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Politics and government of
Thailand is divided into 76 provinces (Thai: จังหวัด, changwat) and the special administrative unit Bangkok (กรุงเทพมหานคร, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon). Though a different administrative unit, Bangkok is at province level, so de facto Thailand has 77 provinces.
Each of Thailand's 76 provinces is divided into districts - as of 2010[update] there are 878 districts (อำเภอ, amphoe) and 50 districts in Bangkok (เขต, khet). Each of the provinces has one capital district (อำเภอเมือง, amphoe mueang), e.g. for Chiang Mai it's Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai. The exception is Ayutthaya Province, where both the province as well as the capital district have the full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
The tambon are further subdivided into muban (หมู่บ้าน), which are usually translated as villages, though they do not necessarily cover one single settlement.
Additionally to these subdivisions, there are also cities and towns, which take over some of the responsibilities of the districts and communes on the area covered by the municipality. These all have an elected board and an elected mayor.
There are three different levels of municipalities (Thai: เทศบาล):
Despite its name, a thesaban tambon does not necessarily coincide with a single tambon.
In addition to the population numbers the municipalities need to have enough tax revenues for the administration to be able to execute the offices of administrations.
Towns and cities are subdivided into chumchon (communities), which are equivalent to the villages (muban) of rural areas. Nonthaburi and Chiang Mai are the only two municipalities that have an additional tier of administration, as they group their chumchon in khwaeng.
The City of Pattaya is a metropolitan municipality, it is a specially administrated area. Also the metropolitan city of Bangkok (officially called the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration) is a metropolitan municipality. As of 2010, the city of Mae Sot is planned to be converted into a special administrative area as well.
For areas which does not reach the mandatory conditions there exists another lower level of local administration named Subdistrict administrative organization (SAO, องค์การบริหารส่วนตำบล). These usually cover a complete subdistrict (Tambon), but may also cover more than one subdistrict or share a subdistrict with a municipality.
From the beginning of the 20th century until 1932 there was an additional subdivision called monthon (มณฑล, circle), with some of the larger ones subdivided into boriwen (บริเวณ, area). The first provinces were named mueang (เมือง, township) as those developed from the historical city-states. There were both Mueang directly dependent from Bangkok (thus similar to the modern province), as well as Mueang under supervision of a more powerful neighbor Mueang, or part of the semi-independent tributary states. In 1906 the transition to the term changwat started, which was finalized in 1916.
After the abolishing of the monthon, a new subdivision named Region (ภาค, Phak) was established. At first there were 4 regions with changing outlines, in 1951 these were changed into 9 regions in 1951. In 1956 these regions were abolished as well.
A former municipal level were the sukhaphiban (sanitation districts, สุขาภิบาล), which were mostly responsible for sanitary tasks like waste disposal. The administrative level was created in 1908, in May 1999 all were converted into thesaban tambon.
Until 2007 minor districts (King Amphoe) were a special kind of districts, still partially a subordinate of another district. Usually newly created districts at first became minor districts and were upgraded to full districts after a few years. It became effective on August 24, 2007 that all 81 minor districts were upgraded to full districts, despite many still not reaching the prerequisites for becoming a full district.
Bangkok and its vicinity (ปริมณฑล, pari monthon), including five adjacent provinces are referred to as Greater Bangkok (Thai: กรุงเทพมหานครและปริมณฑล), as the urban sprawl of the capital already spread into these areas.
Los Angeles, California is sometimes jokingly referred to as "The 77th Province" of Thailand, because the city has the second highest Thai population of any city outside of Thailand (roughly 100,000) after Taipei(??) (roughly 300,000).
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