Thursday, November 27, 2008

Confusing Thai administrative structures

It is not only me who got (and still sometimes gets) confused by the administrative structure, and especially the parallel local and central government entities. As so often, Google made me discover the short essay Civil service controls much of regional and local government, which contains several mistakes easily made when not knowing the details. I don't want to ridicule the author for his mistakes, I more like to use it as an example for the difficulties to understand the real structure. When I read that essay, I really needed the "edit" button like in Wikipedia, so I could fix the article myself...
Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (or 'changwat'), which are then grouped together into five regions for administrative purposes. [...]
The 76 provincial governors are appointed by the Ministry of the Interior from the civil service rather than elected, like the French prefect system, except in two cases. The capital city Bangkok is governed by a Metropolitan Authority, headed by an elected Governor. In 1976, the city of Pattaya was also given special administrative area status...
Actually, it's just 75 provinces, as Bangkok has a different status, which as correctly noted includes the elected governor. Yet, Bangkok is quite often miscalled a province, though it is not, it is only at the same administrative level as the other province. However Pattaya is not an exception, since it is not at provincial level, but a special kind of municipality outside the normal thesaban system.
Below this are tambon, loosely translated as communes, of which there are currently 7,254. Larger units (over 10,000 population) are known as Mueang, while other cities (over 50,000 population) are referred to as Nakhon. All of these are further sub-divided into muban (villages), currently 69,307 in number. [...] The 1994 Tambon Council and Tambon Administrative Authority Act and the 1997 constitution state the elected nature of the tambon.
Here the author totally confused the central administrative entity tambon with the municipality type thesaban tambon, and thus includes the other two municipal types thesaban mueang and thesaban nakhon with the subdistricts. And thus also the next sentence is wrong, as especially for the area covered by a thesaban nakhon there usually are no muban anymore. Also the reference to the 1997 constitution has this flaw, but here it is even more easy to get confused - at tambon level the central and local government meet, as the local government entity TAO in most cases cover exactly on tambon. And even more confusing, both the TAO with the chairman are elected, but also the administrator of the central government entity tambon, the subdistrict headman.

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