Sunday, December 30, 2007

Digest of administrative changes in 2007

This year not that many new administrative entities were created or changed, so listing all these changes in a single posting makes a nice year ending post. The date give is the one where the announcement became effective. There were four upgrades of municipalities, two new municipalities, and the upgrade of all 71 minor districts.

Another 10 Thesaban Tambon seem to be about to be created, but not yet published in the Royal Gazette - but this WinWord file seem to be the basis for the forthcoming Gazette entry.

Happy new year 2551 everyone

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Kingdom of Siam (1904)

Some years ago I bought a book titled The Kingdom of Siam 1904, which I found just looking around in Chula Bookstore in Bangkok. It is a reprint by the Siam Society of a book originally published in 1904, containing an introduction to the country written for the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition. Edited by A Cecil Carter, it contains texts written by various unnamed government officials, as well as from three famous scholars of the time - Oskar Frankfurter, Col. Gerini (1860-1913) and W.A. Graham.

Quoting the Final Report of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Commission::
On the occasion of the exposition there was published by the Commission a richly illustrated book entitled "The Kingdom of Siam." This work was presented to the educational institutions of this country, to public libraries, and to all persons who were known to be interested in Siam. The book, written by experts, will be an authority for years to come upon Siam, its climate, resources, people, institutions, and industries, and will doubtless supplant the writings of hurrying traveler and transient visitor.
The second chapter titled The Government has a subsection describing the administration of the country in the beginning of the 20th century, covering aspects of the thesaphiban reforms. As this book is probably in the Public Domain due to its age, I will publish this section here in January. Once I can fully confirm the book is free of any copyrights I will publish it completely in WikiSource.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

List of districts in 1917

I have found a very helpful entry in the Royal Gazette database - volume 34, pages 40 to 68 issued on April 29 1917. Innocently titled "ประกาศกระทรวงมหาดไทย เรื่อง เปลี่ยนชื่ออำเภอ" (Royal Order about rename of districts), this announcement not just list some name changes, but also includes all the districts which don't change their name at that time, thus it is a complete list of all the districts at that time. Sadly the monthon Krung Thep is missing, which at that time was under the control of the Ministry of Urban Affairs, and not the Interior Ministry as the others. But at least for some of the provinces abolished in 1932 I now know their territorial extend.

This announcement comes right at the end of the thesaphiban administrative reforms, as Prince Damrong resigned from his post as minister of Interior just two years earlier. With this announcement quite a lot of districts got renamed, some of the capital districts which were previously just named "Mueang" got the name of the province appended and thus already got the name they still have today. Other capital districts were renamed to have the same name as the subdistrict (tambon) which contains the district administration - which was also the main type of renamings done with this announcement. However in many cases the districts got back their historical name by the end of the 1930s.

Another thing covered by this announcement was the official change to use the term changwat (จังหวัด) for the provinces, which previously were still known as Mueang (เมือง).

I have converted the data of the announcement into a XML, which can be downloaded here. There are a few special cases where I am not fully sure about the identification of the district in the past with the modern-day one, but these are of course marked with comments within the file.

Monday, December 17, 2007

New satellite images in Google Earth

The Google Earth blogs just announced it - there are some new hires data available in Google Earth. And of course this also includes Thailand, otherwise I wouldn't blog about it here. I am browsing through right now and the areas which seem to be new include around Phunphin, Sungai-Kolok, Hua Hin, the eastern half of Rayong, Tha Phraya, Erawan and Na Duang, Tha Li and so on. No big single area, but several new rectangles, but still many parts not yet available in hires, including interesting places like the ruins of Si Satchanalai, or the towns Kanchanaburi and Ubon Ratchathani, Sing Buri and Sara Buri. Anyway, I have fine-tuned the geotags of several Wikipedia articles already and still looking for more district offices I missed to adjust, and as soon as Google Maps also picks up the new data I can also update some of my photos in Panoramio.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Moving Mueang

Something which kept me puzzled a bit when I was writing about the provinces on Wikipedia were references in the history about the town (Mueang) being "moved" to a new location. However this was a cultural prejudice, which finally became clear to me when I read the book "The Connection Phuket-Penang" by Ian Morson (ISBN 974-8298-24-8, Siam Society 1993). Talking on the former capital town of Phuket named Tha Ruea, it says on page 36:
Westerns are often surprised that Asian cities often ceased to exist or even moved to other locations. It is however quite understandable when it is realized that almost all the buildings were often simple wooden construction with thatched roofs. ... The only buildings that might survive in shattered form would be those of poor quality brick which would crumble away more slowly.

