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...