A storm in city teacup

A storm in city teacup

The latest decision by the Office of the Royal Society (ORST) to update the name and official spelling of the capital city has created a storm in a teacup.

The hubbub came after the cabinet on Tuesday approved ORST's official announcement on updated official spellings of countries, administrative zones and geographic names of places. The confusion arose after ORST revised the capital's official name to "Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok)" instead of Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, which has been the city's official name since 2001.

Critics fear the updated name will breed confusion and possibly harm the tourism brand of "Bangkok", which is a nickname made popular as foreigners prefer using it for easier pronunciation. Bangkok was indeed the name of the Thon Buri area centuries ago. But no matter what the history is, the updated name has caused some worry. Some say the change of how the authorities spell the name might lead to unexpected costs such as updating official and commercial documents.

The government came out to clear the air by saying each agency is permitted to call the capital city "Bangkok" or "Krung Thep" as they prefer. Even so, the issue has been blown out of proportion.

What is more frustrating is the top-down mentality and one-way communication that the authorities have used in dealing with the matter. Up until now, people have been scratching their heads wondering why ORST needed to revise the spelling in the first place. Most of all, they wonder what they need to do.

ORST chose to communicate the name change with the public by releasing a press statement only. That is such a pity. The academic body should have taken this occasion to engage with and educate people about its work more.

But ORST has done good work in providing definitions for new terms. Last year, ORST provided Thai definitions for terms such as new normal, artificial intelligence (AI), bitcoin, cryptocurrency and virtual reality. The agency should have focused on updating terms and definitions for the future, instead of trying to correct the spelling of a name to reflect the past.

As ORST recedes to its ivory tower, people have to rely on politicians to deal with the issue. Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome is reported as saying in a blissful voice that the new title will reflect glory from the past.

Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek makes the matter sound like a linguistic and grammar test by saying the only change is semicolon and parenthesis -- Krung Thep Maha Nakhon; Bangkok into Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok).

To quell the tempest in the teacup, the authorities especially ORST must speak to the public and answer questions. Both state agencies and the commercial sector need to be informed about what they have to do with the changed name. Do they need to update new documents? What are the additional costs?

Either Bangkok, Krung Thep -- with or without semicolon and parenthesis, the authorities need to understand that the capital is more than words and spelling. It's a name derived from the fact that people recognise where they live and decide to call it as such. If the authorities decide to change it, they should consult people first and ask before making decisions.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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