and other talented dubbers became stars in their own right. They would perform all the roles in the films, both male and female, as well as such sound effects as animal noises, cars and gunfire.

Also, there were film companies that could not afford to make sound films, and would make films with the intention that they would be dubbed at screenings by live performers reading from a script. These dubbed films proved as popular as the talkies, especially if the dubber was well known.

Due to the extensive use of 16 mm film in the 1970s, the technique has lasted up until recent years, especially for outdoor screenings of films at temple fairs in rural areas. Examples of a dubber at work can be seen in contemporary Thai films, Monrak Transistor (2000) and Bangkok Loco (2004).

After the end of the Second World War, filmmaking got under way again in Thailand using surplus 16 mm black-and-white stock from wartime newsreel production.

At least two Thai films were produced in 1946. One was an action film, Chai Chatree (Brave Men), directed by journalist-turned-filmmaker Chalerm Sawetanant. The screenplay was by writer Malai Chupinij, who would go on to script other films of the era, including Chao Fah Din Salai (Till Death Do Us Part). The other film noted by the National Film Archive for 1946 was an adaptation of a folktale, Chon Kawao (The Village of Chon Kawao).

The post-war boom in filmmaking really took off, however, with the use of 16-mm colour-reversal film, which was easy to obtain and make films with. The vividly coloured films were popular with audiences as well, prompting dozens of new filmmakers to enter the business.

Similar to the dubbing of films during the pre-war years, some of these films used dubbers to provide dialogue and sound effects as the film was running, further adding to the entertainment value of the movies. From 1947 until 1972, 16 mm was the industry standard for Thai film production.

The first hit of the era was 1949's Suparb Burut Sua Thai (Thai Gentlemen Fighters), which outgrossed Hollywood films at the local box office. That success prompted more enthusiasm for filmmaking, giving rise to the second "golden age" of Thai cinema.

At the height of the 16-mm era, cinematographer and director Rattana Pestonji sought to use 35 mm film and generally improve the artistic quality of Thai films. Most of his films are regarded today as masterpieces, including Santi-Weena, which was the first Thai film to be entered into international competition, at the 1954 Asia Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo, and 1961's Black Silk, the first Thai film in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Though Rattana made relatively few films, he worked tirelessly to promote the industry, and died in 1970 as he was to make a speech to government officials about setting up a national film agency.

Thailand saw an explosion of locally produced films during the 1970s after the Thai government imposed a heavy tax on imported films in 1977, which led to a boycott of Thailand by Hollywood studios. To pick up the slack, 150 Thai films were made in 1978 alone. Many of these films were low-grade action films and were derided by critics and scholars as "nam nao" or "stinking water".

But socially conscious films were being made as well, especially by Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol, a US-educated filmmaker and member of the Thai Royal Family, whose own family had been involved with filmmaking since the industry started in Thailand. Among Chatrichalerm's films during the 1970s was Khao Chue Karn (Dr. Karn), which addressed corruption in the Thai civil service and was nearly banned by the military-dominated regime of Thanom Kittikachorn. Chatrichalerm also made Hotel Angel (Thep Thida Rong Raem), about a young woman trapped into a life of prostitution. He made dozens of films along these socially conscious lines through the 1990s, working up to his lavish historical epic, The Legend of Suriyothai in 2001.

Another filmmaker active during this time was Vichit Kounavudhi, who made his share of action films as well as more socially conscious works like First Wife, about the custom of men taking "second wives" or "mia noi" – a euphemism for mistress. Vichit also made Her Name is Boonrawd (1985), about prostitution around an American military airbase during the Vietnam War. Vichit's best known works are two semi-documentary films, Mountain People (Khon Phukao), an adventure tale about a young hill-tribe couple, and Look Isan (Son of the Northeast), about a family of subsistence farmers in 1930s Isan.

Also in 1985, director Euthana Mukdasanit made Pee Seua lae Dawkmai (Butterfly and Flower), highlighting hardships along the Southern Thailand border. Not only did the film help expose urban Thais to regional poverty, the film broke new ground in its portrayal of a Buddhist-Muslim relationship. It won the Best Film award at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

By 1981, Hollywood studios were once again sending films to Thailand. Also, television (see also Media in Thailand) was a growing part of Thai culture. This was a low period for the Thai film industry, and by the mid-1990s, studio output was averaging about 10 films per year.

In the wake of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, three directors of television commercials – Nonzee Nimibutr, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and Wisit Sasanatieng – were thinking that films needed to be more artistic to attract investors and audiences.

The first breakthrough was in 1997, with Nonzee's crime drama, Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters (2499 Antapan Krong Muang), which earned a record box office take of more than 75 million baht. Also in 1997, Pen-Ek's crime comedy, Fun Bar Karaoke, was selected to play at the Berlin Film Festival – the first time in twenty years that Thai cinema had had any kind of an international presence.

Nonzee's next film, the ghost story Nang Nak, was an even bigger success, earning 149.6 million baht – the highest grossing film at the time.

Wisit, who wrote screenplays for Dang Bireley's and Nang Nak, broke out with Tears of the Black Tiger, a super-stylised western homage to the Thai action films of the 1960s and '70s. It was the first film to be included on the programme at the Cannes Film Festival.

There were also the Pang Brothers from Hong Kong, who came to Thailand to make stylish movies, starting with Bangkok Dangerous and the nod to J-Horror, The Eye.

According to some scholars the 1997 financial crisis also influenced Thai movies in another way. One example is Bang Rajan from 2000 by Thanit Jitnukul which is based on an old Thai tale about how a small village succeeded in resisting a huge foreign. The analogy is quite straightforward with Thailand as the small village and the international monetary market as the foreign enemy.

With the New Wave directors achieving commercial and artistic success, a new crop of filmmakers has grown up outside the traditional and often restrictive Thai studio system to create experimental short films and features.

The leader of this indie movement is Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose 2002 feature Blissfully Yours won the Un Certain Regard Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Featuring a risque sex scene involving a Burmese man and a Thai woman in the jungle, the movie received only limited screenings in Thailand and a Thai-released DVD of the film was censored. Apichatpong's next film, Tropical Malady, featuring a gay romance between an army soldier and a young country boy, was a jury-prize winner at Cannes, and it, too, only received limited screenings in Thailand.

