Southern Thailand

Southern Thailand, Southern Siam or Tambralinga is a southernmost cultural region of Thailand, separated from Central Thailand region by the Kra Isthmus.

Southern Region
From upper-left to lower-right: Sunrise Thailand Ko Samui, Tarutao National Park, Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan, Rajjaprabha Dam and Phuket City.
Southern Region in Thailand
Largest cityHat Yai
  Total73,848 km2 (28,513 sq mi)
  Density134/km2 (350/sq mi)
DemonymSouthern Thai
Time zoneUTC+07:00 (ICT)
LanguageSouthern ThaiPattani MalaySatun Malay • Mos • Urak Lawoi' • MoklenHokkien etc.


Khao Sok National Park, Surat Thani

Southern Thailand is on the Malay Peninsula, with an area of around 70,714 km2 (27,303 sq mi), bounded to the north by Kra Isthmus, the narrowest part of the peninsula. The western part has highly steep coasts, while on the east side river plains dominate. The largest river of the south is the Tapi in Surat Thani, which together with the Phum Duang in Surat Thani drains more than 8,000 km2 (3,100 sq mi), more than 10 percent of the total area of southern Thailand. Smaller rivers include the Pattani, Saiburi, Krabi, and the Trang. The biggest lake of the south is Songkhla Lake (1,040 km2 (400 sq mi) altogether). The largest artificial lake is the Chiao Lan (Ratchaprapha Dam), occupying 165 km2 (64 sq mi) of Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani. The total forest area is 17,964 km2 (6,936 sq mi) or 24.3 percent of provincial area.[1]

Ko Lao Liang Phi

Running through the middle of the peninsula are several mountain chains, with the highest elevation at Khao Luang, 1,835 m (6,020 ft), in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province. Ranging from the Kra Isthmus to Phuket Island is the Phuket chain, which connects to the Tanao Si Mountain Range further north. Almost parallel to the Phuket chain, but 100 km (60 mi) to the east is the Nakhon Si Thammarat or Banthat chain, which begins with Samui Island, Ko Pha Ngan, and Ko Tao in Surat Thani Province and ends at the Malaysian border at the Ko Ta Ru Tao archipelago. The border with Malaysia is formed by the Sankalakhiri range, sometimes sub-divided into the Pattani, Taluban, and Songkhla chain. At the Malaysian border the Titiwangsa chain rises up.

The limestone of the west coast has been eroded into many steep singular hills. The parts submerged by the rising sea after the last ice age now form many islands, like the well-known Phi Phi Islands. Also well known is the so-called James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay, featured in the movie The Man with the Golden Gun.

The population of the growing region is projected to be 9,156,000 in 2015, up from 8,871,003 in 2010 (census count and adjusted), despite these figures are adjusted for citizens who have left for Bangkok or who have moved to the region from elsewhere, as well as registered permanent residents (residency was problematic in the prior 2000 census), the figure is still misleading. There are still a huge number of migrant or informal workers, temporary workers, and even stateless people, and a large expatriate population which is not included.[3]

Most of Southern Thailand is in Tenasserim-South Thailand semi-evergreen rain forests ecoregion. The Peninsular Malaysian rain forests and Peninsular Malaysian montane rain forests ecoregions extend into southernmost Thailand along the border with Malaysia.[4]


Wat Phra Baromathat, Nakhon Si Thammarat, an old and important temple
Pagoda in Javanese or Sailendran-style, Chaiya, Surat Thani
Malay Muslim provinces in Southern Thailand and northern Malaysia.

The Malay peninsula has been settled since prehistoric times. Archeological remains were found in several caves, some used for dwellings, others as burial sites. The oldest remains were found in Lang Rongrien Cave, dating 38,000 to 27,000 years before present, and in the contemporary Moh Khiew cave.

In the first millennium Chinese chronicles mention several coastal cities or city-states. No exact geographical locations were recorded, so the identification of these cities with later settlements is difficult. The most important of these states were Langkasuka, usually considered a precursor of the Patani Kingdom; Tambralinga, probably the precursor of the Nakhon Si Thammarat Kingdom, or P'an-p'an in Phunphin district, Surat Thani, probably located at the Bandon Bay Tapi River. The cities were highly influenced by Indian culture, and have adopted Brahman or Buddhist religion. When Srivijaya in Chaiya extended its sphere of influence, those cities became tributary states of Srivijaya. The city Chaiya in Surat Thani Province contains several ruins from Srivijaya times, and was probably a regional capital of the kingdom. Some Thai historians even claim that it was the capital of the kingdom itself for some time, but this is disputed.

After Srivijaya lost its influence, Nakhon Si Thammarat became the dominant kingdom of the area. During the rule of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great of Sukhothai, Thai influence first reached Nakhon Si Thammarat. According to the Ramkhamhaeng inscription, Nakhon Si THammarat was a tributary state of Sukhothai. During most of later periods, Nakhon became a tributary of Ayutthaya.

The deep south belonged to the Malay sultanates of Pattani and Kedah, while the northernmost part of the peninsula was under the control of Bangkok.

