Bangkok’s real name has 168 letters. Its new name will have five words (and brackets)


In February, the Business office of the Royal Society, the official guardian of the Thai language, issued a selection that appeared to underscore its position that the money should be identified everywhere as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, instead than Bangkok.

The Royal Society’s ruling was subtle, rendering the formal name for intercontinental uses as “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok),” instead than what it had been: “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Bangkok.”

“By working with the parentheses, this punctuation mark emphasises the importance of the title in front of the parentheses,” said Santi Phakidkham, the deputy secretary-typical of the Place of work of the Royal Culture.

Jintana Rapsomruay washes dishes at a stall where she makes a popular dessert in Bangkok. “If I were the government, I would first take care of my people and fix the economy instead of making a fuss over a name for political reasons.”

Jintana Rapsomruay washes dishes at a stall where by she tends to make a common dessert in Bangkok. “If I have been the govt, I would initial take treatment of my people and take care of the economic system rather of earning a fuss over a name for political explanations.”Credit:Adam Dean/The New York Occasions

The Thai cabinet — headed by Primary Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former armed forces main and leader of the 2014 coup — has permitted the Royal Society’s ruling with its possess decree, building a parenthetical Bangkok the legislation of the land.

The change from semicolon to parentheses has provoked community dissatisfaction. But it’s not the identify itself to which any one really objects the money is universally acknowledged to Thai speakers as Krung Thep or by the initials “Kor Tor Mor”.

People repair pavement near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Some people prefer their leaders focus on fixing the economy rather than on changing the city’s name.

Persons fix pavement around the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the cash of Thailand. Some people prefer their leaders concentrate on fixing the financial state somewhat than on modifying the city’s title.Credit rating:Adam Dean/The New York Situations

Relatively, the way an elite clique did the update is what bothered some in a populace that seems ever more unwilling to settle for diktats from royalist, tradition-certain establishments.

“Using Krung Thep about Bangkok is mad to the position of remaining idiotic,” claimed Charnvit Kasetsiri, a Thai historian and former rector of Thammasat University in Bangkok. “The upper-class Thais love to do this form of matter, switching common names, authentic Thai names, into these fancy, partly Pali, partly Sanskrit, blended-up names.”

Charnvit noted that other Thai town names have been gussied up around the several years, primary to confusion among locals who proceed to refer to their hometowns by the more mature names. Korat, for instance, is formally recognized as Nakhon Ratchasima. On highway signs, the far more widespread type is from time to time appended in brackets.

‘Using Krung Thep around Bangkok is crazy to the position of getting idiotic.’

Charnvit Kasetsiri, historian

The government’s press to use what it considers a loftier identify for the funds will come amid broader efforts to update intercontinental nomenclature, together with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s campaign to improve Turkey to Türkiye and a push to refer to the money of Ukraine as Kyiv relatively than the Russian Kiev, a improve many media organisations have just lately adopted.

It also comes amid a world motion to handle the legacy of colonialism, including in area names.

But Thailand is the one particular country in South-east Asia by no means to have been colonised, and the title Bangkok is not a relic of empire.

At a time when so lots of in Thailand are struggling from the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, some Thais are questioning irrespective of whether an official policy of Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok) is really amid the most pressing challenges for the governing administration.

“I don’t want to say far more about the cash identify simply because I don’t have very good connections,” Jintana mentioned, her fingers rolling dough. “But what I know is that all these folks, they really do not even see vendors like me as human.”

While a mass protest movement has stalled, discontent with Prayuth’s federal government simmers. Some critics of the coup that brought him to electric power fled abroad and turned up lifeless. Dozens of younger protest leaders have been imprisoned.


Prosecutions of royal defamation have greater sharply, with a previous civil servant sentenced very last yr to more than four a long time in jail. Some protest leaders have referred to as for the monarchy to post to the structure and are now experiencing, collectively, hundreds of several years in jail for lèse-majesté, which criminalises criticism of senior members of the royal spouse and children.

“People throughout Thailand, not just the youthful, recognise the argument of reforming the monarchy,” claimed Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who was elected president of the University student Union at Chulalongkorn College in Bangkok. “It’s not marginal, it’s mainstream.”

Netiwit missing his situation in February right after the university administration determined that he was related to an event involving activists who have called for monarchical reform.

Some Thais are much more enthusiastic about the govt espousing the more time name.

Giant posters of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun and Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, the current king’s fourth wife, tower over public places in Bangkok.

Giant posters of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun and Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, the present king’s fourth spouse, tower above community locations in Bangkok.Credit score:Adam Dean/The New York Occasions

On a modern morning, Vichian Bunthawi, 88, a retired palace guard, sat cross-legged on a bench at the sleepy railway station in Bangkok Noi. The cash need to be regarded all over the environment as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, he claimed, remembering how his most important schoolteacher would generate the entire identify on the chalkboard.

“Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is the name of the capital,” he reported. “It is wherever the king lives.”

The 1st king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, moved the money in 1782, from the still left financial institution of the Chao Phraya River, in which the Bangkok Noi district is, to the east bank. On marshy floor, he and his successors built gilded, jewelled palaces. The comprehensive identify of Krung Thep Maha Nakhon incorporates a paean to “an massive royal palace resembling the heavenly abode in which the reincarnated god reigns”. In Thai custom, the king is semi-divine.

In 1932, complete monarchy was abolished, but the royal loved ones nonetheless retains an huge existence in Thai life. Large posters of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun and Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, the recent king’s fourth spouse, tower in excess of general public locations.

The king, whose lavish lifestyle contrasts with the austerity forced upon lots of Thais by the pandemic, spends most of his time in Germany.

Regardless of whether as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or Bangkok, the character of the capital has altered considerably more than the many years. Metropolis planners filled in the canals that utilised to be the city’s transportation arteries. Rice paddies gave way to malls and condominiums.

In a again alley guiding a Buddhist temple in Bangkok Noi, Chana Ratsami nevertheless plays a Thai xylophone. His wife’s family members of palace attendants lived in Bangkok Noi for generations.


Now, he reported, the lane’s residents are primarily migrants from upcountry.

“They never know the record of this position,” he reported, describing how the targeted traffic-choked highway at the stop of the lane used to be a canal with boats floating past, loaded with bouquets and fruit. “I miss out on the old town, no make any difference what it’s termed.”

This report initially appeared in The New York Occasions.


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