Friday, September 30, 2011

Wiki loves monuments

This month several European Wikipedia editions held a collective event titled "Wiki Loves Monuments", in which they tried to give the officially registered monuments a better coverage in Wikipedia, especially taking lots of photos. For Germany, one of the biggest problem was the fact that the registration of monuments is done by the local government units, the municipalities or communes (Städte und Gemeinden). While some feature their monument list rather prominently on their website, or at least publish any changes on their list there. Yet others have nothing like this, and especially for the larger cities the list can be really lengthy - for example for Aachen its a PDF file with 29 pages, thus several hundred of monuments.

Wat Phattanaram
The Thai Wikipedia sadly did not take part in this event, though the compilation of a complete list of monuments would be a much easier task there - as the Thai administration is still much more centralized, its only the Fine Arts Department (กรมศิลปากร) which does the registration of monuments, and these are then published in the Royal Gazette. One simply has to find all the announcements with the term เขตที่ดินโบราณสถาน (area of historical site), which returns a total of 610 PDFs - and a few further with slightly variant titles. I had started to process that list into my XML format quite some time ago, but only for very few of the announcements I added the details in a machine readable format.

As an example, Wat Phattanaram (วัดพัฒนาราม) in Surat Thani town (photo album)has been declared a registered historical site in December 2001 (Gazette announcement). The corresponding entry in my XML looks like this
<entry description="Creation of historical sites in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani and Chumphon" 
 title="ประกาศกรมศิลปากร เรื่อง ขึ้นทะเบียนและกำหนดเขตที่ดินโบราณสถาน (วัดชายนา วัดท่าพญา วัดพัทธสีมา จังหวัดนครศรีธรรมราช, วัดเขาพระอานนท์ วัดพัฒนาราม จังหวัดสุราษฎร์ธานี และ วัดสวี จังหวัดชุมพร)" 
 volume="118" page="10-11" issue="พิเศษ 127 ง" uri="2544/E/127/10.PDF" publication="2001-12-21" sign="2001-08-29">
  <createpark index="5" type="HistoricalSite" name="วัดพัฒนาราม" english="Wat Phattanaram" 
   locationgeocode="840101" arearai="1.2575">
There is much more to discover in the Royal Gazette publication archive than just law texts and changes to administrative units, the items I usually cover in here as well as make up most of the coding project.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Subdistrict area changes/clarifications

Together with the two municipal announcements there were another three subdistrict area change announcements published in the Royal Gazette last Friday. As I had no time to check them in detail whether these actually mean any significant area changes compared with the original area definitions from 1997/98, which however I have included for reference so might check it yourself by reading the lengthy boundary definition. Just too bad there is never a map included in these kinds of announcements.

The three announcements are as follows:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New romanization list from DOPA

As a matter of coincidence, just one day after I posted on the strange wrong romanization of Thap Khlo district, I noticed that the Department of Provincial Administration had put a new file on their website containing a new list of transcriptions. The link is titled นามสงเคราะห์ส่วนราชการ ชื่ออำเภอ จังหวัด และตำแหน่งของปค.ภาษาอังกฤษ, which translates as "Glossary of official English names of Provinces, Districts and Positions in DOPA". Thus there are all the district and province names in English, confirming that Thap Khlo was spelled wrong in earlier publications, as well as the romanization guessed for the new district in Chiang Mai being Galyani Vadhana, following the late princess' English name and not the RTGS transcription scheme. As the title of the link suggests, the romanization of the district and province names are only one part of the document, the recommended translations of positions as well as structures within the provincial administration are an equally useful second part. I have already gone through my own glossary of terms to update the English names, Somewhat strange is the name of the head of a minor district, which is supposed to be "Minor Chief District Officer", which IMHO should better be "Chief Minor District Officer". Its however academic currently anyway, as there are no minor districts right now. Only missing in this list are the chumchon, which I would translate as borough. Only thing still missing is a new updated and corrected version of the subdistrict name transcriptions, which should also include the municipalities.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Municipal announcements

Yesterday another two announcement were published in the Royal Gazette which dealt with changes to municipalities.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bueng Kan PAO logo competition

It seems like the PAO Bueng Kan (องค์การบริหารส่วนจังหวัดบึงกาฬ) does not want to wait until the official seal of the province is finalized, and unlike most other provinces goes for a seal with an artwork differing from that of the corresponding provincial seal. I have stumbled on a news posting on the website of the Bueng Kan Provincial Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education titled ประชาสัมพันธ์ประกวดตราเครื่องหมายขององค์การบริหารส่วนจังหวัดบึงกาฬ (Announce of contest [to design] emblem of PAO Bueng Kan).

