The population of Thailand is about 53 million and currently growing at a rate of 1.5% per annum (as opposed to 3% twenty years ago and 2.5% in 1979), thanks to Khun Mechai's nationwide family planning campaign. This does not include the recent influx of Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees. About 75% of the citizenry are ethnic Thais, 14% are Chinese, and the remaining 11% include Malays, the Yumbri (Mrabri), Semang, Moken ('sea gypsies'), Lawa, Kui, Karen, Meo, Yao, Akha, Lahu, Lisu tribes (the latter six are the true hill tribes; for more information see the Hill Tribe section of the North chapter), Khmers and Mona. A small number of Europeans and other non-Asians live in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
The literacy rate of Thailand is approximately 85% and increasing, and the average life expectancy is 61. In both respects Thailand is a leader in the region. Thailand as a whole has a relatively youthful population; only about 12% are older than 50.
Bangkok is by far the largest city in the kingdom, with a population of nearly six million (over 10% of the total population) - too many for the scope of its public services and what little 'city planning' exists. Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima) is the second largest city but does not have nearly such a big population - just over 200,000. Third is Chiang Mai with a population of around 150,000. All other towns in Thailand have well below 100,000, with few over 40,000.
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