The ruins depicted are at Khu Bua (คูบัว), a settlement from Dvaravati times (6th to 10th century) just a few kilometers south of the town Ratchaburi. Though it not fully fits the topic of moving a town, because the town was abandoned in the 10th century and refounded by king U-Thong in the 14th century, that ruins of the former main temple of the town still put an example of what might stay behind of such a Mueang being moved to a new location. Sadly the small museum next to that ruins was closed for renovations when I visited there last year, so I have to go there again to learn more about that old town.

Another very recent example for a relocation of a town happened in Trang in the beginning of the 20th century. At first the center of the province was moved in 1896 from Khuan Thani to the coast of the Andaman Sea in Kantang, and after several floodings it was move inland again in 1916. One thing which still reminds on these relocations is the fact that the city pillar shrine (Lak Mueang) is still located outside the modern city.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The website was a very helpful resource in creating the district articles on Wikipedia, as it contains several pages for each district, including things like the address of the district office, the slogan of the district, and most of all the history of the district. In some case its a quite long history starting with the precursor Mueang, in other cases just a the basic dates of creation as a minor district and upgrade to a full district. However sadly the site is far from perfect, I have came across several cases where the history is somewhat sloppy - for example listing the date the announcement in the Royal Gazette was published or signed, not the date when it became effective - but in a few cases it seems to have been outright wrong, even noticeable with my limited knowledge on the Thai language. Especially with the renamings of districts to historical names, or name switching like the one I blogged about earlier they easily get it wrong.

One example is the history of Renu Nakhon, where says that in 1917 the district Renu Nakhon was reduced to a subdistrict of That Phanom district. But in real it was simply that the district was renamed from Renu Nakhon to That Phanom.

Another item which I can easily check is the area of the district. I used the value given in the Census 2000, and in most cases gives exactly the same value. In several cases it even has higher accuracy, in the census data it's just up to 0.1 km², while in those cases it's down to 0.001 km². But in other cases the value is slightly off, or even very much off. Sometimes I could notice the value still included a minor district already split off, sometimes it was the value in Rai but with the wrong unit name, but sometimes it was really completely bogus.

It seems to me that when creating the province administrations were asked to provide the informations, some did a really good job while other did it only sloppy. It's not much different with the websites of the province administrations itself, some are very elaborated with regards of history, while others have nearly no useful data.

Wikipedia now has a policy of giving references for each of the claims in the article. Too bad I cannot use as such with good conscience anymore, and they don't give their sources either for further check. And often the text found at is copied by several other websites, and no other independent history is found on the web, at least none I could find and read. At least quite a lot of the references can be done with the help of the Royal Gazette search, but that still makes the district histories rather short, as just the administrative changes to the districts are covered by this.

But even worse - the website was apparently hacked for quite some time by some spammer or malware distributor (at least the GoogleBot has already indexed it). When using the bare it redirects to some sites I wouldn't recommend anyone to follow with Internet Explorer and without an up-to-date virus scanner. As usually used the bookmark (which had the a main.php) I did just notice this a few days ago, but even after I sent a warning email to the administrators nothing happened :-(

Update January 3: Now they have fixed the hacked webpage.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Electoral districts

Map of the electoral areasWith the general elections on December 23 coming nearer, the subdivision of the country in electoral districts (constituencies) is another topic worth mentioning, especially as there were some changes with the new constitution. The country is now subdivided into 8 electoral areas of roughly similar population, which are further subdivided into 157 constituencies. The new constitution returns to the system of having multiple MPs elected in one constituency, which abolished with the introduction of single-MP constituencies with the 1997. So now one constituency can have up to three MPs, depending on the population within the constituency. Additionally, each of the 8 zones send 10 MPs in a a proportional representation system. The official list of provinces in each area, and constituencies in each provinces can be found here. I just haven't yet found how the provinces are divided into the constituencies.

Quite a lot of the discussion of these changes of the electoral system with this election can be found in the article A proportional Election System for Thailand (full text here) by Michael H. Nelson, who is comparing it with the system in use in Germany for many years - quite handy as its the election system I am most familiar with.

Maybe the two best websites covering the events before the election and which will also give the results are 2bangkok and The Nation. And there's of course also the official website of the Election Commission with also some English contents. And the results will probably also be archived in Adam Carr's Election Archive.