Other indie directors include Aditya Assarat, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Pimpaka Toweera (One Night Husband), Pramote Sangsorn, Thunska Pansittivorakul and Sompot Chidgasornpongse.

All films, VCDs and DVDs are placed under scrutiny of the Censorship Board prior to public release, as stipulated by the Film Act of 1930, which remains in effect as of 2007.

The first board of censors included both men and women and was drawn from the ranks of aristocracy, the civil service and the police. Each film passed by the censors had to include a stamp on each reel, and each item of printed advertising had to contain the stamp, too. The National Police was responsible for screening films and videos until September 2005, when the government's Ministry of Culture took over the function. Every VCD and DVD sold for home viewing must bear a stamp that it has passed the Censorship Board.

On some VCDs and DVDs produced in Thailand, the censors sometimes take a hard line against depictions of nudity, sex, smoking, the presence of alcohol and guns being pointed at people, images that are forbidden on broadcast television. In other instances, violent acts might pass through uncut, but sex and nudity will be edited out.

Before the digital age, scissors and petroleum jelly were the tools of the trade for censors. Today the offending images are blurred out electronically. The effect of pixelization is so pervasive that the practice has been satirised in films, including 2004's action comedy, Jaew or M.A.I.D., as well as the zombie comedy, SARS Wars.

Imported DVDs are generally not altered by the Thai authorities, though the Ministry of Culture's watchdogs do ban items, or at least strongly encourage retailers to not carry them. From the time the Ministry of Culture took over the censorship board until March 2006, about 40 VCD or DVD titles were banned, though a list of the banned items was not made available.

In 2007, the independent film, Syndromes and a Century was to undergo cuts before public release in Thailand. The censors objected to depictions of a Buddhist monk playing guitar, a physician kissing his girlfriend, some doctors drinking whisky in a hospital conference room and some monks playing with a remote-control flying saucer. Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul would not make the cuts and withdrew his film from release in Thailand. It had previously screened in other countries uncut.

After the controversy over Syndromes and a Century, the Free Thai Cinema Movement started to gain momentum in late April 2007. A petition signed by artists and scholars was submitted to the National Legislative Assembly, which was considering a new motion picture ratings system. The proposed system, passed by the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly proved controversial as well, as it would not imposes ratings structure but also keeps censorship in place.

Action films are a predominant genre of Thai film. During the 1960s and '70s, when Mitr Chaibancha and Sombat Metanee were the leading action heroes, hundreds of hard-hitting, explosive features were made.

In recent years, the martial arts films starring Tony Jaa, Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior and Tom-Yum-Goong, have put Thai action films on the international map. Kerd ma lui (Born to Fight) is in the same vein, and gives more exposure to action choreographer Panna Rittikrai, who toiled for decades making low-budget, direct-to-video action films featuring dangerous stunt choreography.

The culture of Thailand's B-movie stuntmen is further examined in the 2005 documentary, Crying Tigers, by Santi Taepanich.

Action comedies have also proven to be popular, including 2001's Killer Tattoo by Yuthlert Sippapak, who cast well-known Thai comedians, including Petchtai Wongkamlao and Suthep Po-ngam, in roles as bumbling hitmen.

Thai animation got underway after the Second World War, when artist Sanae Klaikluen was asked by the Thai government to make a short animated cartoon that instructed Thai citizens to wear hats and farmers to wear boots.

Sanae in turn influenced Payut Ngaokrachang, who made a 1955 short about a traffic cop called Haed Mahasajan. Payut went on to make Thailand's first and only cel-animated feature film, The Adventure of Sudsakorn, in 1979.

Because of the labour-intensive work involved with animation, it was cheaper for studios to make live-action films, so animation was eschewed. But in recent years, Thailand's technology community has sought to make the country a hub for computer animation, with many animated television shows, commercials and video games being created in Thailand.

In 2006, Thailand's first computer-animated feature film was released, Khan Khluay, about King Naresuan the Great's war elephant. It is directed by Kompin Kemgunerd, on such Disney features as Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Tarzan and Blue Sky Studios' Ice Age. Although the work is being done on computers, Kompin has faced many of the same difficulties in funding and human resources that Payut faced.

No matter what the genre of Thai film, most films – be they action, horror or romantic dramas, have some element of comedy.

One of the classic comedies from the 1960s is called Ngern Ngern Ngern (Money, Money, Money). It starred Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat in a story about the nephew of an unscrupulous moneylender who takes sides with a group of debtors against his uncle. The remake of the film was done in the 1980s.

In 2005, the comedy Luang phii theng (The Holy Man) starring comedian Pongsak Pongsuwan as a street hood who poses as a Buddhist monk, was one of the top films at the domestic box office.

Most of the films by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang have been crime films, from his debut feature 1997's Fun Bar Karaoke to 2006's Invisible Waves.

A true-crime film, 2003's Macabre Case of Prom Pirom (Keunbab prompiram) by veteran director Manop Udomdej, about a 1977 murder-rape of a young woman in a rural village was controversial because the village where the case took place did not want the incident revisited. The film played at many overseas festivals, including the New York Asian Film Festival.

Another true-crime case about a cannibalistic serial killer in 1946 Bangkok was depicted in the 2004 film Zee-Oui.

Kathoey (transsexual/transvestite) or gays are often featured as comic relief or villains in mainstream Thai films, but there have been a number of films that make gays and kathoey the main characters. Transvestites and gays are also known as "tdoot", originated from the title of the 1982 American film Tootsie. One of the first was Youngyooth Thongkonthun's Iron Ladies, or Satree lek, based on a true story about a transsexual/transvestite gay men's volleyball team that won a national championship in 1996. It was a huge hit on the international festival circuit. The 2000 comedy spawned a sequel in 2003, The Iron Ladies 2 (Satree lek 2).

More loosely based on a true incident was the 2002 film Saving Private Tootsie, which tells the story of a group of gay and kathoey entertainers who are lost in rebel-held jungle territory after their plane crashes. A squad from the Thai army, led by a gruff, homophobic sergeant played by veteran actor Sorapong Chatree, goes to the rescue.

And the life of transgender Muay Thai champion Parinya Kiatbusaba (or Nong Tum) is related in 2003's Beautiful Boxer, directed by Ekachai Uekorngtham. Unlike The Iron Ladies, Beautiful Boxer was less comedic in tone.

