Thursday, April 30, 2009

Siam or Thailand?

The Kingdom of Siam was renamed to Thailand under the authoritan regime of Field Marshal Phibun in 1939, and after a short interlude from 1945 to 1949 with a reversion the old name only the name Thailand was used. However, this name is a bit controversial as it refers to the main population group only. But ethnic Thai are by far not the only citizen of the country, there are lots of Chinese, the Malay in the troubled southern provinces, hill tribes, the Isan people who sometimes prefer to call themself Lao to show the cultural differences with the central Thai.

A great article on the name change is "Siam or Thailand: what's in a name?" by B.J. Terwiel, originally published in Bangkok Post of January 10 2008. It was written as at that time it had a bit of discussion on the name after Charnvit Kasetsiri, an historian and former rector of Thammasat University, started a petition to revert to the historical name.

Charnvit has now restarted his petition, responding to the invitation of Prime Minister Abhisit to submit proposals for amending the 2007 constitution - one of his attempts the dampen the tensions between red and yellow shirts after the Songkran riots. An English translation can be found at Prachatai (Original in Thai).

Even more interesting for this blog is the third point in his petition, where he calls for the recreation of Thonburi province. This province was abolished and merged with Phra Nakhon province to the special administrative area of Bangkok metropolis. His reason for this is simply that the administrative act was done after the 1971 coup in a undemocratic way. But with this reasoning quite a lot of things would have to be reverted, as for most of the times since the end of absolute monarchy Thailand was no real democratic country. Besides, as Thonburi and Bangkok have grown together so much already it'd make no sense to split it. On the contrary, it might even make more sense to add Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi into the city as well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New district museums

Visiting the district museum of Thawi Watthana, we got a nice brochure which among other things includes a list of all the district museums. In my last post on these museums I had listed 20 museums, the brochure lists a total of 27 museums. Those not mentioned previously are
  • Bang Khen (บางเขน), in Building 18 of Phranakhon Rajabhat University (มรภ พระนคร อาคาร ๑๘)
  • Don Mueang (ดอนเมือง), in the temple Wat Phrom Rang Si (วัดพรหมรังษี)
  • Suan Luang (สวนหลวง), in the Sala Mai Sak Rian Thai (ศาลาไม้สักเรือนไทย) of Wat Tai (วัดใต้)
  • Khan Na Yao (คันนายาว), in the temple Wat Bun Si Munikan (วัดบุญศรีมุนีกรณ์, however in Google Maps spelled วัดบุญศรีมณีกรณ์)
  • Lat Krabang (ลาดกระบัง), in the temple Wat Sutthaphot (วัดสุทธาโภชน์)
  • Wang Thonglang (วังทองหลาง), within the Chao Phraya Bodindecha Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์เจ้าพระยาบดินทรเดชา or สิงห์ สิงหเสนี)
  • Nong Chok (หนองจอก), Museum Building in 76 Provinces Royal Auspicious Trees Park (อาคารพิพิธภัณฑ์ บริเวณสวนไม้มงคลพระราชทาน 76 จังหวัด)
Also, the one of Samphanthawong was moved to the Wat Pathum Kongka School, as the space within Wat Traimit became a new Chinatown Heritage Museum. I have added them all to the map below, except Nong Chok as I cannot find the location on this park in any of my maps. And at least the one of Suan Luang is easily reachable, is it within walking distance between the Skytrain station Onnut and the famous Mae Nak shrine. Sadly I compile the above list to late to drop it a visit as well.

Actually, these seven museums aren't new, I just could not find them when I compiled the original list since they were not indexed within the broken BMA local museum website (which now ceased to work completely). The only website which has anything on these museums is the Local Museum Database, which also includes the opening hours.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Trip in review

I am back now from Thailand, and as usual by far not all of the plans made before turned out to be possible, but then on the other hand many other interesting things happened instead. So in order to give an idea what might be the contents of this blog for the next months, here a small list of the new input.
  • Though I haven't found any new book specific to the topic of the blog, there will be some excerpts from a German travel report from 1899. I discovered a reprint from 1986 at the National Book Fair.
  • This trip was the most successful ever in taking photographs of the offices of the various administrative entities - province halls, districts offices, municipality and TAO offices, and also some city pillar shrines. So a lot of content for illustrated postings on these places.
  • I had planned to visit more of the district museums in Bangkok, and this year I did a total of six new ones. Each interesting in itself, and also quite some new information on the whole project, so expect several posts on this.
  • Instead of the Siam Flag museum we visited the House of Museums in Thawi Watthana.
An observation: I haven't seen a single car having a license plate with the provincial graphics, though I have seen some cars which much have gotten their license in an auction and thus would have been eligible for such a car sign.