Two other blogs worth reading for Thai politics are the one by Bangkok Pundit and New Mandala, which also includes reports by above mentioned Michael H. Nelson.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Towns and Amphoe Mueang are not the same

Mae Sai thesaban officeSomething which not only confused myself originally, but also is found in some population statistics of the Thai cities is to equal the capital district (อำเภอเมือง , Amphoe Mueang) of the provinces with the city of the same name. I first learned that this is a big misunderstanding when I got hinted to a post on, where the largest cities of Thailand were listed and explained that the actual municipal (เทศบาลน, thesaban) areas is usually much smaller than that of the same-named district. This often leads to the claims that either Chiang Mai or Nakhon Ratchasima are the second-largest city of Thailand, while in fact it is with a large distance Nonthaburi (see the list of Wikipedia).

Probably one of the reasons for this misunderstanding is the fact that the local administration like in the municipalities and the central administration going down the ladder province, district, subdistrict and village exist in parallel. All of Thailand (except the capital Bangkok) is subdivided into the central administrative units, while only some parts belong to municipalities, which take over some of the tasks from the central administration - most notably the sanitation like garbage collection or waterworks.

Pictured above is the administration office of the township (thesaban tambon) Mae Sai in the far north of Thailand.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

City pillars

When I first came to visit the town Surat Thani, which sadly has only very few beautiful old temples, one building along the drive through the center looked rather striking to me. However I did not pass it again that year, so I had to search the internet at home to find what was that building and finally learned that it is the City Pillar Shrine (หลักเมือง, Lak Mueang), considered to house a guardian spirit for the town.

Nowadays every provincial capital has one building like that, many built rather recently. For example the one in Surat Thani was built around 1995 at the former location of the provincial hall, which had to torn down after it was seriously damaged in 1982 by a bomb planted by communist insurgents. In some other provinces these shrines are quite old, for example the Chinese style shrine in Songkhla. Trang is also a special case, where the shrine is located far outside the modern city, which was moved in the beginning of the 20th century to a less flood-prone location. Not only the modern-day provinces have a city pillar - Phra Pradaeng has one as it was a province till 1932, and also Mae Sai, though it never was a province.

As these shrines form the mythological center of each province I started to collect photos of these shrines, every time I visit a new town I try to get a chance to see and photograph the city pillar shrine. On a scrapbook at Wikipedia I collect notes, which might grow into articles on each of these shrines one day.

Monday, December 3, 2007


As the administrative organization of a country is not a very "sexy" topic, the number of books about this topic is rather low, especially when not counting the books in Thai language which are not yet accessible to me. So far I only know of three books more-or-less being written about this topic:
  • Tej Bunnag, The Provincial Administration of Siam 1892-1915, ISBN 0-19-580343-4, Oxford University Press, 1978. As the title suggests, the books deals with the administrative reforms (thesaphiban) under Prince Damrong as the first Interior minister of Siam. The focus is on the transition of the Mueang to the modern-day provinces. Originally led by a governor, who inherited his title to his son, and who ruled the town like a sovereign, these governors were demoted by the newly introduces Monthon administrators.
  • Nelson, Michael H. 1998. Central Authority and Local Democratization in Thailand: A Case Study from Chachoengsao Province. White Lotus, Bangkok 1998. This books is about the actual politics within the local administrative structures, especially about the problems around the elections in 1992 like vote buying.
  • Wales, H.G. Quaritch, Ancient Siamese Government and Administration, New York 1965 (London 1934). The topic of this book is the administration of the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya kingdoms, till the 18th century. It thus forms the historical background on the Mueang system reformed around 1900.

Of course also the more general history books mention the historical administration as well, but it is obviously only a small part of the contents. And it seems the above are about all the books available on this topic, as browsing through the reference sections of all my books I can only find either unpublished dissertations (actually the first two above were original dissertations as well), or articles in journals like the Journal of the Siam Society. Also only the book by Michael Nelson is still in print, and though I have them as scans in my computer I still look for the actual books, but when they show up in the online antiquarian websites they are usually quite expensive.

If anyone can recommend me a good Thai language book about these topics I'd happy to add it to my library. I guess it'd make me more diligent in learning Thai if I have something I want to read so much...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Roman Catholic dioceses

While I focus on the civil subdivisions in this blog, there are more divisions of the country. The Roman Catholic church has a very formal territorial organization into ecclesiastical provinces, dioceses, and down to parishes. Probably the best website dealing with these subdivisions worldwide is Catholic Hierarchy, with updates posted in a special blog almost daily.