The 2003 film Tropical Malady, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, depicts a romance between a Thai army soldier and a local small-town boy. The narrative of the film then abruptly shifts in the middle to relate a folk tale about a tiger shaman, with the soldier alone in the jungle, haunted by the tiger-shaman's spirit. The film won a jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Apichatpong also co-directed the low-budget digital movie, The Adventure of Iron Pussy, with artist Michael Shaowanasai, who portrays a transvestite secret agent. A musical, the movie also was an homage and a parody of the Thai films of the 1960s and '70s, with Shaowansai basing his character on the actress Petchara Chaowarat.

In 2005, Thai film Rainbow Boys, depicting a contemporary gay relationship, produced by Vitaya Saeng-aroon, saw a limited-release screening. Vitaya also produced the comedy-drama Club M2, set in a gay sauna. And in 2006 there was The Last Song, a remake of a 1985 Thai film about a transsexual cabaret dancer and her struggle to find acceptance and true love.

Me ... Myself (Thai: ขอให้รักจงเจริญ or Kaw hai rak jong jaroen) is a 2007 Thai romantic drama film written and directed by actor-singer Pongpat Wachirabunjong. In the film, Ananda Everingham stars as a male dancer in a transvestite cabaret who must re-find himself after being struck by a car and suffering from amnesia.

Another 2007 film, Bangkok Love Story, directed by Poj Arnon, was critically hailed as a departure from the stereotyped view of homosexuals as transvestites and transsexuals. Gay Thai independent film producer similarly praised the film, saying director Poj Arnon was "brave enough to shake society up".

Another staple of the Thai film industry, among the biggest was 2003's The Legend of Suriyothai by Chatrichalerm Yukol, who had done research for many years to write the screenplay. With a huge budget, support from the royal family and the cooperation across the nation's film industry, this film is considered a true "national film". A followup epic is 2007's King Naresuan, about 16th century ruler King Naresuan the Great, which topped the budget for Suriyothai, and was shown in two parts.

Other epics include Bang Rajan by Thanit Jitnukul, who has made several other historical battle epics, including Sema: Warrior of Ayutthaya and Kun Pan: Legend of the Warlord.

More recent history is depicted in The Overture, covering the life of a palace musician from the late 1800s to the 1940s, and The Tin Mine, set at a mine in southern Thailand in the 1950s.

Nonzee Nimibutr's Nang Nak in 1999 was a ghost story that had actually been depicted dozens of times throughout the history of Thai cinema and television. But it gave rise to a new crop of Thai horror and suspense films, including the Pang Brothers' The Eye, Nonzee's pan-Asian compilation Three, Bangkok Haunted, directed by Pisuth Praesaeng-Iam and Oxide Pang and the 2004 box-office smash Shutter by Banjong Pisonthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom.

Examples of slasher movies include Art of the Devil and a 2005 sequel (Long khong), as well as Scared and Narok (Hell), also in 2005.

The horror genre also has spawned a number of genre-blending horror comedies, most notably the films of Yuthlert Sippapak, Buppah Rahtree (featured at the Toronto International Film Festival) and a sequel, and Krasue Valentine. There has even been a zombie movie, 2004's SARS Wars.

The biggest hit musical was 1970's Monrak luk thung (Magical Love in the Countryside), starring Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat. It was hugely popular, playing in cinemas for six months.

As a result, a whole genre of luk thung musicals, rhapsodizing Thailand's rural life in Isan was created. Another example was Dokdin Kanyamarn's 1971 musical comedy, Ai Tui (Mr. Tui), which starred Sombat Metanee and Petchara.

In 2001 there were two movies that celebrated luk thung, the singing-contest comedy Monpleng Luk Thung FM (Hoedown Showdown) and Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's, Monrak Transistor, which paid tribute to the music of Suraphol Sombatcharoen. And in 2005, comedian-actor-director Petchtai Wongkamlao wrote, directed and starred in Yam Yasothon, a colourful homage to the 1970s musicals. It was one of top films at the Thai box office.

Weepy, sentimental romance stories are audience favourites. Historically, Cherd Songsri's 1970s film Plae Chow (The Old Scar) is a classic tale of star-crossed lovers, and was one of the first Thai films to be a success internationally.

During the 1980s, Baan Sai Thong based on the novel Kor Surangkanang was a popular hit. More recent examples include The Letter: Jod Mai Rak, in which tissues were actually handed out at the cinemas.

Childhood romance was a hit with 2003's Fan Chan, which was made by six directors. One of the six, Komgrit Treewimol, went on to make the college-age romance, Dear Dakanda, a hit in 2005.

As a genre, teen films arose in the 1970s, with director Piak Poster's Wai Ounlawon, about a young man whose courtship of a teenaged girl puts him at odds with the girl's irascible father. That young couple, portrayed by the original actors, were revisited 30 years later as embattled parents in the 2005 sequel, Wai Ounlawon 4 (Oops ... There's Dad).

Music was an important component of the teen films, with a musical interlude featured prominently in the film and a soundtrack album that would be a popular hit. This was the case with both Wai Ounlawon and its recent sequel.

Another noteworthy film of this genre is Fake, which was the debut film by Thanakorn Pongsuwan. The film's modern, visual style offers a sharp-focus snapshot of the city of Bangkok and a plausible account of the mating game in its current forms.

In the burgeoning independent film movement, many short films are being produced and featured in festivals. Graceland, a film by Anocha Suwichakornpong, about an Elvis impersonator, was featured in the Cinéfondation competition at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. It was the first Thai short film selected at Cannes. Short-film festivals in Thailand include the Thai Short Film and Video Festival by the Thai Film Foundation and the Fat Film Festival by Fat Radio. Thai short-film programs are also put together for the Bangkok International Film Festival and the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Twelve Twenty (30 min) was made as part of the Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers project for the 2006 Jeonju International Film Festival. The film stars Ananda Everingham, has an appearance by American bilingual actor Erich Fleshman, and was shot by Christopher Doyle. The short film is shot in a minimalist style and slowly moves along the encounters of a man and a woman on a long-haul flight, where they spend the next 12 hours and 20 minutes reading, drinking, eating and watching movies and sleeping by each other's side without talking.