However before you rush to check out the PDF which contains the rules of the contest and start drawing sketches - I discovered this news so late that today is already the deadline to submit the proposals, so unless they got no worthy designs the logo will be known soon. The winning design will be awarded 10,000 baht (360 US$), though I have no idea of the normal prices of logo designers in Thailand.

The logo is supposed to be either round or an ellipse with a maximum diameter of 5 centimeter, the name "Bueng Kan PAO" in the border, and for the motive inside has to choose items which have a connection to the province.

Another information gained from the PDF - the Bueng Kan PAO has its (temporary) office at plot 198 in Mu 8 of Bueng Kan subdistrict, thus not in the district office like the preliminary province administration. However, I have no idea where this office location is on Google Earth, as there's no easy way to translate a Thai address into coordinates.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wrong romanizations

I have programmed a new little function around the XML to consolidate the romanized spellings of the administrative subdivisions which simply lists all the cases where the same Thai spelling had different romanized spellings in my XML. Especially for the administrative villages where I did the romanization manually (thus most of the Muban have no English spelling in my XML) I sometimes mixed up characters or did the spacing between the words differently. Therefore most of the cases where I had different spellings were mistakes on my side and fixed already, but there was one where the Royal Institute as the official institution to supervise the romanizations and recommended spellings has to blamed.

When DOPA on behalf of the Royal Institute published a list of recommended romanizations of all the subdistricts, I had spotted quite a lot of mistakes in that list already. But as I found and processed the corresponding list of district name recommendation several years before I learned to read Thai, so far I never questioned the spellings I picked from that list. But now with the help of my new code it seems found one mistake which was kept in Royal Institutes list for decades.

The name ทับคล้อ starts with the Thai character Tho Thahan, which is romanized with a Th as it is an aspirated consonant, in contrast to e,g, the unaspirated To Tao (ต). Any English speakers should not read this romanization like an English word, it is the same sound as in Thailand, not like in Thing. Therefore, the romanization of ทับคล้อ must be Thap Khlo. But - already in the recommended district romanizations published in Royal Gazette in 1987 it has been spelled Tap Khlo, And even the current PDF file from the Royal Institute website uses the spelling Tap Khlo. However, the reason why I was able to spot the mistake now is the list of recommended subdistrict romanization. In these files the subdistrict has been correctly romanized as Thap Khlo, and I now notice that the district is spelled Thap Khlo there as well. So while there have been several other mistakes in that list, the big mistake in the district list was fixed.

As the last publication in the Royal Gazette dates from 2000, and there have been two new districts in the meantime, it might be a good time to publish an updated (and corrected) version - or maybe even better publish a second edition of the subdistrict list addressing the mistakes, and adding the municipalities which in a few cases have a name with no corresponding district or subdistrict name. A reader has sent me several further cases where the recommended subdistrict romanizations might be wrong, but to my shame I haven't yet found the time to work through that list and incorporate it into the list of mistakes I have spotted.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another 4 new municipalities

Just few minutes after I had posted on the two latest municipalities, the Royal Gazette website was updated with new announcements including another four TAO upgrades to municipalities.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Two more new municipalities

Last Friday, the upgrade of two TAO to subdistrict municipalities was announced in the Royal Gazette.
Interestingly, both announcement were just signed last month, so unlike previous municipal upgrades they were published much faster. In fact even so fast that for Nong Bua Tai the announcement states that it will be effective October 1st, thus it got published even before it became effective. Compare this with the upgrade announcements from February, which were published more than a year after they were signed and became effective.

As the upgrade of Rusa Milae already happened, the list of municipal changes for fiscal year 2011 must have been preliminary, as that list only included changes till June. I only hope now all of the upgrades get into the Gazette that fast, as without the board meeting transcripts timely announcements help a lot to keep up to date.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Surat Thani municipal elections

Thirakit, probably the new mayor
Yesterday were the municipal election in Surat Thani city, both the mayor as well as the municipal council were elected. There were three candidates for the post of mayor
  1. Sombun Suwannabut (นางสมบูรณ์ สุวรรณบุตร), incumbent
  2. Thirakit Wangmuthitakun (นายธีระกิจ หวังมุทิตากุล)
  3. Sufang Chaewong (นายสุฟ้าง แซ่หว่อง)
Sufang banners
Though the campaigning officially started August 5, four year after the last municipal election marking the end of the term in office, I was able to catch photographs of all three mayor candidates while I was strolling through the city end of May. While I was looking for posters for the national elections - and there were just very few within the city - I found one poster of each of the new candidates. Rather interesting is the banner by candidate three, which shows Sufang with an old photograph of a whale caught or stranded. I wasn't even aware that there were whales in the Gulf of Thailand except the dolphins off Khanom beach and in Songkhla lake, but now learned that Bryde's Whale also is found in the Gulf of Thailand. Sadly don't know anything about the background of that photo on the poster.

