Monday, July 8, 2013

Same-named districts

While there are only five districts which have a non-unique name in Thailand - the five Chaloem Phra Kiat districts (อำเภอเฉลิมพระเกียรติ) created in various parts of the country in 1996 - there is one apparent case of two districts with the same name in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya province. Two of the 16 districts of the province are named Bang Sai, but in fact the two districts don't have the same name. The origin of this confusion is the romanization system.
  • Bang Sai (บางไทร), the district with geocode 1404, is pronounced with a short ai (in English the same as in the word I) at end. The name means "Banyan tree village".
  • Bang Sai (บางซ้าย), the district with geocode 1413, is pronounced with a long ai sound at end. The name means "left village" - don't know what left side is meant by the name.
The reason why both districts share the same English name despite having a different Thai pronounciation is simply due to the over-simplification done by the RTGS transcription scheme. This system, the official standard of transcribing Thai to English, has left out not just the tone heights but also the distinction between the short and long vowels. While there is another pair of districts which share the same English name despite having different Thai names - Wiang Sa in Surat Thani (เวียงสระ) and in Nan (เวียงสา), again with different vowel lengths at end - what makes the two Bang Sai so confusing is the fact that they are located within the same province quite close to each other. For example, in Wikipedia the only way to get a unique name for the two district was to add the geocode to the name, so the articles are located at Bang Sai District (1404) and Bang Sai District (1413).

Going down one administrative level, there strangely is just one case where two subdistricts within one district share the same romanization - in Fang district there are two subdistricts named Mae Kha, one with a short a and one with a long one. For villages however, it is quite common to have more than one village with the same Thai name within one subdistrict, which is no big problem since the villages are more often identified by their number than by their name.

For municipalities, it gets much more confusing, as there are cases of two municipalities with the same Thai name in one district, which only differ by the municipal level, so only when using name and administrative status together the name becomes unique. I will write a separate blog post on those cases later.

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