The Thai Short Film and Video Festival was first held in 1997. The Bangkok Film Festival was started in 1998, and was eventually supplanted by the Bangkok International Film Festival, which started in 2002 and is organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The World Film Festival of Bangkok, sponsored by the Nation Multimedia Group, began in 2003, and it is held annually in October.

In 2007, Digital Forum was begun in Bangkok as an outgrowth of the Thai Short Film and Video Festival, to showcase feature-length independent digital-video productions. Also in 2007, the inaugural Phuket Film Festival was held.

The first film awards in Thailand were the "Golden Doll" awards given by Tukata Tong magazine. The awards were first given in 1957. The statuette at first was a Thai classical dancer and later it was modelled after Phra Suratsawadi, the Thai-Hindu god of art. King Bhumibol Adulyadej handed out the awards in 1965 and '66. The Tukata Tong awards were discontinued after eight years due to organizational problems, but were revived in 1974 by the Association of Entertainment News Journalists of Thailand.

The Thailand National Film Association Awards are organised by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand. The name of the award is the Subhanahongsa Award.

There is also the Bangkok Critics Assembly, which gives awards chosen by a panel of around 20 members, the Starpics Awards, given by Starpics magazine and the Kom Chad Luek Awards, given by Kom Chad Luek newspaper.

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The Kingdom of Thailand (IPA: /ˈtaɪlænd/, Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย Ratcha Anajak Thai (help·info), IPA: ) is an independent country that lies in the heart of Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Laos and Myanmar, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and Myanmar. By the maritime boundary, the country is bordered to the southeast by Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, to the southwest by Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea.

The capital and largest city of Thailand is Bangkok. It is also the country's center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. Bangkok is known in Thai as "Krung Thep Mahanakorn," or, more colloquially, "Krung Thep", meaning "City of Angels".

Thailand is the world's 51st-largest country in terms of total area, roughly equal in size to Spain, with a surface area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), and the 20th most-populous country, with approximately 63 million people. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thais, 14% is of Chinese origin, and 3% is ethnically Malay, the rest belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers, and various hill tribes. The country's official language is Thai.

Thailand is one of the most devoutly Buddhist countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism which is practiced by more than 95% of all Thais. The cultures and traditions in Thailand are significantly influenced by those of India, China and many western countries.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, as the ruling monarch. The King has reigned for more than half a century, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch and the longest reigning current monarch in the world. The King is recognized as the Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, the Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and Defender of the Faith. Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has never been ruled by a European power. However, during the Second World War, and while claiming neutrality, Thailand was occupied by the armed forces of the Empire of Japan who built the infamous 'Death Railway' using captured Allied Prisoners of War and slave Asian labourers.

The country's official name was Siam (Thai: สยาม; IPA: , RTGS: Sayam) until June 23, 1939, when it was changed to Thailand. It was renamed Siam from 1945 to May 11, 1949, after which it was again renamed Thailand. Also spelled Siem, Syâm or Syâma, it has been identified with the Sanskrit Śyâma, dark or brown. But the names Shan and A-hom seem to be variants of the same word, and Śyâma is possibly not its origin but a learned and artificial distortion.

The word Thai (ไทย) is not, as commonly believed, derived from the word Tai (ไท) meaning "free" in the Thai language; it is, however, the name of an ethnic group from the central plains (the Thai people). A famous Thai scholar argued that Tai (ไท) simply means "people" or "human being" since his investigation shows that in some rural areas the word "Tai" was used instead of the usual Thai word "khon" (คน) for people. The phrase "Land of the free" is derived from the fact that the Thai are proud of the fact that Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never colonized by Europe.

Ratcha Anachak Thai (Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย) means "Kingdom of Thailand" or "Kingdom of Thai." Etymologically, its components are: -Ratcha- (from Sanskrit raja, meaning "king, royal, realm,") ; -ana- (from Pāli āṇā, "authority, command, power," itself from Sanskrit ājñā, same meaning) -chak (from Sanskrit cakra or cakraṃ meaning "wheel", a symbol of power and rule).

The region known as Thailand has been inhabited by humans since the paleolithic period, about 10,000 years ago. Prior to the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 13th century, various states thrived there, such as the various Tai, Mon, Khmer and Malay kingdoms, as seen through the numerous archaeological sites and artifacts that are scattered throughout the Siamese landscape. Prior to the 12th century however, the first Thai or Siamese state is traditionally considered to be the Buddhist kingdom of Sukhothai, which was founded in 1238.

Following the decline and fall of the Khmer empire in the 13th - 14th century, the Buddhist Tai Kingdoms of Sukhothai, Lanna and Lan Chang were on the ascension. However, a century later, Sukhothai's power was overshadowed by the new kingdom of Ayutthaya, established in the mid-14th century.

After the fall of the Ayutthaya in 1767 to the Burmese, King Taksin the Great moved the capital of Thailand to Thonburi for a brief period. The current Rattanakosin era of Thai history began in 1782, following the establishment of Bangkok as capital of the Chakri dynasty under King Rama I the Great.

Thailand retains a tradition of trade with its neighboring states, and the cultures of the Indian ocean and the South China sea. European trade and influence arrived to Thailand in the 16th century, beginning with the Portuguese. Despite European pressure, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation never to have been colonised. Two main reasons for this were that Thailand had a long succession of very able rulers in the 1800s and that it was able to exploit the rivalry and tension between the French and the British. As a result, the country remained as a buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia that were colonized by the two colonial powers. Despite this, Western influence led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions, most notably being the loss of large territory on the east side of the Mekong to the French and the step by step absorption by Britain of the Shan (Thai Yai) States (now in Burma) and the Malay Peninsula. The loss initially included Penang and Tumasik and eventually culminated in the loss of three predominantly ethnic-Malay southern provinces, which later became Malaysia's three northern states, under the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909.