During the Thesaphiban reforms at the end of the 19th century, both Nakhon Si Thammarat and Pattani were incorporated into the central state. The area was subdivided into 5 monthon, which were installed to control the city states (mueang). Minor mueang were merged into larger ones, thus forming the present 14 provinces. With the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 the boundary to Malaysia was fixed. Kedah came under British control, while Pattani stayed with Siam.


The largest native language is Southern Thai (Thai: ภาษาไทยใต้ [pʰaːsǎː tʰajtâːj]), also known as Pak Thai or Dambro (Thai: ภาษาตามโพร [pʰaːsǎː taːmpʰroː]), which is a southwestern Tai language spoken in the 14 changwat of southern Thailand as well as by small Thai communities in the northernmost Malaysian states. It is spoken natively by roughly five million people and as a second language by the 1.5 million native speakers of Patani Malay, along with other ethnic groups such as the local Negritos communities, and other tribal groups.

Although Central Thai is the sole official language in Thailand and most people are able to communicate in Central Thai, the language is only the third largest native language in Southern Thailand, with roughly four hundred thousand native speakers. In particular, it is only native among Teochew, Hoklo, Hakka and Cantonese ethnic groups, particularly in their major ethnic enclaves like Hat Yai and Bandon districts.

Administrative divisions

The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) identities Southern Thailand as 14 provinces.[5]
The Thai Meteorological Department (TMD) includes for Southern Thailand (east coast) also the two provinces: Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi.[6]

  Name Thai Area Pop.[2] Dens. Annual
1  Chumphon ชุมพร 6,009.0 510,963 85 351,672 5.4% East
2  Nakhon Si Thammarat นครศรีธรรมราช 9,942.5 1,560,433 157 301,488 8.1% East
3  Narathiwat นราธิวาส 4,475.0 802,474 179 238,680 37.3% East
4  Pattani ปัตตานี 1,940.4 718,077 370 210,156 36.0% East
5  Phatthalung พัทลุง 3,424.5 525,044 153 257,736 14.0% East
6  Songkhla สงขลา 7,393.9 1,432,628 194 331,920 8.2% East
7  Surat Thani สุราษฎร์ธานี 12,891.5 1,063,501 83 437,592 1.4% East
8  Yala ยะลา 4,521.1 532,326 118 187,008 21.2% East
9  Krabi กระบี่ 4,709.0 473,738 101 372,132 6.4% West
10  Phang Nga พังงา 4,170.0 268,240 64 346,104 5.1% West
11  Phuket ภูเก็ต 543.0 410,211 755 378,000 0.5% West
12  Ranong ระนอง 3,298.0 191,868 58 264,420 16.6% West
13  Satun สตูล 2,479.0 321,574 130 278,496 5.8% West
14  Trang ตรัง 4,917.5 643,116 131 279,708 15.9% West
Average household annual income in 2015 (Thai baht).[7]
Poverty Ratio in 2016.[8]


Southern Thailand has 9.454 million inhabitants and its population density is 134 per square kilometre (350/sq mi).[2]

Ten major cities of southern Thailand

No. Name Pop. Metropolitan
1Hat Yai159,627397,379 in Hat Yai District.
2Surat Thani130,114177,242 in Mueang Surat Thani District.
3Nakhon Si Thammarat104,948271,330 in Mueang Nakhon Si Thammarat District.
4Phuket78,923238,866 in Mueang Phuket District.
5Ko Samui65,84782,900 in Ko SamuiKo Pha Ngan.
6Songkhla64,602163,083 in Mueang Songkhla District.
7Yala61,293167,582 in Mueang Yala District.
8Trang59,999156,115 in Mueang Trang District.
9Pattani44,900130,178 in Mueang Pattani District.
10Narathiwat41,572124,049 in Mueang Narathiwat District.


Religion in Southern Thailand (2015 census)[9]

  Buddhism (75.45%)
  Islam (24.33%)
  Christianity (0.21%)
  Sikhism (0.005%)
  Other religions (0.004%)
  No religion (0.008%)

Thailand is a Buddhist majority country. About 93.46% in Thailand follow Buddhism.[10] Buddhism is the majority religion in Southern Thailand as well. However, Buddhism makes up only 75.45% in Southern Thailand.[9] Thai people follow Theravada Buddhism. Minority ethnic groups such as Khmer also follow Buddhism. 10 out of 14 provinces in Southern Thailand have Buddhist majorities.

Islam constitutes 24.33% of Southern Thailand even though Islam only constitutes 5.36% of the whole country.[9] Islam is mostly followed by Malay people in Southernmost Thailand. There's also a small Thai Muslim population. Islam is the majority religion in the Malay majority in Yala, Pattani, Naratiwat and Satun provinces near Malaysia known as Southernmost Thailand.