And of course, there are also several new places which will get featured in my travel blog. But those I won't tell you before, so it'll be a surprise to my readers which sites I will write about.

There were not many things in the Royal Gazette during the last four weeks regarding my topics, only one announcement of the same kind I have reported here before, and three constituency definitions of municipalities. There haven't been any new transcripts with the municipality upgrades for quite some time now, the latest one is still from the end of November. Once these get updated there'll be lots of posts on the municipalities again.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mistakes in the DOPA population tables

I already mentioned it when I explained the population statistics from the Department of Provincial Administration (DOPA) - there are some cases where these statistics have relatively obvious errors. I only found them because my parser for these data stumbled upon them, and I had to create some workarounds to make sure the specific year and province still gets parsed completely. Of course errors can occur with 15 years with each 76 provinces, or even more descriptive more than 110,000 data entries.

The following list is not complete, only to illustrate three different kinds of errors which occur. If someone needs a full list I can of course work through my files and compile a full list - maybe someone at DOPA wants to fix their data?
  • The most obvious mistakes are misspellings. One example would be 1993 and 1994 data of Samut Songkhram, where the subdistrict Si Sa Chorakhe Yai is spelled ศรีษะจรเข้ใหญ่ instead of ศีรษะจรเข้ใหญ่, the "i" on top of the second instead of the first character.
  • In the 1993 data of Phatthalung, under the district Pa Bon it shows 297 citizen in an unnamed subdistrict, only listed as "ตำบล*** 93080500 ***". This geocode was probably already assigned to a planned subdistrict, which however then wasn't created.
  • The most tricky mistake are subdistricts placed under the wrong municipality, while a subdistrict placed in a wrong district did not occur. The example for this is the 1993 data for Prachuap Khiri Khan: the town Prachuap Khiri Khan includes the subdistrict Nong Khae (ตำบลหนองแก) which is actually part of the town Hua Hin, and also the town Hua Hin contains the subdistrict Prachuap Khiri Khan (ตำบลประจวบคีรีขันธ์) which of course belongs to the town Prachuap.
It's no coincidence that all of the above example are from 1993, as it is especially the oldest data which has more mistakes, for the latest data I cannot find any such errors anymore.

Another thing which looks strange but is probably correct are municipalities which include subdistrict with only a handful of citizen. This might be due to the boundary of the municipality including a small part of a neighboring subdistrict.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Constitutional court ruling 7/2541 (1998)

Since Google introduced the new feature Search Wiki, I could finally filter out all the spam results from my standard searches, e.g. for the word "tambon". And once all the hotel sites and the Wikipedia clones are no longer visible, the interesting links are much easier to see. That's how I could now find the following, which normally would be hidden between spam somewhere around the 10th or 15th page of search results.

In ruling No. 7/2541 the constitutional court (ศาลรัฐธรรมนูญ) decided on a complaint issued by the municipal council of Tha Kham, Surat Thani, which was dissolved by the Ministry of the Interior and replaced by a provisional council by the provincial governor. The root for this dissolution order is the fact that with the constitution of 1997 the terms of the municipal council was changed from 5 years (as of the Municipal Act, B.E. 2496) to 4 years. However the council was elected for a term of 5 years, and the 1997 constitution did not include a transitory provision for this case. As the council was not willing to stand for a new election one year early, the Ministry ordered the dissolution, and even did not follow the normal suit that the outgoing council stays in office till the new one was elected but appointed a provisional council instead. However, the court did not accept the case, and the council members also failed in a second ruling (10/2541) few weeks later.

