English speakers and others using the Roman alphabet aren’t going to have to start calling the Thai capital by its local name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, and drop the more familiar “Bangkok.”
The message from Thailand’s The Office of the Royal Society (ORST), which is responsible for academic and linguistic standards, after a seemingly innocuous change in punctuation in official guidance sparked a flurry of speculation that the city’s name was being changed.
It started when the Cabinet on Tuesday approved a Royal Society proposal changing the way the capital would be referred to internationally from “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon; Bangkok” to “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok).”
The capital is already officially known in the Thai language as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, which literally means “great city of angels,” and most Thais shorten it to just Krung Thep in conversation.
The cabinet on Tuesday approved a Prime Minister’s Office draft announcement on updated names of countries, territories, administrative zones and capitals, as proposed by the ORST.
The new official name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, will not come into effect until it is vetted by a committee in charge of scrutinising all draft bills. The cabinet also asked the panel to take into consideration additional observations from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Visitors have their photo taken at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram / Wat Phra Kaew) on Nov 1 last year, its first day of reopening after the Covid-19 closure.
The announcement, approved by the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday, said that the ORST’s committee on the dictionary of international geographic names, comprising experts from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, had updated the spelling of countries, territories, administrative zones and capitals to be in line with the current situation. The panel then submitted the list to the PM’s Office to issue the announcement.
The draft announcement also revokes the Prime Minister’s announcement on names of countries, territories, administrative zones and capitals dated Nov 9, 2001, using the ORST’s announcement on updated names of Sept 1, last year.
In the ORST’s announcement, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon will become the official name of the Kingdom of Thailand’s capital. However, the name Bangkok will be put in parentheses.
In the same announcement, the ORST also updated the official spelling for other countries, including Rome and Roma for Italy’s capital, the change of Myanmar’s capital from Yangon to Nay Pyi Taw and the change of the Kingdom of Nepal to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
Government deputy spokeswoman Ratchda Dhanadirek on Wednesday said nothing had been changed in the naming of the capital.
The Thai name Krung Thep Maha Nakhon would be used only as its official name. The name Bangkok would still be recognised in parenthesis, she explained on her Facebook page.
On its Facebook page, the Office of the Royal Society also posted a message that both names could be used, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon and Bangkok, after its announcement on the name change drew public criticism.
Bangkok has been in use officially since November 2001 under an Office of the Royal Society announcement. It came from an old area of Bangkok, which is now a part of the greater metropolitan area of the capital, Bangkok Noi and Bangkok Yai districts. Historically, it has been in common use for a long time.
The Thai name for Bangkok, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, is actually a short form of the capital’s full name, which is rooted in Pali and Sanskrit and is more of a phrase to describe the city than a name: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
That is the world’s longest city name, according to the Guinness World Records.