“Siam” not “Thailand”: What is the deal?

Dr.Charnvit Kasetsiri, a well-known social scientist from Thammasat University, started a petition to change the name of Thailand back to “Siam”.  The petition says “Siam” represents the acceptance of diversity of ethnicity, language, and cultural identity in the country.  Also it follows the unity principle.

The petition cites the 1939 constitution ruling the change of the country name from “Siam” to “Thailand” for the reason of “ethnicitism” which was factually and historically incorrect.  There have been a few attempt to change back to Siam, i.e. 1949 and 1968 constitutions.

Personally, I totally understand and agree with the petition because ethnically I am not Thai (and I do not know the “real” Thais are still majority of the population)  My bloodlines actually are combined between Chinese and Black Tai (Tai-Dum).  But I am proud to be categorized as Thai.  However, I don’t know about how the change would affect me as a citizen individually.

But if it is the case to bring peace back to the country, any name is fine for me as long as people live peacefully.

Perhaps I do not get the whole concept or logic of this movement.  Maybe I need more information.  Maybe I physically and spiritually live too far from my home country, so I  lost some important context (I hope not).  Maybe social scientists might be sensitive than others.  But how such movement will be successful without the understanding of such an ordinary people like me?

Could anyone tell me what rationale behind it exactly?

[Source: Prachatai]

8 responses to ““Siam” not “Thailand”: What is the deal?

  1. ขอออกความเห็นเป็นภาษาไทยนะครับ :-P

    เคยได้ยินมา(ไม่ยืนยันข้อมูล)ว่า… โดยภาพรวมแล้วทุกคนพอใจกับคำว่า “ไทย” มากกว่า “สยาม”… โดยเฉพาะกับประชาชนทางภาคใต้ มีการเรียกตัวเองว่าไทย-มลายู และเรียกคนที่มาจากภาคกลางว่าไทย-สยาม หรือคนจากภาคอีสานก็จะเรียกไทย-ลาว (ภาษาท้องถิ่นอาจไม่ได้เรียกตรงๆแบบนี้ แต่แปลได้ประมาณนี้ครับ)… การใช้คำว่า “สยาม” มันไม่ใช่ทางออกในการแก้ไขปัญหาได้หรอก…

  2. การใช้ทางออกโดยการเปลี่ยนชื่อประเทศเป็นมุมมองที่แก้ปัญหาที่ปลายเหตุ ถึงแม้ว่าเราจะรู้กันก็ตามว่าปัญหาที่เกิดขึ้นตอนนี้ในภาคใต้ ส่วนหนึ่งเป็นเพราะมีการใช้ประวัติศาสตร์มาเล่นก็ตาม ผมเชื่อว่าคนไทยทุกคนตอนนี้เข้าใจคำว่าคน”ไทย”ว่าคือคนที่เกิดในประเทศไทยนี้ทั้งหมด ไม่ใช้คนที่อพยพมาจากเทือกเขาอัลไต และคนในภาคใต้ที่ยังรักสงบก็เข้าใจตามนี้ พวกเขาต้องการรอการแก้ปัญหาที่ตรงจุดและสันติภาพในเร็ววันนี้

  3. I don’t know the rationale/intention of the movement.

    But my personal rationale to support this movement is
    it would bring up more attentions and discussions on ethnic, race issues, historically, politically – which, hopefully, would turn into a more understanding in the issues.

    Does the history carved by the Ministry of Education, blessed the Ministry of Culture is the only truth ?

    The name of the state would probably the same (and it’s likely to be),
    but the view and the understanding of some of the people in the state will changed — Who are we ?

    For me, that’s worth to move for.

  4. Isn’t the term “thai” supposed to mean “free”? And wasn’t the naming supposed to reflect on the fact that Thailand or Siam had never been a western colony (unlike other countries from southeast asia)?

    I am a Farang expat living in Thailand since some years now, and up to now it was only one time that it I heard the term ไทย not to refer to the being a Thai national. That was at the end of the second part of the movie นาเรสวนมหาราช. When the Siamese finally managed to escape from Burma at the end, the term ไทย in the meaning of being free was used. It was something like: “Now, the Siamese people are finally free.”, but don’t nail me down on the exact wording. :-)

    For “free” or “freedom”, I heard always อิสระ. So, what are the different meanings of อิสระ and ไทย? Any native speakers who could give me an idea?

  5. Timo: Good observation. (I have to admit that I forgot this notion when I wrote this post) Note that for the term “free” or “freedom” in the sense of colony, I prefer “ไท”, instead of “ไทย” for direct interpretation, even though, it is ok to use them interchangeably. The second term implies to more nationalistic sense. In terms of ethnicity, “ไทย” has collective meaning referring to diversity, while “ไท” refer to individual group of people in my perspective, rooted from ethnicity terms.

    It is apparent to me that the notion of “ไทย” as freedom has been popularly used since the reign of the King Rama V. However, I’m not a historian or linguist either. So I hope someone could answer your question better than me.

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