The Catholic Church in Thailand is a very minority church with only 0.5% of the population being catholic - the country is of course predominately Buddhist. But even though there are just about 300,000 Catholics in the country, the church has subdivided the country into two ecclesiastical provinces with ten dioceses altogether. Each of the diocese have one church designated as a cathedral, like the one of Ratchaburi depicted. Almost all of the diocese are aligned with the boundaries of the civil provinces, with one notable exception. The diocese of Chanthaburi is separated by the archdiocese of Bangkok by the Bang Pa Kong river, and also covers the whole Nakhon Nayok province except the district Ban Na. This oddity gets understandable when one checks the history of Nakhon Nayok province. The province was abolished in 1943, and Ban Na assigned to Saraburi, while the other districts were assigned to Prachinburi. The province was recreated in 1946. And in 1944, while the province did not exist, the apostolic vicariate of Chanthaburi was created, using the then existing civil boundaries. I only don't know why the Bang Pa Kong river was used as the boundary, maybe the elongated shape of Chachoengsao province and some catholic settlements west of the river were the root of this, but that's just my speculation.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Geotagging district articles

In January this year I noticed that Google Earth started to include a new layer with Wikipedia articles. Though there were earlier activities like the layer created by Stefan Kühn, once there was an official layer it made it much more interesting to have all the district articles also listed in Google Earth, hopefully to attract more contributors adding informations. With the Google Earth FAQ it was then quite easy to make sure the article showed up, so the only work left to be done was to add the coordinates to all those articles.

For extended entities it is of course the difficult question of what single coordinate point to use to represent it. One might choose someplace in the "middle" of the district, but then it would usually point to a non-populated forest or farm area. But as traffic signs in Thailand point to the districts, and in fact point to the district offices, these IMHO make a good distinctive point representing the whole area.

My main source of the coordinates was an overlay I found at thaigoogleearth which includes the locations of all the district offices, and for those areas high resolution imaginary is available I confirmed and fine-tuned these locations, as they were sometimes a little bit off. The holes in the high-res coverage of Google Earth were filled with PointAsia, a similar software but having high-res coverage of almost all Thailand - but sensitive areas like military places or the palace of the King are blurred out. Sadly while I was adding the coordinates for the three southernmost provinces Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat suddenly the high-res images in PointAsia disappeared. Maybe they worried they get used by the terrorists struggling these provinces, but I doubt it would hinder them a bit, as they are probably locals who know the places well enough without the need to use online satellite imaginary.

But with the help of the MapMagic map, and the street maps of Google Maps, now all districts have their geotag at least pointing close to the district office, and all show up in GoogleEarth already - except Wiang Kao created in 2005, which I could not find in any of the sources. All I know is that it is somewhere in the subdistrict Nai Mueang, but no more details yet.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flags of the provinces

Every province has a seal (ตราประจำจังหวัด), a circular graphic with some typical things of the province depicted. These are relatively often seen in Thailand, for example on the websites of the provinces, or also on the big street signs welcoming the drivers when entering a province. However I was quite surprised when I first saw the Flags of the World website talking about flags of the provinces (ธงประจำจังหวัด). These flags usually feature the same provincial symbol as depicted the seal, together with some colors which have some connection with the province. Depicted is the flag of Surat Thani province.

In Thailand almost every public place is cluttered with either the Thai national flag, a flag with the symbol of the King, or around temples a flag with the Buddhist wheel. But I never ever saw any of these provincial flags, not even at the province hall. Also the book "Thong Thai Laem 1" by Chawingam Macharoen I bought once does not mention them, just many other flags used in Thailand. The only official place I have seen these flags so far are PDF files with province profiles from the Ministry of Interior. But the flags in those are of so low resolution it hardly possible to make out the actual contents. The best renderings available on the web were at, however right now the section on the Thai provinces is "under construction". So this flag of Surat Thani I tried to create to match those low-resolution pictures, it is probably not fully correct with its aspect ratio, the colors or the size of that chedi in Chaiya in relation to the whole flag.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Spelling reform

The Thai word for the districts (Amphoe) is usually spelled อำเภอ, using the relatively rare character pho sam-phao. However in some Royal Gazette entries in the 1940s it is spelled อำเพอ instead, using the character pho phan. Both characters are absolutely identical, having the same pronounce and belonging to the same consonant class, the only reason to have different letters is to spell words originally from Sanskrit or Pali according to their original spelling. There apparently was a spelling reform at that time trying to make these duplicate letters obsolete, however it was rather short-lived as the old spellings show up again.

