the great majority of Thailandís 61 million people are ethnically Thai
and Buddhist, the country has a substantial number of minority groups who
have historically lived together in harmony. Of these, the Chinese
are perhaps the most numerous (particularly in urban areas), though they
have become so thoroughly assimilated it would be difficult to isolate
them as a distinct group. Similarly, while there are Lao and Khmer
groups in the Northeast and East, nearly all regard themselves as Thai,
culturally as well as by nationality. More clearly defined as an
ethnic group are the Muslims, who are mainly concentrated in the southern
provinces, and assorted hill tribes who live in the far North; there are
also sizeable communities of Hindus and Sikhs in large cities like Bangkok.
Some 80 percent 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 make Thailand
such a distinctive country.