City rewire project
The poster of incumbent mayor Sombun is not exactly an election poster, but the project announcement for the rewiring in the city center, getting rid of the ugly cables on posts along the street, changing to underground cables. Back in May a lot of construction on this project was underway within the city,   and though still a lot more will be necessary to make Surat Thani an actually beautiful city it will definitely look better when this project is done. And I wouldn't be surprised of this project was started right on time to be completed with the election date. One thing I am not yet understanding - according to the municipal law a mayor is only allowed to be in office for two consecutive terms, however Sombun would have started a third term if elected. Don't know why her first term starting in 2003 apparently did not count.

The election result is interesting, according to the inofficial preliminary result  the mayor will change, as Thirakit won 17,699 votes compared to 16,406 for incumbent mayor Sombun. Sufang only won 5,791 votes.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Two Tambon renamed

Yesterday the renaming of two subdistricts was announced in the Royal Gazette.
  • Thung Pi, Mae Wang district, Chiang Mai has been renamed to Thung Pi. Sounds strange - because the actual change is lost in the romanization, in Thai script the change is also just subtle but notable - ทุ่งปี้ as become ทุ่งปี๊. The tone mark on the last consonant has changed from a "mai tho" to a "mai tri", change the tone of the "pi" from falling to high. I would normally call this a change of spelling, but the announcement is titled "เปลี่ยนแปลงชื่อตำบล", change of name of subdistrict. Interestingly, even though the TAO hasn't been officially renamed yet, a Google search for "องค์การบริหารส่วนตำบลทุ่งปี๊" returns 86 results already, compared to 1530 with the old spelling. But apparently the TAO has no website currently.
  • Kham Rian (ตำบลขามเรียน), Yang Si Surat district, Maha Sarakham has been renamed to Sang Saeng (ตำบลสร้างแซ่ง). Village 5 of the subdistrict is named Sang Saeng, but none is named Kham Rian, so the new name is obviously more fitting, A closer look shows that there is a village named Kham Rian in Nong Bua subdistrict of Phayakkhaphum Phisai, and both Nong Bua and Sang Saeng had been split off from Mek Dam subdistrict. Taking a deeper look into the Royal Gazette announcements dealing with these subdistrict, the reason for the name change became clear. Kham Rian subdistrict took the name from the village Kham Rian when it was created in 1963 [Gazette], but however this specific village was taken away in 1990 [Gazette] and returned back to Mek Dam, and finally in 1992 it became part of the newly created subdistrict Nong Bua [Gazette].

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Change of Ko Pha Ngan municipal boundary

Announced in the Royal Gazette last Friday, and probably effective August 4 already, the TAO Ko Pha Ngan (องค์การบริหารส่วนตำบลเกาะพะงัน) and the subdistrict municipality Ko Pha Ngan (เทศบาลตำบลเกาะพะงัน) have changed their boundaries. There are two announcements, one dealing with the TAO [Gazette] and one with the municipality [Gazette], latter one also including a map to show the boundaries. And quite helpful, that map also marks the locations of the municipal and TAO office as well as the office of neighboring TAO Ban Tai - but since the websites of all three offices are offline I cannot be fully sure the locations I buildings I have picked for my map [see it in Google Earth] are 100% correct.

Sadly the announcement on the creation of the sanitary district Ko Pha Ngan (สุขาภิบาลเกาะพะงัน) from 1990 does not include a map, so I can only guess that the area transferred now was the small piece at the southeast, which is shown with a dotted line in the map. Then this transfer would make perfectly sense, as that area was then totally separated from the main part of the TAO, I only wonder why it took more than 10 years after the TAO was created to do it. And again, due to the lack of board meeting transcripts I haven't heard about this change before.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Province emblem for Bueng Kan in the making