Another word which changed spelling during this reform was the one for subdistrict (Tambon) - normally spelled ตำบล (notice the lo ling at end, pronounced as a "n"), which was then changed to ตำบน with the no nu at end. For me this spelling reform would have been nice, then it would be a little bit more easy to learn to read and write Thai without having to care about the special spellings for words from Sanskrit/Pali. Also the Thai numerals were completely exchanged with the arabic ones.

One example for an announcement with this different spelling is the abolishment of Nakhon Nayok Province, which took place in 1943. When the province was recreated in 1946 the spelling reform was already over as well. So apparently this reform was one of the actions of the first rule of Field Marshall Phibul Songkhram, who had to resign when it became apparent that the Japanese, with whom Thailand allied, will loose the World War.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Minor districts

Nearly every newly created district is at first only given the status of a minor district (กิ่งอำเภอ, King Amphoe), and gets upgraded to a full district (Amphoe) after a few years when it fulfills the criteria for a full district. This criteria are a population of 30,000 people and at least 5 subdistricts (tambon), or if the area is more than 25 km away from the district office of the parent district a population of at least 15,000 and 4 subdistricts. According to the DOPA website the minor districts have almost the same function as the full districts, only registration and firearm works are still to be done at the parent district. However as the district offices are about the most important government agencies for the common people, the creation of these minor districts helps to avoid the inconvenience of a long travel to the office in remote and sparsely populated areas.

As mentioned earlier, there were no upgrades of minor districts since 1997, so there probably was quite a backlog of minor districts already qualified as a full district. In May of this year the government decided to upgrade all the 81 minor districts, regardless of their qualification. This upgrade was officially announced in the Royal Gazette in August and got effective by that time as well. So right now the country has no minor districts anymore, but several districts which wouldn't qualify to the above mentioned criteria for many years to come, for example the island district Ko Kut with just little more than 2000 citizens. But it seems that these criteria weren't absolute in the past either, as Ko Sichang with 5000 citizens was upgraded in 1994.

What I don't know is whether this complete upgrade of all minor districts means that when a new district is created now it will become a full district directly, or it will have new minor districts then. I don't know if any of the announcements around that upgrade mention this at all, so it's just wait till the first new district shows up. Hopefully I will be the first to announce it in English with this blog then...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Province Hall

The central administrative building of each province is the province hall (ศาลากลางจังหวัด, Sala Klang Changwat). It is often translated as town or city hall, but in real it has nothing to do with the town (thesaban) administration. Depicted is the province hall of Prachuap Khiri Khan. Located within this building is the office of the province governor, and those of the officers working in the various departments of the administration. It is also the place where the "provincial parliament" (องค์การบริหารส่วนจังหวัด, Provincial Administration Organization or short PAO) convenes. This elected body has only very limited power, mostly in budget matters, most power resides at the governor appointed by the Ministry of the Interior.

Often located directly next to the province hall is the provincial court (ศาลจังหวัด, San Changwat, sometimes also spelled ศาลาจังหวัด Sala Changwat). This is the main building for the judiciary branch.

Monday, November 19, 2007

New provinces to be created

Before the coup last year two planned new provinces made the news, including reaching international media. However it seems the plans to create the special administrative area around the new Bangkok airport (Nakhon Suvarnabhumi) as well as the unnamed province around Hua Hin, planned to be a gift to the 80th birthday of HM King Bhumipol, are both now shelved and won't surface anymore.

But not getting much prominence there seem to other new provinces in the making, some already mentioned in the navigational box for the provinces in the Thai Wikipedia:

* Chum Phae (ชุมแพ) or Phu Wiang (ภูเวียง), the northwestern part of Khon Kaen
* Mae Sot (แม่สอด), the five western districts of Tak at the border to Myanmar
* Thung Song (ทุ่งสง), the southwestern part of Nakhon Si Thammarat
* Bueng Kan (บึงกาฬ), the east of Nong Khai
* Phra Narai (พระนารายณ์), the east of Lopburi
* Na Thawi (นาทวี), the south of Songkhla
* Sawang Daen Din (สว่างแดนดิน), the northwest of Sakon Nakhon
* Fang (ฝาง), the north of Chiang Mai

