Seven Austronesian languages are spoken, all of which belong to the Malayic Malayo-Polynesian group.The main Austronesian language is Pattani Malay, which is spoken by about 2.5 million people in the southern region.As part of a trend toward devolution of authority, the democratic governments of the 1990s adopted more liberal policies with regard to ethnic minorities.However, members of ethnic minorities continue to face many problems in regard to political rights and economic security. The Kingdom of Thailand has an area of 198,114 square miles (513,115 square kilometers).Other major ethnic groups include Chinese (about 12 percent of the population), Malay-speaking Muslims (about 3 percent), and Khmer (about 2 percent).
The Thai-Lao account for about 32 percent of the population; their territory formerly was part of the Lao kingdom. The name "Thailand" is associated with the dominant ethnic group, Thai. It was an absolute monarchy until 1932, when it became a constitutional monarchy.In 1939 the country's name was changed from Siam to Thailand.The Pattani Malay, Malay, and Kedah Malay populations live in an area associated with the kingdom of Patani, which fell under Thai control in 1786.The nineteen Tibeto-Burman-speaking groups include nine groups that speak Karen languages.