Of course the whole was only accessible to me thanks to the fact that the main part of the ruling was translated into English - the Thai version like the full document published in the Royal Gazette (Volume 115, Issue 69 ก, Page 1-23) is of course beyond my grasp.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New books

I have recently bought two new books, further ridiculing my old claim that there almost no books on the administrative system. Both are anthologies of scientific papers by various scholar of Thai studies, and it's hardly surprising that each contains one by late David K. Wyatt, maybe the most prolific in this field. As a side note, Rikker had a review of Professor Wyatts Southeast Asian library on his blog.

The first book is Regions and national integration in Thailand, 1892-1992 compiled by Volker Grabowsky. It is the compilation of papers presented at a conference at the University of Passau. As one can see from the title, this conference already took place in 1992, and the book was published in 1995, but it is still on sale by the publisher. The conference did take place at the centennial of Prince Damrongs appointment as first Interior Minister and the begin of thesaphiban reforms.

Much older is the second book, Modern Thai politics : from village to nation published in 1976 and compiled by Clark D. Neher. I found this one at a bookseller in the US selling it for 1$ (however shipping over the atlantic was another 8$), and it is a somewhat torn former library book. It was outlisted by the Loyola library in Chicago and now gets its place in my personal library.

Actually reading them have to wait till I return from Thailand, and hopefully I will find more interesting book there to further enlarge my library. But with just 90 books on Thai topics I doubt I'd ever get close to the 15,000 books Professor Wyatt collected.

Monday, April 20, 2009

OTOP fruit wine

This time basically a photo blog kind of posting. The picture shows the label of a bottle of fruit wine, bought at a road-side shop near Mae Sai at the northernmost part of Thailand. The reason why this label fits into the blog is simple - it is one of the many thousands products produced under the OTOP (One Tambon One Product) label, in which each subdistrict creates one or several locally produced products.

The fruit wine (ไวน์ผลไม้) and herb wine (ไวน์สมุนไพร) are the OTOP product of subdistrict Wiang Phang Kham (ตำบลเวียงพางคำ), located in the northeast of the district Mae Sai. As the road to the town Mae Sai and the boundary to Myanmar (Burma) passes through Wiang Phang Kham, the producers have put their sales stands along this road. Sadly I have no photo of these road-side shops, but anyone who has ever driven into rural Thailand must have seen it already.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Commemorative coins for each Thai province

When Rikker blogged about new coin designs recently, I used the opportunity to ask him about the provincial commemorative coins I once saw on ThaiLex. He quickly provided me with the corresponding link at the treasury department.

While this site shows good scans of these coins, it does not give any details on them, like the number of coins minted each year, or who was the artist to create the designs. Also, strangely a total of 18 provinces are missing, but instead Pattaya, which is not a province but only a special kind of municipality, has its own coin. These might be out of stock, as on ThaiLex it has coins for all provinces.

These coins are only minted for collectors, as they are no legal tender - unlike the 50 states quarters program in the US, or the German 2 Euro coins. In both cases the coins are normal legal tender but it will have one coin for each of the first level subdivisions. It's more fun for the casual collector, every shopping can be a success to catch a item for the collection.

I only discovered it by accident that by clicking on the orange text in the catalog a webshop opens in a popup window to order the coins. Congratulations to the web designer for hiding it so well - unlike the blue details link there is no indication that it is a link, except maybe the Thai caption "ผลิตภัณฑ์ที่เกี่ยวข้อง". Anyway, the prices for each coin depend on the size.

DiameterPrice per coinPrice for 77 coins
2.5 cm15 Baht1155 Baht (25 Euro)
4 cm120 Baht9240 Baht (185 Euro)
7 cm500 Baht38,500 Baht (770 Euro)

I am not sure if I will make it to Chatuchak weekend market in this vacation, as that should be the place where these coins are easiest to find. Anyway, only the smallest version would fit the budget I would spend for such collectibles. Or maybe I'll just buy the one for my favorite province Surat Thani?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shortest terms of provincial governors

In the recent reshuffle of provincial governors a few had been transferred or even retired after just 4 months in office. However, such short terms did occur in the past already, but of course aren't that normal. Yet while working through the lists of province governors to add them into my XML one is outstanding. In Ratchaburi it had three governors within five months - the interesting part of the list reads as follows.
24.นายอุดม บุญประกอบNovember 2nd, 1944December 12th, 1944
25.หลวงนิคมคณารักษ์ (เทียน กำเหนิดเพชร)December 12th, 1944January 15th, 1945
26.นายจรัส ธารีสารFebruary 5th, 1945March 30th, 1945
I noticed similar short terms for the final part of World War II in other provinces, but sadly I don't know what where the actual reasons for the high fluctuation of these government officers at that time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Statue in front of Interior Ministry

Fitting to the current events, here's a photo I made just on Saturday while doing a walking trip after the rainshower ended. The first site I went was the Ministry of the Interior, where I planned to take a photo of the statue of Prince Damrong in front of it. The whole area was like deserted, as the action on that day took place in Pattaya. And just the next day this location came into focus when the red shirt mob tried to lynch the prime minister, who barely escaped through a back exit.