I have no idea about the planning state of those provinces. And browsing the Royal Gazette there are entries talking about a province hall in Phon (พล, southern Khon Kaen), Lang Suan (หลังสวน, southern Chumphon) or Sikhio (สีคิ้ว, western Nakhon Ratchasima) - and I haven't searched systematically...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

District names in Isan in the 1910s

In several Isan provinces the districts were named in a common scheme, until they were renamed in 1913. There were districts named Udon (อุดร), Pachin (ปจิม), Thaksin (ทักษิณ) and Uthai (อุไทย), then followed by the name of the province. Only in case of Ubon Ratchathani the second part of the district name was just the short "Ubon" or Yasothon, which was part of Ubon Ratchathani then. These scheme was at least used in the provinces Sisaket, Ubon Ratchathani, Surin, Roi Et, Maha Sarakham and Kalasin.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

District creations since 1990

I am currently adding the citations from the Royal Gazette to the district articles, mostly working from present to past. I have now covered all the district created since 1990, as well as all the upgrades of minor district to full districts from 1990. So I can now do a little statistics on these last 18 years. The most obvious fact is that the last time a bigger number districts were created was on July 1 1997, as well as the last upgrade was on October 1 1997. After that there was just one district (Wachirabarami in Phichit) in 1998 and one minor district (Wiang Kao in Khon Kaen) in 2006, and now the upgrade of all the minor districts in August 2007. 1990-1997 there were between 10 to 20 new (minor) districts each year, and a similar number of minor district upgrades. Altogether 202 districts were created in this timespan.

I can only speculate what is the reason for this hiatus, my guess is that it was actually a result of the Asian financial crisis which broke out in 1997, and the government tried to save expenses by avoiding to create new posts in newly created districts. In the 1920s and 1930s there was a more severe budget crisis, which led the government to abolish several of the monthon and provinces to cut expenses, as mentioned earlier.

Maybe a lot of new districts are in the pipeline now, catching up the 10 years of no new district. Maybe the already assigned geocodes I talked about earlier are the new districts to be created soon?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Non-unique district names

Nowadays all the districts have unique names, with the notable exception of the five districts named Chaleom Phra Kiat, created in celebration of the 50th anniversary of HM the King ascension to the throne. There are a few more cases where only the English spelling is not unique, but the Thai spelling and pronunciation is different.

There are some interesting special cases in the history however.
  • In Kanchanaburi Province the name Sangkhla Buri was originally given to the district Thong Pha Phum, but in 1939 the name was reassigned to the neighboring district.
  • In Ubon Ratchathani Province the district Si Mueang Mai was originally named Khong Chiam, as it was the successor of the Mueang Khong Chiang. The historical location of that Mueang was split off as a minor district named Ban Dan in 1959. In 1971 the name Khong Chiam was reassigned to the newer district Ban Dan.
  • Something similar must have happened in Chiang Rai Province, where the minor district Chiang Saen Luang was renamed to Chiang Saen in 1939, while at the same time the district formerly known as Chiang Saen became Mae Chan.
  • In Narathiwat in 1939 the district Tomo was renamed to Waeng, and the name Tomo was given to the neighboring minor district Bacho (not to be confused with the Bacho in the north of Narathiwat, which is spelled differently in Thai).
There are also cases where a district name was later reused.
  • The district Lamphun was located in Surat Thani Province, and was renamed to Ban Na and later Ban Na San. Not to be confused with Mueang Lamphun district, which has the additional word Mueang in its name. There is also the district Ban Na in Nakhon Nayok, I don't know yet when that one received its current name.
  • In Trat Province, the district Laem Ngop was named Ko Chang till 1939. The present-day district was created in 1994.
  • The district Si Songkhram in Nakhon Phanom Province was originally named Akat Amnui, which is now a new district in Sakon Nakhon Province.
  • Ban Lat in Phetchaburi was named Tha Chang till 1939, the name is now given to a district in Saraburi
These are probably still not all the cases where a district name may be ambiguous when considering historical district names, when I find more later I will blog on those.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Missing Geocodes

The list of geocodes contains several obsolete geocodes, most of them are the codes of the districts (and their constituent subdistricts) of the provinces Sa Kaeo, Amnat Charoen and Nongbua Lamphu before these were created. For the subdistricts almost all the obsolete codes are those for minor districts created after the original geocode table was created. But there are a few cases where a geocode is missing for other reasons. I already could find the right answer for two cases - in Khura Buri and Thung Si Udom one of the subdistricts was reassigned to a different district, for Khura Buri the historical center of the district, for Thung Si Udom the subdistrict was included when the minor district was created, but one year later this was reverted.