In 1932, a bloodless revolution resulted in a new constitutional monarchy. During World War II, the Empire of Japan demanded the right to move troops across Thailand to the Malayan frontier. Japan invaded the country and engaged the Thai army for six to eight hours before Phibunsongkhram ordered an armistice. Shortly thereafter Japan was granted free passage, and on December 21, 1941, Thailand and Japan signed a military alliance with a secret protocol wherein Tokyo agreed to help Thailand regain territories lost to the British and French. Subsequently, Thailand undertook to 'assist' Japan in its war against the Allies, while at the same time maintaining an active anti-Japanese resistance movement known as the Seri Thai. After the war, Thailand emerged as an ally of the United States. As with many of the developing nations during the Cold War, Thailand then went through decades of political transgression characterised by coups d'état as one military regime replaced another, but eventually progressed towards a stable prosperity and democracy in the 1980s.

In 1997, Thailand was hit with the Asian financial crisis and the Thai baht for a short time peaked at 56 baht to the US dollar compared to about 25 baht to the dollar before 1997. Since then, the baht has regained most of its strength and as of 26 December 2008, is valued at 34.71 baht to the US dollar.

The official calendar in Thailand is based on Eastern version of the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian (western) calendar. For example, the year AD 2008 is called 2551 BE in Thailand.

Peninsular Malaysia was once known as Tanah Melayu (Malay Land). It extends from Singapore to the Ithsmus of Kra bordering Burma, Thailand and Malay Land. Phuket is Bukit (hill) in Malay, "Satun" is "Setoi" (a tropical fruit) was the Province of "Kedah" under the Malay Sultanate and Patani (Land of Farmers) was also part of the Malay Sultanate. In these areas people once spoke both Malay as well as Sam-sam, a local version of the Siamese language. The majority of residents were Muslims. Thailand tried to dominate the Peninsula as far as Malacca in the 1400s but failed.

The Northern states of the Malay Sultanate presented an annual gift to the Thai King in the form of a golden flower, who looked on this as a form of tribute. The British intervened in the Malay State and with the Anglo-Siamese Treaty tried to build a railway from the south to Bangkok, Thailand relinquished sovereignty over what are now the northern Malay provinces of Kedah, Pelis, and Kelantan to the British. Kedah provinces and Patani were given to Thailand.

The Malay Peninsula provinces were infiltrated by the Japanese in the World War II in 1942 and also by the Malayan Communist Party (CPM) from 1948 to 1998 decided to sign for peace with the Malaysian and Thai Governments after the CPM lost its support from Vietnam and China after the Cultural Revolution.

Recent insurgent uprisings are a continuation of separatist fighting which started after World War II with Sukarno's support for the PULO and has intensified with US President Bush's initiation of the War on Terror. Since the uprisings, most victims have been Buddhist and Muslim bystanders.

Since the political reform of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has had 17 constitutions and charters. Throughout this time, the form of government has ranged from military dictatorship to electoral democracy, but all governments have acknowledged a hereditary monarch as the head of state.

The 1997 Constitution created a bicameral legislature consisting of a 500-seat House of Representatives (สภาผู้แทนราษฎร, sapha phutan ratsadon) and a 200-seat Senate (วุฒิสภา, wuthisapha). For the first time in Thai history, both houses were directly elected. Many human rights are explicitly acknowledged, and measures were established to increase the stability of elected governments. The House was elected by the first-past-the-post system, where only one candidate with a simple majority could be elected in one constituency. The Senate was elected based on the province system, where one province can return more than one Senator depending on its population size. Members of the House of Representatives served four-year terms, while Senators served six-year terms.

The court system (ศาล, saan) included a constitutional court with jurisdiction over the constitutionality of parliamentary acts, royal decrees, and political matters.

The January 2001 general election, the first election under the 1997 Constitution, was called the most open, corruption-free election in Thai history. The subsequent government was the first in Thai history to complete a 4-year term. The 2005 election had the highest voter turnout in Thai history and was noted for a marked reduction in vote-buying compared to previous elections.

In early 2006, significant pressure from corruption allegations led Thaksin Shinawatra to call for a snap election. The opposition boycotted the elections because the election date was uncommonly scheduled very early and gave advantages to Thaksin's political party, which was still in power. Thaksin was re-elected but was also declared to be null by the Thai court of law due to vote-buying allegations. Pressure continued to build, leading to a military coup on 19 September 2006.

Without meeting much resistance, a military junta overthrew the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra on 19 September 2006 . The junta abrogated the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court, detained and later removed several members of the government, declared martial law, and appointed one of the King's Privy Counselors, General Surayud Chulanont, as the Prime Minister. The junta later wrote a highly abbreviated interim constitution and appointed a panel to draft a permanent constitution. The junta also appointed a 250-member legislature, called by some critics a "chamber of generals" and others claimed that it lacks representatives from the poor majority. In this interim constitution draft, the head of the junta was allowed to remove the Prime Minister at any time. The legislature was not allowed to hold a vote of confidence against the Cabinet and the public was not allowed to file comments on bills. This interim constitution was later surpassed by the permanent constitution on 24 August 2007.

Martial law was partially revoked in January 2007. The ban on political activities was lifted in July 2007, following the 30 May dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai party. The new constitution has been approved by a referendum on 19 August, which led to a return to democratic elections on 23 December 2007.

The People's Power Party (Thailand), led by Samak Sundaravej formed a government with five smaller parties. Following several court rulings against him in a variety of scandals, and surviving a vote of no confidence, and protesters blockading government buildings and airports, in September 2008, Sundaravej was removed from office by the Constitutional Court of Thailand. He was replaced by PPP member Somchai Wongsawat. As of October 2008, Wongsawat was unable to access his offices, which were occupied by protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy. On December 2, 2008, Thailand's Constitutional Court banned the ruling Peoples Power Party.After defections from smaller parties the opposition Democrats Party was able to form a government, a first for the party since 2001. The leader of the Democrat party, and former Leader of the Opposition, Abhisit Vejjajiva was appointed and sworn-in as the 27th Prime Minister, together with the new Cabinet on the 17 December 2008.

Thailand remains an active member of the regional Association of South-East Asian Nations.

Thailand enjoys a high level of literacy, and education is provided by a well organized school system of kindergartens, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools, numerous vocational colleges, and universities. The private sector of education is well developed and significantly contributes to the overall provision of education which the government would not be able to meet through the public establishments. Education is compulsory up to and including Grade 9, and the government provides free education through to Grade 12.

Thailand has never been colonized, and its educational system is not based on European models to any great extent. Education in a modern sense is relatively recent and, according to some sources, still needs to overcome some major cultural hurdles in order to ensure further development and improvement to its standards, which in some respects have fallen to the lowest levels in southeast Asia.

