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Provinces of Thailand
Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (Thai: จังหวัด, changwat, singular and plural), which are grouped into 5 groups of provinces - sometimes the East and Central are grouped together. The name of the province is the same as that of the capital city, which is sometimes preceded with a Mueang (or Muang) to avoid confusion with the province. With the exception of Songkhla the capital is also the biggest city in the province.
Bangkok is both the province with the highest population and the highest population density. The biggest province by area is Nakhon Ratchasima, the smallest Samut Songkhram. Mae Hong Son has the lowest population density, Ranong the lowest population (numbers according to 2000 census).
Each province is administered by a governor, who is appointed by the Ministry of the Interior. The only exception is Bangkok, in which the governor is elected.
The provinces are subdivided into 795 districts (amphoe, อำเภอ) and 81 minor districts (king amphoe, กิ่งอำเภอ). The fifty districts of Bangkok are called khet (เขต), but even in official documents are sometimes misnamed as amphoe. The number of districts in the provinces varies, from just three in the smallest provinces up to the fifty in Bangkok. Further subdivision levels are tambon (communes or sub-districts) and mubaan (villages).
List of provinces
- List of provinces of Thailand by area
- List of provinces of Thailand by population
- List of provinces of Thailand by population density
- ISO 3166-2:TH
Many provinces date back to semi-independent local chiefdoms or kingdoms, which made up the Ayutthaya kingdom. As today, the provinces were created around a capital city (Mueang), and included surrounding villages or satellite towns. The provinces were administrated either by a governor, which was appointed by the king; or by a local ruling family, who were descendants of the old local kings and princes of that area and had been given this privilege by the central king. De facto the king did not have much choice but to choose someone from the local nobility or a economically strong man, as against these local power groups the administration would have become impossible. The governor wasn't paid by the king, but instead financed himself and his administration by imposing taxes by himself, thus effectively a kleptocracy. Every province was required to send an annual tribute to Bangkok.
The provinces were divided into four different classes. The first class were the border provinces. The second class were those that once had their own princely house. Third class were provinces that were created recently by splitting them from other provinces. Fourth class were provinces near the capital. Additionally tributary states like the principalities of Lannathai, the Laotian kingdoms of Vientiane and Luang Prabang, Cambodia, or the Malayian sultanate Kedah were also part of the country, but with an even higher autonomy than the provinces. In this Mandala system the semi-independent countries sometimes were tributary to more than one country.
New provinces were created when the population of an area outgrew the administration, but also for political reasons if a governor became too dominant in a region former satellite cities were elevated to provincial status, as in the founding of the Maha Sarakham Province.
Reforms of the provincial administration started in the 1870s under increased pressure from the colonial states of the United Kingdom and France. Especially to the areas near the borders commissionaries were sent to have a stronger control on the provinces or tributary states.
Administrative reform of 1892
At the end of the 19th century King Chulalongkorn reformed the central government drastically. In 1892 the ministry, which previously had many overlapping responsibilities, was reorganized with clear areas as in western administrations. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab became minister of the Ministry of the North (Mahatthai), originally responsible for the northern adimistration. When the Ministry of the South (Kalahom) was dissolved in 1894, Prince Damrong became Minister of the Interior, responsible for the provincial administration of the whole country.
Starting in 1893 the already existing commissionarships in some parts of the country were renamed to superintendent commissioner (khaluang thesaphiban), and their area of responsibility was called monthon. In strategically important areas the monthon were created first, while in other areas the provinces kept their independence a bit longer. Several smaller provinces were reduced in status to a Amphoe (district) or even lower to a tambon (commune) and included in a neighboring province, sometimes for administrative reasons, but sometimes also to remove an uncooperative governor.
In some regions rebellions broke out against the new administrative system, usually induced by the local nobility fearing their loss of power. The most notable was the Holy Man rebellion in 1902 in Isan, which even though it was at first a messianic doomsday sect, it also attacked government representative in the North-East. The provincial town Khemarat was even burned by the rebels. After a few months the rebellion fought back.
After 1916 the word changwat became common to use for the provinces, partly to distinguish them from the provincial capital city (Mueang or Amphoe Mueang), but also to stress the new administrative structure of the provinces.
When Prince Damrong resigned in 1915, the whole country was subdivided into 19 monthon (including the area around Bangkok, which was however under the responsibility of another ministry until 1922), with 72 provinces.
In December 1915 King Vajiravudh announced the creation of regions (phak), each administered by a viceroy (upparat), to cover several monthon. Until 1922 four regions were established, however in 1925 they were dissolved again. At the same time several monthon were merged, in an attempt to streamline the administration and reduce the costs.
The monthon were finally dissolved when Thailand transformed from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy in 1932, making the provinces the top level administrative division again. Starting in the second half of the 20th century some provinces were newly created by splitting them off from bigger provinces. The youngest provinces are Sa Kaeo, Nongbua Lamphu and Amnat Charoen, which were created in 1993.
- Tej Bunnag, The Provincial Administration of Siam 1892-1915, ISBN 0195803434
- Department of Provincial Administration
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