The other cases where geocodes are missing are not so clear:
  • In Pa Bon the missing number should belong to a subdistrict created between 1987 and 1991, and the population numbers at DOPA list this subdistrict (without a name) for the 1993 statistics. But no trace in the Royal Gazette for a subdistrict creation or abolishment
  • In Mueang Nakhon Si Thammarat two subdistricts are missing, which seem to be named Sala Mi Chai (ศาลามีชัย) and Na (นา). But still haven't found the year they were abolished, and to which subdistrict they are added.
  • Other ones I haven't investigated in detail yet are in Mae Sai, Phon, Mae Sariang, Phu Luang, Kaeng Khoi and Pa Daet, each have a single number missing. I don't recall to had any unknown subdistrict in the populations numbers till 1993, so if these numbers belong to an abolished subdistrict this must have happened before 1993.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

District data to XML

I am right now at the Microsoft TechEd in Barcelona, mostly for learning about the new technologies for my job as a programmer. But hearing loads of talk about useful new things around XML, and because I haven't yet had the time to learn much about how to create and use XML so far, the idea of converting the spreadsheet collecting the data into a set of XMLs. Apart from learning XML in much more details than before, it will also allow me to collect data which does not fit into the simple spreadsheet type, and also create small tools querying the XMLs, e.g. to find all the territorial changes related with one district - minor districts split off, single subdistricts getting reassigned and so on. Right now I think the first thing to do is to collect all those Royal Gazette references into one list, saving what they are about, which entities affected... Then the first bigger task would be convert the small application I created to parse the population data websites of DOPA and convert them into the tambon tables in the Wikipedia articles to actually use a much smarter data structure, both for saving the data as well as internally.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

District geocodes

The Department of provincial administration (DOPA) uses a list of geocodes for each of the provinces, districts and subdistricts, modeled after the ISO 3166-2 codes of the provinces. Newly created entities get a number following the existing ones of course, though not necessarily in the same order as the official creation as the geocode already gets assigned when the district is in the planning phase. However when that list was started, the numbers of the then-existing districts wasn't created in a simple alphabetical order, or in creation order.

Minor districts were a partial subordinate of the district from which they were created, so in official texts they are referenced as "King Amphoe ..., Amphoe ..., Changwat ...". For the same reason they got assigned a number directly following their master district. Thus with the oldest new districts added at the end of the geocodes instead of directly after the master allows it to date when this geocode list was started. Chai Buri, created in 1981, got the 8418, but Phunphin (the 8417) wasn't its master, so these geocodes were started around 1980 already. Minor districts created in 1978 however are sorted after their master district.

The odd thing about this timing is the fact that the first draft of the ISO 3166-2 standard with geocodes for the provinces of 1988 was based on the US-created FIPS, and not the apparently already existing codes from DOPA. Also in the 1990 census a different geocode system was used, but for the 2000 census the DOPA system was also adopted by the census department. The ISO standard was officially published in 1993, then based on the DOPA system. Also in the 2000 census the DOPA geocodes were used.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Abolished Monthon

The monthon (circles, มณฑล) were an administrative entity above the provinces, created in the administrative reforms of Prince Damrong in the 1890s and 1900s. Ever since I first read about them while collecting information for a province article on Wikipedia I wanted to find out more about these entities, and the difficulty to find information on English only made it more interesting. So I finally got myself the book The Provincial Administration of Siam 1892-1915 by Tej Bunnag from a library and got many new insights reading it - just too bad its out of print, and none of the antiquarians ever had one yet. However as the title of the book already suggests, that book ends with the resignation of Prince Damrong from his post as interior minister in 1915, and only mentions shortly that some of the monthon were abolished in 1925, and then finally after the revolution of 1932 all were abolished. So it was a minor surprise when I read the Royal Gazette entry on the abolishment of several provinces in 1932 and found out that at the same time also the monthon Pattani, Chanthaburi, Nakhon Chai Si and Nakhon Sawan were abolished and the provinces under these monthon assigned to the remaining monthon. According to a poster in the 2bangkok forum the final abolishment was a retaliation to the monthon administrators supporting the Boworndej counter revolution attempt.