The establishment of reliable and coherent curricula for its primary and secondary schools is subject to such rapid changes that schools and their teachers are not always sure what they are supposed to be teaching, and authors and publishers of textbooks are unable to write and print new editions quickly enough to keep up with the volatile situation. The issue concerning university entrance has therefore also been in constant upheaval for a number of years. Nevertheless, education has seen its greatest progress in the years since 2001, most of the present generation of pupils and students are computer literate, and knowledge of English is on the increase at least in quantity if not in quality.

Thailand is divided into 75 provinces (จังหวัด, changwat) , which are gathered into 5 groups of provinces by location. There are also 2 special governed districts: the capital Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) and Pattaya, of which Bangkok is at provincial level and thus often counted as a 76th province.

NOTE: In italics , that province represents the Greater Bangkok sub-region; in italics , that province represents the West sub-region.

At 514,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), Thailand is the world's 50th largest country in land mass, whilst it is the world's 20th largest country in terms of population. It is comparable in population to countries such as France and United Kingdom, and is similar in land size to France and California in the US; it is just over twice the size of the entire United Kingdom, and 1.4 times the size of Germany.

Thailand is home to several distinct geographic regions, partly corresponding to the provincial groups. The north of the country is mountainous, with the highest point being Doi Inthanon at 2,565 metres above sea level (8,415 ft). The northeast, Isan, (see special section on this region) consists of the Khorat Plateau, bordered to the east by the Mekong river. The centre of the country is dominated by the predominantly flat Chao Phraya river valley, which runs into the Gulf of Thailand. The south consists of the narrow Kra Isthmus that widens into the Malay Peninsula.

The local climate is tropical and characterized by monsoons. There is a rainy, warm, and cloudy southwest monsoon from mid-May to September, as well as a dry, cool northeast monsoon from November to mid-March. The southern isthmus is always hot and humid. Major cities beside the capital Bangkok include Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Surat Thani, Phuket and Hat Yai.

Thailand is an emerging economy and considered as a Newly Industrialized Country. After enjoying the world's highest growth rate from 1985 to 1996 - averaging 9.4% annually - increased pressure on Thailand's currency, the baht, in 1997, the year in which the economy contracted by 1.9% led to a crisis that uncovered financial sector weaknesses and forced the Chavalit Yongchaiyudh administration to float the currency, however, Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was forced to resign after his cabinet came under fire for its slow response to the crisis. The Baht was pegged at 25 to the US dollar from 1978 to 1997, however, the baht reached its lowest point of 56 to the US dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted by 10.8% that year. This collapse prompted the Asian financial crisis.

Thailand's economy started to recover in 1999, expanding 4.2% and 4.4% in 2000, largely due to strong exports. Growth (2.2%) was dampened by the softening of the global economy in 2001, but picked up in the subsequent years due to strong growth in Asia, a relatively weak baht encouraging exports and increasing domestic spending as a result of several mega projects and incentives of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known as Thaksinomics. Growth in 2002, 2003 and 2004 was 5-7% annually. Growth in 2005, 2006 and 2007 hovered around 4-5% Due both to the weakening of the US dollar and an increasingly strong Thai currency, by March 2008, the dollar was hovering around the 33 baht mark.

Thailand exports an increasing value of over $105 billion worth of goods and services annually. Major exports include Thai rice, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rubber, jewelry, automobiles, computers and electrical appliances. Thailand is the world’s no.1 exporter of rice, exporting more than 6.5 million tons of milled rice annually. Rice is the most important crop in the country. Thailand has the highest percent of arable land, 27.25%, of any nation in the Greater Mekong Subregion. About 55% of the available land area is used for rice production.

Substantial industries include electric appliances, components, computer parts and automobiles, while tourism makes up about 6% of the Thai economy.

Thailand uses the metric system but traditional units of measurement and imperial measure (feet, inches) are still much in use, particularly for agriculture and building materials. Years are numbered as B.E. (Buddhist Era) in education, the civil service, government, and on contracts and newspaper datelines; in banking, however, and increasingly in industry and commerce, standard Western year (Christian or Common Era) counting prevails.

The official language of Thailand is the Thai language, a Kradai language closely related to Lao, Shan in Burma, and numerous smaller languages spoken in an arc from Hainan and Yunan south to the Malaysian border. It is the principal language of education and government and spoken throughout the country. The standard is based on the dialect of the Central Thai people, and it is written in the Thai alphabet, an abugida script that evolved from the Khmer script. Several other dialects exist, and coincide with the regional designations. Southern Thai is spoken in the southern provinces, and Northern Thai is spoken in the provinces that were formally part of the independent kingdom of Lannathai.

Thailand is also host to several other minority languages, the largest of which is the Lao dialect of Isan spoken in the northeastern provinces. Although sometimes considered a Thai dialect, it is a Lao dialect, and the region in where it is traditionally spoken was historically part of the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang. In the far south, Yawi, a dialect of Malay, is the primary language of the Malay Muslims. Chinese dialects are also spoken by the large Chinese population, Teochew being the dialect best represented.

Numerous tribal languages are also spoken, including those belonging to the Mon-Khmer family, such as Mon, Khmer, Viet, Mlabri; Austronesian family, such as Cham, Moken, and Orang Asli, Sino-Tibetan family such as Hmong, Lawa, Akhan, and Karen; and other Tai languages such as Nyaw, Phu Thai, and Saek.

English is a mandatory school subject, but the number of fluent speakers remains very low, especially outside the cities.

According to the last census (2000) 94.7% of the total population are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Muslims are the second largest religious group in Thailand at 4.6%. Thailand's southernmost provinces - Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and part of Songkhla Chumphon have dominant Muslim populations, consisting of both ethnic Thai and Malay. Most often Muslims live in separate communities from non-Muslims. The southern tip of Thailand is mostly ethnic Malays. Christians, mainly Catholics, represent 0.75% of the population. A tiny but influential community of Sikhs in Thailand and some Hindus also live in the country's cities, and are heavily engaged in retail commerce. There is also a small Jewish community in Thailand, dating back to the 17th century. Since 2001, Muslim activists, generally described by the Thai government as terrorists or separatists, have rallied against the central government because of alleged corruption and ethnic bias on the part of officials.