In the fifth meeting of the administrative staff of Bueng Kan province, the issue of the provincial seal has been on the agenda. In the transcript of the meeting I could find the following:
๓.๗ เครื่องหมายราชการ (ตราประจำจังหวัด) วัฒนธรรมจังหวัดบึงกาฬ
มติที่ประชุม ที่ประชุมรับทราบ ตามที่จังหวัดได้ให้ความเห็นชอบไปแล้วนั้น สำนักงาน วัฒนธรรมจังหวัด แจ้งยืนยันไปยังกรมศิลปากรแล้วซึ่งมี ๒ แบบ แบบที่๑. รูปภาพ แบบที่๒.แบบลายเส้น ขณะนี้สำนักช่างสิบหมู่กำลังนำเรียนให้อธิบดีลงนามในแบบให้ ความเห็นชอบ เครื่องหมายราชการ(ตราประจำจังหวัดบึงกาฬ) ประกอบด้วย
๑. ภูทอก หมายถึงภูเดี่ยวๆ โดดๆ
๒. น้ำ หมายถึง บึง หนองน้ำ ซึ่งทุกอำเภอมีแหล่งน้ำ
๓. ป่า หมายถึง ต้นไม้ ป่าไม้
My rough translation of the above
Government symbol (Province seal) culture of Bueng Kan
Resolution of the conference is that the province already approved, the provincial cultural academy has already submitted to the Fine Arts Department two models, one photograph and one drawing. The model should contain the three elements
1. Phu Thok means the single lone hill
2. Water refers to the swamps and lakes each district has
3. Forest stands for the forests
Thus if I did not misunderstand the above, the emblem is now in the final approval and should be officially announced soon. Sadly, the transcript did not include any draft drawing of the emblem, so I still have no idea of how it will actually look like.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Siam in Transition - Part I

Thanks to Better World Books I got yet another antiquarian book on Thai topics at a very competitive price - Kenneth P. Landon's Siam in Transition first published in 1939 and reprinted in 1968. The book was his dissertation to get a Ph.D. in comparative religion. He was staying in Siam since 1927, working as a Presbyterian priest. But though the book focuses on religious topics, it also contains a lot of general items of Siam in the times of the transition between absolute monarchy to democracy. Most interesting for me is obviously the chapter on political trends, especially the "trend towards decentralization". The first part I am quoting from the book is the description of the central government structure, which except the Monthon is still almost identical today. In a second posting I will quote the description of the local government, i.e. the municipal administration.
The general trend has been to allow the administration to become more and more a local matter. Formerly the country was divided into Circles or Montons, over each of which was a Lord Lieutenant or Tetsa. The Monton is comparable to the Province in China, or to the State in the United States. Each Circle or Monton was divided into Cangwats, comparable to the American county. Each Cangwat had a Governor. The Cangwat again was divided into Amphoes which were in turn divided into Tambols. These last two divisions were lesser divisions of the area into districts. Finally each Tambol was divided into villages. For example, Monton Bhuket had five Cangwat. One of these Cangwat was Cangwat Trang which had five Amphoes. One of these Amphoes was Amphoe Tap Tiang which had about ten Tambols. The average Tambol had about ten villages. The only officials elected by the people were the village chief and the Nai Kamnan who was in charge of the Tambol. All Amphoe, Cangwat, and Monton officials were appointed from Bangkok. The officials sent out from Bangkok were frequently moved so that their administration migh be impartial. The people had little to say in matters of government. [...] The country was at one time divided into eighteen Montons. In 1926 this number was reduced to fourteen. In 1932 a further reduction was made to ten. A radical change was made in 1933 when the Monton system was abandoned and the kingdom was divided into seventy Cangwats. At the head of each Cangwat was a provincial commissioner. The high commissioners were stationed in Bangkok. Inspecting commissioners were attached to the Central Administration.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Google Streetview coming to Thailand

When I first read about Google opening an office in Bangkok, one of my wishes was StreetView coverage for Thailand. Just little bit more than 2 months later, it was now announced that they indeed will start taking imagery with their StreetView cars in Bangkok, in cooperation with the Tourism Authority (TAT). For those able to read Thai can read at the Google Blog itself, but Richard Barrow has already reported it on his blog as well.

I just hope it will not only the main touristic areas which get imagery, as also the many suburbs (including Nonthaburi or Samut Prakan) which would over lots of interesting places worth discovery in this way. And of course there are many interesting places in the provinces as well, so the StreetView cars could be kept busy for years for sure. At least there won't be such a PR disaster with paranoid home owners like here in Germany, where Google already stopped to take any new imagery - TAT has noticed the potential of being able to see where to go on vacation before.