Tuesday, May 24, 2005

New Bangkok International Airport : "Suvarnabhumi" or Suwannaphum ?

The auspicious name of Suvarnabhumi was bestowed to the new Bangkok International Airport by H.M. The name resurrects the old name of this region, once called "Golden land" or Suwannaphum (pronounced "Suwan-na-poom") in Thai legends. Thousands of years ago, people of this region was believed to trade with the Roman Empire. It is no doubt that the name is very appropriate for the new gigantic international airport for Bangkok.

However, in romanization the word which Thai people pronounce Suwannaphum into the official spelling has caused a little problem. This resurrects the old problem of transcription system from Thai into English which has been formalized by King Rama VI, for almost a hundred years ago. With the official spelling, aimed to preserved the Pali root word, most westerners or foreigners would surely do not know how to pronounce the word correctly as Thai would do.

This is going to be the same old problem like pronouncing the word Phuket. Foreign travellers firstly arrived in Thailand would mostly do not know how to pronounce the name correctly and mostly they would call the city name as "Foo-ket" not "Poo-ket". Next year, perhaps millions of international travellers coming to the new airport would call this airport "Su-far-na-boo-mee", and a number of Thai people would smilingly scratch our heads with astonishment why the heck they do not call it "Su-wan-na-phoom".

I wished they would use the transcription system that the Royal Institute of Thailand has used, and that the Roman letter for the new airport would better be "Suwannaphum". Bingo. Thai people might then understand it better.


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