The culture of Thailand incorporates a great deal of influence from India, China, Cambodia, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Thailand's main theology Theravada Buddhism is central to modern Thai identity and belief. In practice, Thai Buddhism has evolved over time to include many regional beliefs originating from Hinduism, animism as well as ancestor worship. In areas in the southernmost parts of Thailand, Islam is prevalent. Several different ethnic groups, many of which are marginalized, populate Thailand. Some of these groups overlap into Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia and have maintained a distinctly traditional way of life despite strong Thai cultural influence. Overseas Chinese also form a significant part of Thai society, particularly in and around Bangkok. Their successful integration into Thai society has allowed for this group to hold positions of economic and political power.

Like most Asian cultures, respect towards ancestors is an essential part of Thai spiritual practice. Thais have a strong sense of hospitality and generosity, but also a strong sense of social hierarchy. Seniority is an important concept in Thai culture. Elders have by tradition ruled in family decisions or ceremonies.

The traditional Thai greeting, the wai, is generally offered first by the youngest of the two people meeting, with their hands pressed together, fingertips pointing upwards as the head is bowed to touch their face to the hands, usually coinciding with the spoken word "Sawat-dii khrap" for male speakers, and "Sawat-dii ka" for females. The elder then is to respond afterwards in the same way. Social status and position, such as in government, will also have an influence on who performs the wai first. For example, although one may be considerably older than a provincial governor, when meeting it is usually the visitor who pays respect first. When children leave to go to school, they are taught to wai to their parents to represent their respect for them. They do the same when they come back. The wai is a sign of respect and reverence for another, similar to the namaste greeting of India.

Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand and its native martial art call "Muay." In the past "Muay" was taught to Royal soldiers for combat on battlefield if unarmed. After they retired from the army, these soldiers often became Buddhist monks and stayed at the temples. Most of the Thai people's lives are closely tied to Buddhism and temples; they often send their sons to be educated with the monks. ”Muay” is also one of the subjects taught in the temples.

Muay Thai achieved popularity all over the world in the 1990s. Although similar martial arts styles exist in other southeast Asian countries, few enjoy the recognition that Muay Thai has received with its full-contact rules allowing strikes including elbows, throws and knees. This is due to Thailand's economic standing in the world while other nation such as Cambodia, Laos and Burma are listed as the world's Least Developed Countries by the UN. Association football, however, has possibly overtaken Muay Thai's position as most widely viewed and liked sport in contemporary Thai society and it is not uncommon to see Thais cheering their favourite English Premier League teams on television and walking around in replica kits. Another widely enjoyed pastime, and once a competitive sport, is kite flying.

Taboos in Thailand include touching someone's head or pointing with the feet, as the head is considered the most sacred and the foot the dirtiest part of the body. Stepping over someone, or over food, is considered insulting. However, Thai culture as in many other Asian cultures, is succumbing to the influence of globalization with some of the traditional taboos slowly fading away with time.

Books and other documents are the most revered of secular objects. One should not slide a book across a table or place it on the floor.

Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty. Some common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic, chillies, lime juice, lemon grass, and fish sauce. The staple food in Thailand is rice, particularly jasmine variety rice (also known as Hom Mali rice) which is included in almost every meal. Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice, and Thais domestically consume over 100 kg of milled rice per person per year. Over 5000 varieties of rice from Thailand are preserved in the rice gene bank of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in the Philippines. The King of Thailand is the official patron of IRRI.

Thai society has been influenced in recent years by its widely-available multi-language press and media. There are numerous English, Thai and Chinese newspapers in circulation; most Thai popular magazines use English headlines as a chic glamor factor. Most large businesses in Bangkok operate in English as well as other languages. Thailand is the largest newspaper market in South East Asia with an estimated circulation of at least 13 million copies daily in 2003. Even upcountry, out of Bangkok, media flourishes. For example, according to Thailand's Public Relations Department Media Directory 2003-2004, the nineteen provinces of northeast Thailand themselves hosted 116 newspapers in addition to radio, TV and cable.

Muay Thai (Thai: มวยไทย, RTGS: Muai Thai, IPA: , lit. Thai Boxing) is a form of hard martial art practiced in large parts of the world, including Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. The art is similar to others in Southeast Asia such as: pradal serey in Cambodia, lethwei in Myanmar, tomoi in Malaysia, and Lao boxing in Laos. Muay Thai has a long history in Thailand and is the country's national sport.

Traditional Muay Thai practiced today varies significantly from the ancient art muay boran and uses kicks and punches in a ring with gloves similar to those used in Western boxing and this has led to Thailand gaining medals at the Olympic Games in Boxing.

Other sports in Thailand are slowly growing as the country develops it's sporting infrastructure, the success in sports like weightlifting and Taekwondo at the last two Summer Olympic Games has shown that Boxing is no longer the only medal chance for Thailand.

Rugby is also a growing sport in Thailand with the national team rising to be ranked 61st in the world. Thailand became the first country in the world to host an international 80kg welterweight rugby tournament in 2005. The national domestic Thailand Rugby Union (TRU) competition includes several universities and services teams including Chulalongkorn University, Mahasarakham University, Kasetsart University, Prince of Songkla University, Thammasat University, Rangsit University, the Thai Police, Thai Army, Thai Navy and the Royal Thai Air Force. Local sports clubs also compete in the TRU include the British Club of Bangkok, the Southerners Sports Club and the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.

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List of cinemas in Thailand


Cinemas in Thailand are popular venues for entertainment. Especially in Bangkok, the movie theaters tend to be multiplex facilities offering many other forms of entertainment besides movies, such as bowling or karaoke, along with restaurants and small shops.

The films playing in Thai cinemas are usually first-run Hollywood features, which tend to dominate the box-office scene. There is a burgeoning Thai film industry that is making dozens of films each year that are increasingly popular with local audiences, and routinely outpace the Hollywood films at the box office. Films from other Asian countries, such as Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, are popular as well.

