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Geography, climate and population
Thailand covers an area of 513 120 km2 and is located in the southeastern region of the continent of Asia (Table 1). Its immediate neighbours are Myanmar to the north and the northwest, Lao People’s Democratic Republic to the northeast, Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south. The water bodies that skirt Thailand are the Mekong river in the east that forms Thailand’s natural boundary with Laos, the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast and the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea to the southwest.
Administratively, the country is divided into 76 changwats (provinces), 4 regions and the Bangkok Metropolitan area. The four regions correspond approximately to the physiographical regions of Thailand: the northern region is mountainous with forests; the northeast is dry and consists of a plateau that borders the Mekong river; the central region is an extensive plain subject to flooding; and the southern part is a peninsula.
About 26.79 million ha are considered as cultivable, which represents 52 percent of the country. In 2009, the cultivated area was an estimated 18.995 million ha. Of this total, 15.300 million were under annual crops (mainly paddy rice) and the remaining 3.695 million ha were under permanent crops.
The climate is mainly governed by the alternation between the southwest monsoon, which brings heavy rainfalls (May-October), and the northeast monsoon, which is comparatively dry and cool (October-February). The transitional period (March-April) is characterized by heavy thunderstorms.
The average annual rainfall is about1 622 mm. It ranges from 1 100 mm in the central plain and the northeast of the country to 4 000 mm in the southern peninsula near the Andaman Sea.
The total population was an around 68.7 million in 2009, of which 66 percent lived in rural areas, compared with 69 percent in 1999. During the period 1999-2009 the annual population growth rate was an estimated 0.97 percent. The population density is about 134 inhabitants/km2.
In 2008, 98 percent of the population had access to improved water sources (99 and 98 percent in urban and rural areas respectively). Sanitation coverage accounted for 96 percent (95 and 96 percent in urban and rural areas respectively).