Right now I am Surat Thani, only watching the latest death blow to tourism in Thailand on TV. There are several other blogs giving in-depth coverage of the events, for example Bangkok Pundit, so I don't need to repeat second hand news here. An interesting posting by Rikker in his Word of the Day column is on the word for "state of emergency" (สถานการณ์ฉุกเฉิน). He even compiled the Gazette announcements into a great list, doing something like that I had in my mind shortly during the airport closure last year but then with other works it slipped out. Guess I'll return to it once back at my computer at home, e.g. compiling maps for it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Governor list of Chumphon

The list of governor of Chumphon has some interesting inconsistencies, which are worth noting here as the reason for them can create confusion at other places as well.

First the part where everything is fine, but only if one known about the Thai calendar.
ลำดับที่ชื่อ - สกุลระยะเวลาดำรงตำแหน่ง
4พระยาสุราฤทธิ์ภักดี 1 เมษายน 2449 - 30 มิถุนายน 2451
5พระยาสำเริงนฤปการ1 มกราคม 2451 - 30 มิถุนายน 2452
6พระยาวิเศษชัยชาญ1 มกราคม 2452 - 30 มิถุนายน 2455

Governor number 5 started his term on 1st January
2451, while his predecessor ended his term on June 30 2451. But this does not mean that there were two governors in office for the first six months of 2451 (1908), because until 2484 (1941) the new year was on April 1, and January to March 2541 were in fact in 1909 already. So instead of six month overlapping terms this means half year without governor. Quite possible, especially as the same happened with the
next governor.

ลำดับที่ชื่อ - สกุลระยะเวลาดำรงตำแหน่ง
10พระยาพิพิธลำพลวิมลภักดี31 ตุลาคม 2464 - 31 มกราคม 2471
11พระยาสัจจาภิรมย์อุดมราชภักดี1 พฤษภาคม 2471 - 31 มกราคม 2473
12พระระนองธานี1 มิถุนายน 2473 - 31 พฤศจิกายน 2476
13พระราชญาติรักษา30 มีนาคม 2475 - พฤศจิกายน 2476
14พระยาอมรฤทธิ์ธำรง1 มีนาคม 2476 - 9 กันยายน 2478

But now governor number 10 ended his term on 31 January
2471 (i.e. January 1929), and next governor started 1 May 2471 (i.e.
May 1928), which meant there would be an overlap of nearly one year.
So here (and also for number 11 and 13) the year start in April was
forgotten? For number 14 however 1 March 2476 is correct again, as
this was after November 2476.

I have no idea if it was possible to have two incumbents at the same time back then, but it seems rather unlikely to me, so I presume that for some of the entries the year number must be wrong due to forgetting to take the April 1st new year date into account. I don't know how many of the Thai are aware of this change nearly seventy years ago. Thus every date before 1941 in the months January to March must be taken with care, either a mistake was done when compiling the list in Thai dates, or more likely when transferring it to western dates.

Needless to say I contacted the email address on that webpage, and got no response at all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Muban website

While many of the municipalities and Tambon administrative organizations have websites already, some even with an English section, I just came across the first fully bilingual website of a village. What is even more surprising is the fact that this village is located in the agricultural and rather poor Northeast region (Isan), and apparently the website was done by some villages themselves, even the English part. And the many photos on the site give a good image of the rural life.

The village is Ban Duan Noi (บ้านดวนน้อย), village 4 of Mueang Khaen subdistrict, Rasi Salai district, Sisaket province. It is located 12 kilometer from the district center and 51 from the province center. They included the satellite image of their village in Google Maps, but the street map of that area does not include any village names.

