The residents of Phuket comprise Thais who have migrated from the mainland, ethnic Chinese, Malays, and Chao Leh or ‘sea-gypsies’ who are the original inhabitants of Phuket.
According to the census, Thai-Buddhists account for 71% of the population, with Malays (24%) and Chao Leh (4%) making up the remainder. The figure for Thai-Buddhists also includes the Chinese who are almost completely assimilated. Some estimates put the percentage of ethnic Chinese at around 35%. The vast majority of the population resides in or around Phuket City and Patong Beach, creating a population distribution along an east-west axis.
In March 2007 the Phuket Provincial Administration office reported that there are 313,955 people registered as living in Phuket. However, this figure is likely to be quite a lot higher as this data does not take into account those who live and work in Phuket but are registered as being resident elsewhere, a fairly common occurrence. Together with this are the seasonal workers and visitors of which there are a significant number all year round. Taking this into account, some estimates have calculated a figure as high as 500,000 during peak periods.
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