Christianity makes up 0.21% of Southern Thailand population. Sikhism makes up 0.05% in Southern Thailand. Sikhism is followed by Indian immigrants.[9]


The bulk of the southern population relies on agriculture for 27 percent of its gross regional product in 2014. It is followed by industry (12 percent), trade (10 percent), transportation (9 percent), tourism (8 percent), and construction and property (7 percent).[11] For FY 2018, Southern Thailand Region had a combined economic output of 1,402 trillion baht (US$45.2 billion), or 8.6 percent of Thailand's GDP. Surat Thani province had an economic output of 206.869 billion baht (US$6.67 billion). This equates to a GPP per capita of 182,371 baht (US$5,883), more than double for Yala province, which is fifth and more than three times for Narathiwat province, lowest in the ranking.[12]

Gross Provincial Product (GPP)
Rank Province GPP
(million baht)
(x 1000)
GPP per capita (baht)
1Surat Thani206,8691,134182,371
4Nakhon Si Thammarat164,3751,507109,050
 East coast879,7157,096123,973

Kamphaeng Phet province had an economic output of 117.705 billion baht (US$3.8 billion). This amounts to a GPP per capita of 150,783 baht (US$4,864), half more than for Tak province, which is fifth in the ranking.

Gross Provincial Product (GPP)
Rank Province GPP
(million baht)
(x 1000)
GPP per capita (baht)
 West coast523,0202,437214,616


Southern Thailand is connected with Bangkok by railway as well as highway. Several regional airports are located at the larger towns. The transportation hub of all south Thailand is Hat Yai.


Phetkasem Road is the longest road in Thailand, running from Bangkok along the Kra Isthmus and then along the west coast of the peninsula. From Trang it crosses over to the east coast to Hat Yai, and ends at the Malaysian border.

Two Asian highways run through Southern Thailand: Asian Highway 2 runs mostly parallel to the railroad all the way from Bangkok. It crosses to Malaysia at Sadao, and continues on the west side of the peninsula. Asian Highway 18 begins in Hat Yai and runs south along the east coast, crossing to Malaysia at Sungai Kolok.

Ko Samui Airport
Ko Samui Airport runway
Hat Yai Airport


The southern railway connects Bangkok to Hat Yai, and continues from there to Sungai Kolok. There are branches from Ban Thung Phoe Junction to Kirirat Nikhom. Two smaller branches of the railway run from Thung Song to Trang and Nakhon Si Thammarat, and from Hat Yai Junction to Malaysia and Singapore.


Southern Thailand has five international airports and six domestic airports. As of 2018 Thailand's transport ministry is constructing the 1.9 billion baht Betong Airport. It is scheduled for completion in 2020.[13]

See also


  1. "ตารางที่ 2 พี้นที่ป่าไม้ แยกรายจังหวัด พ.ศ.2562" [Table 2 Forest area Separate province year 2019]. Royal Forest Department (in Thai). 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2021, information, Forest statistics Year 2019{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  2. "รายงานสถิติจำนวนประชากรและบ้านประจำปี พ.ศ.2561" [Statistics, population and house statistics for the year 2018]. Registration Office Department of the Interior, Ministry of the Interior (in Thai). 31 December 2018. Archived from the original on 14 June 2019. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  3. "Thailand: Major Cities, Towns & Communes - Population Statistics, Maps, Charts, Weather and Web Information".
  4. Wikramanayake, Eric; Eric Dinerstein; Colby J. Loucks; et al. (2002). Terrestrial Ecoregions of the Indo-Pacific: a Conservation Assessment. Washington, DC: Island Press.
  5. "Revisions to the Gross Regional and Provincial Product 2016 Edition". The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB). July 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2019. page 35 The South
  6. "Weather - Southern-east coast". Thai Meteorological Department. 2019. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  7. ดัชนีความก้าวหน้าของคน ปี2560 [Human Achievement Index - HAI year 2017] (PDF). (Report) (in Thai). National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB). 2017. pp. 149–165. ISBN 978-974-9769-33-1. Retrieved 14 September 2019, sub 5.64-5.77 section: Average household income per month{{cite report}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  8. ดัชนีความก้าวหน้าของคน ปี2560 [Human Achievement Index - HAI year 2017] (PDF). (Report) (in Thai). National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB). 2017. pp. 149–165. ISBN 978-974-9769-33-1. Retrieved 14 September 2019, sub 5.64-5.77 section: Poverty Ratio{{cite report}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  9. "Population by religion, region and area, 2015" (PDF). NSO. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  10. "Population by religion, region and area, 2018". NSO. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  11. Wangkiat, Paritta (25 August 2017). "Songkhla power plant sit-in an energy wake-up call". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  12. Phitsanulok Provincial Statistical Report 2562-2019: Economic Statistics - National Accounts. Phitsanulok Provincial Statistical Office (Report). National Statistical Office (NSO). 2020. pp. 96–97. ISSN 1905-8314.
  13. Sritama, Suchat (27 August 2018). "Better days around the bend". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 27 August 2018.

Further reading

  • Suthiwong Pongpaiboon. Southern Thai Cultural Structures and Dynamics Vis-à-vis Development. ISBN 974-9553-75-6.

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