Rikker Dockum’s blog Thai 101 covers “Thoughts on Thai language, media, and culture,” and his latest post is on “Simplifed Thai spelling during World War II.” I hadn’t known anything about it, and it’s not mentioned in the (admittedly short) books I own on the country, but thanks to Rikker—and Matt of No-sword, who sent me the link—now I do:
I understand that it was mandated by Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram [who was known as “Marshal Pibun” when I was living there in the late ’50s—LH], and even people’s names had to be respelled under this system. One remnant legacy of this is that famous name in dictionaries, So Sethaputra, whose last name is spelled เสถบุตร to this day. The original spelling of his last name is เศรษฐบุตร, but since his name became famous along with his first dictionary under its revised spelling, he was one of the few that didn’t revert the spelling after Field Marshal Plaek was ousted.
Rikker reproduces some passages from a 1944 “Thai Language Textbook” with the simplified spellings in red; it should be fascinating to those who can read Thai, an ability which, alas, almost half a century has deprived me of, to the limited extent I ever had it. (I assume the spelling reform wasn’t well done, since it was abandoned after the war.)
Incidentally, So Sethaputra sounds like an interesting guy, who started compiling his dictionary while serving time as a political prisoner in the ’30s; unfortunately, all I can find online about his life is this review of a biography, which annoyingly doesn’t even mention his birth and death dates (though it does say that his wife, the author of the book, died in 2000).