The estimated population is 64 million of which approximately 9.3 million live in Bangkok and its vicinities. Ninety-four percent of the population are Thai-speaking Buddhists; Thai is also the official language of the country. Four distinct dialects of the Thai language are spoken, in the central, northern, southern and in the north-eastern regions, the latter being closely related to the Lao language. In the four southern provinces of Pattani, Satun, Yala and Naratiwat near the Malaysian border, the majority of the population is Muslim and speaks “Pattani” Malay. In the mountains of the northern region there are approximately 525,000 highland people who speak distinct languages.
From about 1850 until the Second World War there was a steady flow of immigrants from China who established themselves in commerce and as artisans throughout the country. The population of Chinese origin now comprises 10-15 percent of the total population. The Thai Government has successfully encouraged the assimilation of the Chinese, and the younger generations are Thai citizens and speak Thai.
Bangkok (Krung Thep) has been the capital since 1782. Bangkok metropolitan area is by far the most significant urban area in the country. The per capita income in Bangkok is almost triple the national average of US$ 8,135 per year (2009). The next largest city, Nakhon Ratchasima in the northeast, has a population of 2.5 million.
Large provinces, apart from Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasiama, are Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani in the north-east, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Songkla (where Hat Yai city is located) in the south, and Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai in the North.
The Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism is the state religion of Thailand. About five percent of the population is Muslim residing mainly in the south along the Malaysian border. Other religious groups include Taoists, Christians, Hindu and Sikhs.