The total area of the village is about 3500 rai (ไร่) or 5.6 km². 52 rai is the settled area, 79 rai is public land, and the majority of 3369 rai is farm land. The village has a total of 414 citizen, 211 men and 203 women, living in 79 households. Of these, 72 households do farming, 60 have lifestock, and 7 are working as employees. 75 of the households have an annual income of more than 20,000 Baht. The village has one temple, but no school.

Also interesting is the history. The village dates back to the year 1852. Kamtha together with 7 other families from the village Ban Don Mai Ngam (Nong Mi subdistrict) started the new settlement 15 kilometers from their former village. At first they named it Ban Kao (บ้านเก่า), but after many of the people died of Malaria the name was seen as having a bad karma and thus changed it to Ban Duan Noi.

Even the complete list of village headmen is given on the website.
  • Khamtha Phaha (นายคำตา พาหา)
  • Boonma Phaha (นายบุญมา พาหา
  • Kerd Phansi (นายเกิด พันธ์ศรี)
  • Thongsa Phaha (นายทองสา พาหา)
  • Thamma Amnuay (นายทำมา อำนวย)
  • Khun Kaewpanya (นายคูณ แก้วปัญญา)

Monday, April 6, 2009

DOLA magazine

The Department of Local Administration (DOLA) has its own monthly magazine named ท้องถิ่นไทย meaning something like "Local Thai". Unlike the similar magazine from DOPA, at least parts of the magazine are downloadable as PDF from the DOLA website.

Though I cannot read much, at least I can recognize some topics by looking at these PDF. So the latest issue online from January 2009 (but mistitled as มกราคม 2551 on the website) includes a report on the city administration of Munich, including a portrait of the mayor Christian Ude (คริสเตียน อูเด). Munich is referred to as เทศบาลนครมิวนิค, and in a later photo one can see the giant ballot papers due to the complicated voting procedures including cumulative voting.

It seems each issue has around 100 pages. The magazine is now in its 5th year, it was started in December 2004. According to the order form it costs 700 Baht per year, and probably not found in the normal bookstores like the normal for-profit magazines.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Provincial symbol of Prachuap Khiri Khan

The prime symbol of the province Prachuap Khiri Khan, which is found in its seal as well as in many other places, is a small pavilion located in a cave. Quoting the Kanchanapisek website (sadly only possible via as the website is mostly empty for some years already and no webmaster notices it):
Prachuap Khiri Khan Province has two places on its seal to indicate its historical importance, namely Kuha Karuhas Pavillion and Lak Isle. The former was built in 1890 on King Rama V's visit within Praya Nakorn Cave, Samroiyord Sub-district and is still there to this day. The latter is located in Prachuap Bay, Muang District.
I could visit this pavilion in 2005, and while the pavilion itself is not that impressive, for me the location in the cave illuminated by the sun through the partially collapsed roof of the cave made much more impression than its historic meaning. Thus in the picture I tried to catch the surroundings of the pavilion as well - just too bad that the sun did not shine on the pavilion itself at the time of day I was there.

This pavilion can be found on most of the symbolic items for Prachuap Khiri Khan. Most of all it is of course in the provincial seal, and derived from this also the scouting emblem for the province.

However for the car license plate shown below, only the landscape around that cave is displayed (Gazette). And also a bit surprising, the TAO Sam Roi Yot which contains the cave does not have it on its symbol either.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Municipal decisions for November 26 2008

When I wrote on the Royal Gazette announcements on the area transfer between TAO and municipality Ram Masak, Ang Thong, I claimed that these were not mentioned in any of the board meeting transcripts. But now I know why Google did not find - it was just added recently, and unlike the other municipal decisions this was not discussed in the second board, but in a joint meeting of board one and two. Normally I only check the transcripts of board two as it those so far which contained decisions on the local government entities. So after now I have to check at least the joint meetings as well...

This 5th joint meeting on November 26 had two issues around the municipalities - the first one the transfer of area between TAO and municipality Ram Masak, the second are some amendments on the upgrade of TAO Thung Luang, Wiang Sa, Surat Thani to subdistrict municipality, which already happened in July 2008. But as my Thai is far too bad to actually read this long text, and trying to machine-translate parts with Thai2English did not help much either, the above is all I can report on this meeting right now.