The map shows the monthon as of 1915. I created the map in Tej Bunnags book to illustrate the Wikipedia article on the monthon. But actually the provinces shown in that map are those of 1932 after the abolishments mentioned above, so as soon as I find the districts within these provinces I will create a new version of that map.

Too bad my Thai is still so bad, browsing through the Royal Gazette would give many new insights or small facts almost impossible to find in English, or garbled in sloppy translations.

Monday, October 29, 2007

District offices

District office Phanom, Surat Thani
Most of the district offices (ทีว่าการอำเภอ) look quite alike, but sometimes they have something special around as well. Above is the one of Phanom in Surat Thani, with a Rafflesia sculpture next to it. The Khao Sok national park is part of this district, so this special flower is typical for this district. The sign reads "ประติมากรรมของดีเมืองพนม ดอกบัวผุด-ไผ่เฉียงรุน - Sculpture of the best of the town Phanom: Rafflesia and oblique net Bamboo (Gigantochloa balui )"

I've taken a few photos of district offices (and also the municipal and provincial administrations), and will post them here from time to time.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tambon spelling

The romanization of Thai words is always a pain, everyone uses his own system, and some even use different transcriptions of the same word in one text. For example เมืองพล can be transcribed as Mueang Phon, Muang Pon or Müang Phol, and many more variations. The Royal Institute created a transcription standard named Royal Thai General System of Transcription (RTGS), which has its weaknesses, but at least gives rather good spellings for an English reader. Wirote Aroonmanakun even created a software which can do a machine transcription, at least for most cases.

For quite some time it already has a list of recommended spellings for the districts and provinces. Earlier this year the Department of Provincial Administration published a book with the recommended spelling of all the subdistricts, which is also available online. Sadly it is only a PDF, thus I had to compare these new spellings with those created by the machine transcription tool manually.

That document also included the suggested translations of the terms changwat, amphoe, king amphoe, tambon and muban - now finally making it clear that a minor district and a subdistrict is not the same. Too bad they did not include the local administrative entities in that, especially for the word thesaban tambon a lot of different translations are used.

I sent my corrections to DOPA, but did not get any reply to my email. I just hope it was read and will incoportate my changes in the next version, and will consider my suggestions of a XLS or plain text version as well.

Stamps with the provincial seals

Just found on the My Philately World blog - the Thai post has started a series with the provincial seals. According to Thai post this first batch was just released on October 15. I will try to get myself these beautiful sheets next time I will visit Thailand.

This is already the second stamp series I have to buy next time, the other one is No. 803 with the Rafflesia flowers, as mentioned of this Rafflesia blog. How is this related with the topic of this blog? Rafflesia kerrii is the symbol flower of Surat Thani province...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Planned new districts?

When I was searching for information on Sakha Tambon (สาขาตำบล), I run across a set of lists with the geocodes at the website of the Thai Rak Thai party. That website is now offline as the party was dissolved earlier this year, but I of course mirrored those data. Anyway, looking at the one for Surat Thani, I noticed it included two minor districts (King Amphoe) which are not existing:

8420 ท่าโรงช้าง Tha Rong Chang
8421 บางสวรรค์ Bang Sawan

Altogether there were 84 such not yet existing minor districts which already have a geocode assigned. And these geocodes must be authentic, because for Khon Kaen it listed three new minor districts, and the recently created Wiang Kao got the geocode 4029, not 4026 as one would expect for the 26th district of Khon Kaen.


When I started editing on Wikipedia in 2003, I noticed that many of the Thai topics were not yet covered, and then got myself into writing articles on all the provinces. It took almost a year to have all the 76 provinces with a reasonably detailed article. After that I slowly started with the districts, but that task only took pace when a Thai friend joined in and helped to translate the informations from, as otherwise the article would just ugly lists of data, and no real text. Now all districts have an article, but the project hasn't stopped, there is still a lot of information to be included.

This is what this blog will be about - while working on these articles, I always stumble on facts I don't understand at first, mostly due to the fact I still don't speak much Thai, especially not with the formal language with lots of technical administrative terms. So whenever I run into such a problem, or on the other hand get a good inside on things which nagged me earlier, or there's something new happening with these subdivisions of Thailand, like the recent upgrade of all the minor districts, there'll be a new posting on this blog. Or also if I finish some minor tasks in the Wikipedia articles, or add something interesting in my spreadsheet collecting all the data of the subdivisions.

Probably the first posts here will be on insights I had earlier, documenting them here for historical purposes only.