Friday, April 2, 2010

Outdated maps for Laos administrative divisions

I often complain about contradicting maps of the administrative entity boundaries, especially those at subdistrict level are often shows in widely varying ways. However, some month ago on the German Wikipedia we discovered an even more striking problem in the province maps of neighboring Laos.

Originally the article on the province Oudomxay (ອຸດົມໄຊ) claimed that it borders the Thai province Nan, however someone working in the area corrected it to be only Bokeo (ບໍ່ແກ້ວ) which borders Thailand. However since this change was unsourced and contradicted the maps available at Wikipedia then, hdamm tried to find confirm the claim and even went to the local bookstore and checked paper maps, but none confirmed this. When I tried my luck, I found both versions of maps in various websites, yet none seemed really authoritative. Finally, the book Atlas of Laos confirmed it, luckily the scan at Google books includes a district map. And after some further searching I finally even found the full answer - in the Bokeo article at the Encyclopedia of modern Asia it reads
The makeup of the province changed in 1992 when the districts of Paktha and Pha Oudom were moved to the jurisdiction of Bokeo province.
In the map above the two districts changed are highlighted in red. The map does not show the Nam Nhou special area (ເຂດພິເສດນ້ຳຍູ້), a new district of Bokeo created someday around 2006-07 - again very hard to find anything on this change. If anyone wonders - the numbers are the geocodes for the districts as used by the Department of Statistics of Laos.

What did the whole thing give me? I am now happy that it has the Royal Gazette online database to learn about such administrative changes in Thailand, so I don't have to rely on secondary sources with all their potential mistakes, or discover changes years after they happened. I was also able to find the whole 6 volume Encyclopedia of modern Asia for an incredible price of 25$ instead of 760$ at the non-profit second-hand bookseller BetterWorldBooks. Only problem - my bookshelf is more than full already...

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