The movie-theater business in Thailand is led by the Major Cineplex Group, which owns the Major Cineplex chain as well as the EGV chain and operates the Paragon Cineplex at Siam Paragon as well as Thailand's only IMAX theater. Behind the combined Major Cineplex-EGV, which has a 50 percent market share, the SF Group is the No. 2 operator, with a 35 percent share. Smaller chains include Apex in Bangkok's Siam Square, Thana Cineplex, Major Hollywood and UMG. In Chiang Mai, there is the Vista cinema. In Southern Thailand, there is the Coliseum chain.

As of 2007, there were 570 screens in Thailand, with 300 in the Bangkok metropolitan area. Nationwide, the person-to-screen ratio is 170 people per screen, with a 30:1 ratio in Bangkok.

Ticket prices range from around 70 baht to 160 baht, depending on the time of day, the day of the week, the location of the theater and the movie being screened. In a Bangkok cinema, the price for a new-release film will generally be 140 baht. In Chiang Mai, the flat-rate price for a normal class seat is 100 baht.

Seating is assigned; audience members make their choice of seating on a computer screen at the box office. Online ticketing is available on theater-chain websites. Automated phone booking is available as well.

Before the film, the audience must stand for the "Royal Anthem", which is accompanied by a montage of images of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Most theaters in Thailand keep the air conditioning very cold; patrons often bring a light sweater or jacket.

The EGV chain has "Gold Class" cinemas, which have smaller screening rooms fitted with reclining seats, blankets and pillows. Prices for a Gold Class show range from 300 baht to 500 baht. The Major Cineplex chain offers comparable "Emperor" class seating, while SF Cinema has "First Class" and "VIP" screenings and Major Hollywood has "Star" seats. Paragon Cineplex has "Ultra Screen" theaters. Some cinemas, including Major Cineplex, EGV and Major Hollywood, have sofa-style seating at the back of the auditoriums, intended for couples. Customers who purchase these types of seats may sit in a lounge before the show and may be provided with free drinks or popcorn. Food and drinks may also be ordered and will be served by theater staff as the movie is playing.

In central Bangkok and cities with many tourists and foreign residents, such as Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket, foreign films (including Hollywood releases) will have the original soundtrack (called "soundtrack") with Thai subtitles. Outside of tourism centers and in some suburban Bangkok cinemas, all the foreign films, including Hollywood films, will generally be dubbed into Thai language.

Films from other Asian countries, including China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, often play in Thailand theaters, but the soundtracks will usually be dubbed into Thai. Exceptions to this will be found at the Apex chain theaters in Siam Square and at House cinema on Royal City Avenue.

Often, films from Hollywood, such as The Da Vinci Code, as well as films from European countries that feature languages other than English, will have only Thai subtitles.

For Thai films, most cinemas in tourism centers will have English subtitles.

A motion picture rating system to replace the 1930 Film Code was passed by the National Legislative Assembly in 2007, but as of the end of 2007, the law was yet to be implemented. Until then, the 1930 Film Code remains in effect.

Under the 1930 Film Code, the Board of Censors reviews all films to be shown in Thailand and makes cuts or alters scenes that it deems offensive. The board is made up of members of the Royal Thai Police and Ministry of Culture officials. Members of various interest groups, such as Buddhist monks, physicians or teachers, are sometimes consulted about whether certain films would offend them.

Traditionally, depictions of sex and nudity are dealt with most heavy handedly, with scenes being cut, pixelated or obscured by petroleum jelly. Profanity and violence are generally left intact.

The Apex Group of cinemas comprise the Lido, Scala and Siam theaters in Siam Square in Bangkok. The company is owned by the Tansacha family and is headed by Nanta Tansacha. The theaters were built in the late 1960s and have changed little since, making possible a retro movie-going experience that can't be found at the shopping-mall multiplexes. The theaters tend to not be as crowded as the other cinemas in central Bangkok, and it's usually possible to obtain the most-desired seating just minutes before showtime. The Apex cinemas not only show first-run Hollywood films, but also many art films, which is unique in Thailand, other than the House theater on Royal City Avenue. Among the events exclusive to the Apex is the annual Little Big Film Project, in which a series of foreign independent films are shown over the course of several weeks.

Coliseum Multiplex is a chain of movie theaters in Southern Thailand.

Major Cineplex, combined with the EGV chain, is the largest operator of cinemas in Thailand. Its operations are concentrated in Bangkok. Major Cineplex's cinemas are divided into four brands which are Major Cineplex, EGV, Paragon Cineplex and Esplanade Cineplex.

EGV was the first multiplex cinema operator in Thailand. The No. 2 operator of cinemas, it merged with Major Cineplex in 2004.

Paragon Cineplex is located in the Siam Paragon shopping mall, and is operated by the Major Cineplex Group.

Esplanade Cineplex is located in The Esplanade (Bangkok) shopping mall, and is operated by the Major Cineplex Group.

Major Hollywood is a small chain of cinemas in suburban Bangkok.

Nevada is a cinema and hotel that the first movies city in Thailand at Ubon Ratchathani.

SF Cinema City is one of the brand names of SF Group. SF Cinema City, dubbed SFC is targeted at middle class families and teenagers. Its location is designed under the theme of Orange and White in relation to its logo and corporate identity system.

SF Multiplex is SF Group's economical brand of cinemas, with operations concentrated in Eastern Thailand. It caters to the locals and it offers a high-quality movie experience and a budget cost.

SF World Cinema is SF Group's flagship cinema location. It is located within CentralWorld in Bangkok. It caters to a top-end level of customers with services under the concept of "personalized touch" for every type of customers. Opened in January 2007 with a total of 15 screens and 4,121 seats, it is the flagship branch of the SF chain. The cinema is a venue for film premieres and festivals. Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre is adjacent. The cinema also houses a number of digital projectors.

SFX Cinemas is SF Group's premium brand of cinemas. The cinemas are tastefully decorated and offer a higher-end level of premium services and an array of latest technologies in cinema presentation such as First Class seating and Dolby three-way sound.

Thana Cineplex is a chain of small cinemas based in Central and Northern Thailand.

UMG is a small chain of cinemas in the Bangkok metropolitan area owned by Sahamongkol Film International.

Vista is a cinema chain based in Chiang Mai.

The Scala theater in Siam Square.

Major Cineplex Ramkhamheang.

Major Cineplex Sukhumvit.

Krungsri IMAX at Paragon Cineplex.

Sala Chalermkrung.

SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Major Cineplex Ratchayothin.

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Source : Wikipedia