Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (changwat, singular and plural), which are grouped into 5 groups of provinces - sometimes the East and Central are grouped together. The name of the province is the same as the capital city, which is sometimes preceded with a Mueang (or Muang) to avoid confusion with the province. With the exception of Songkhla the capital is also the biggest city in the province.
Bangkok is both the province with the highest population and the highest population density. The biggest province by area is Nakhon Ratchasima, the smallest Samut Songkhram. Mae Hong Son has the lowest population density, Ranong the lowest population (numbers according to 2000 census).
Many provinces date back to semi-independent local chiefdoms or kingdoms, which made up the Ayutthaya kingdom as well as Lannathai. In the end of the 19th century King Chulalongkorn started to create monthon (circles) as an administrative level containing one or more provinces as a secondary administrative division. The monthon were dissolved when Thailand became a democracy in 1932, making the provinces the top level administrative division. The highest number of provinces was around 85 in 1915, afterwards several provinces were merged together. Starting in the second half of the 20th century some provinces were newly created by splitting them off from bigger provinces. The youngest provinces are Srakaeo, Nong Bua Lam Phu and Amnat Charoen, which were created in 1993.
The provinces are administrated by a governor, who is appointed by the Ministry of the Interior. The only exception is Bangkok, in which the governor is elected.