The symbolism of minor royals

13 10 2009

It isn’t uncommon for places around the world to be named after monarchs and other royalty. Think of Britain.Thailand has been doing this for some time also, although there has definitely been an increase in this during this reign. Dams, roads, and so on. PPT recalls the changing of the name of the Khao Laem Dam to the Vajiralongkorn Dam in 2001, much to the disgust of some local residents.

Thai royals actually have numerous named locations in their honor – e.g. Chulabhorn, Sirindhorn (including a military base), and so on. One could argue about this being daft royalism or ideological embedding of royalism and so forth.

But are the royalists really getting to the bottom of the list when they have cabinet approve the establishment of a new district in Chiang Mai in Galyani Vadhana’s name? (See The Nation, 13 October 2009: “New Chiang Mai district set up to honour late HRH Princess Galyani”.)

Galyani Vadhana district has 647.58 square kilometres of area and a population of 10,561. The Cabinet is reported to have “approved the Interior Ministry’s proposal to separate Tambon Ban Chan, Tambon Mae Daed and Tambon Chaem Luang from Mae Chaem to establish the new district.”

Galyani was the king’s elder sister and despite all of the palaver following her death, she really didn’t do much of anything, so what is happening? Could there be a political angle to this? After all, this district will be in the heart of Thaksin-red shirt country.

Update: A reader writes to tell us that the cabinet approval of the district discussed above was in the works for some months. See the details here. PPT wasn’t aware of this or of the website, so we are appreciative of the advice. As the blog says, initially the “planned new district in Chiang Mai province, the name was listed as “Wat Chan district” (อำเภอวัดจันทร์) in most sources, but the idea of naming it in honor of the Princess Galyani Vadhana, sister of HM the King and deceased January 2nd 2008 was already in discussion.” Our reader tells us the king chose the name – guess he didn’t need to think too long – อำเภอกัลยาณิวัฒนา อำเภอที่ 878. The reader also points us to an earlier story on naming by and for royals.


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