SAO and Township Municipality tagging standards

I’ve been working for a while on reviewing and editing the “place” tag in Thailand to match standards at , then I think I encountered some problem. So, I suggest the standards be revised, as follows:

1) Remove “place=village” tag from subdistrict administrative organization (SAO - o bo to) because, first, meaning of “village” in is “A smaller distinct settlement, smaller than a town” that is quite not match the condition of SAO, which is a group of many settlement (muban) outside urban area. Each muban is mostly the same in size so the obvious center of SAO (to place node) is can’t be identified, especially for the SAO that covered more than one adjacent tambon.

Second, since SAO is divided as muban and since we tagged all muban with “place=hamlet”, so it means “hamlet” is part of “village” that sounds strange. The meaning of “hamlet” in is “isolated settlement” which is clear that hamlet and village is a different place, not a subarea of each other.

Lastly, how can we tag the SAO?, I suggest to tag the SAO only as an area with “admin_level=7” as in current standards, since SAO is kind of “administrative” terms, not “settlement”, in the “administrative” and “settlement” tag has been separated obviously. And if we want the SAO name to be shown in the map we should focus on editing the style of the renderer, not the map, so it won’t be “tagging for renderer” rule of thumb.

2) If the “village” tag is idle, we should use it for township municipality (thetsaban tambon) because, now, we use “place=town” for both thetsaban tambon and thetsaban mueang, so the distinction is can’t be identified. Since Thailand has 32 thetsaban nakhon, 187 thetsaban mueang, and 2236 thetsaban tambon, if we tag under the current rule, Thailand in OSM would be consist of 32 city and 2423 town which look a little bit strange on the map. For a quite extreme example, “Thetsaban Tambon Ruam Chit” (with population of 3,415) and “Thetsaban Mueang Surin” (with population of 39,025) would look the same on the map.

Notwithstanding, there is another choice to solve this problem, since neighboring country around Thailand has many more “city” than Thailand on OSM, despite their population is less, we maybe choose to keep “town” for thetsaban tambon, but upgrade thetsaban mueang to “city” instead, or, to meet halfway, we can create new criteria such as “thetsaban mueang with more than 20,000 people”, or another choice, to be tagged as “city”. However, I’d rather suggest using “village” for thetsaban tambon is to make things most clear.

Wish my suggestion is helpful.
PS. I think (1) is a more important issue than (2)

Welcome to Open Street Map,

I’m glad to hear you have taken up this task. Speaking for myself, and for quite a few other Thailand mappers I suspect, I welcome any effort you wish to make in cleaning up and normalizing the usage of place tags in Thailand. I’ll be the first to admit that my use of the place tags hamlet, village, town, has been completely arbitrary. I don’t speak Thai so my access to important Thai government documents and databases is very limited. When I’m mapping, I look at a residential area in the satellite imagery, make a guess about its population and tag it accordingly. The important thing for me has always been to get the name of the place on the map so it can be found by people searching for it.

The same applies to the actual placement of the node. Most of the time I make a guess, again based on the satellite imagery, about where the “center” of the place seems to be and put a node there that contains the names in Thai and English as well as my guess as to whether the place is a town, a village or a hamlet.

Based on your username I assume you are Thai and speak Thai. Based on your message text, I see you also understand English very well. Those two facts make you a valuable asset to OSM mapping in Thailand because up to now we’ve had only one other active member, user:mishari, who is also fluent in both Thai and English, to help us with understanding and using source material in Thailand.

So again, I sincerely welcome you to OSM. I will be looking forward to your future contributions


Hello Nitinatsangsit, and another welcome. I haven’t been very active editing lately, but did come across your edit fixing the Chiang Mai boundary relation the day before, so thanks for that too.

Regarding the issues you raise, I’ve also been thinking about them for some time. I believe I was the one who originally suggested the current system back in 2013. It would be good to review how it’s working out so far, not least because it didn’t receive much input back then.

To provide a bit of background for those unfamiliar with the system, the concept is that provincial administration entities (changwat, amphoe, tambon) are tagged as area relations with boundary=administrative, while local administrations (the thesaban at least) are tagged as place=. This leaves the SAO in a somewhat tricky area. They fall under the local administration system, but only cover unincorporated areas, so the place= tag doesn’t really work well for them. Also, their area is usually redundant to the tambon of the provincial administration (minus the parts covered by thesaban municipalities).

My view is that the goal should be not to map the SAO areas per se, given the redundancy. The problem is that we currently have no boundary data for the tambon, but they should still be represented on the map one way or another. I see having place=village for SAOs as something of a temporary measure, until the tambon administrative boundaries are mapped or imported. As Nitinatsangsit pointed out, it’s not really logical, so if we could work out an alternative solution that would be great.

Adding admin_level=* to the thesaban or SAO would not be accurate. (In my understanding, the way they’re listed in the table, spanning three columns, is meant to convey that admin_level does not apply to them.) A better way might be to change all the objects representing the SAOs to represent the tambon instead, with admin_level=8. But the administrative=boundary tag is incompatible with single nodes, so we probably still need a place=something for them.

I just noticed that the Wiki now describes the tags place=province, place=district and place=county (quite sure they didn’t exist back when we started). I guess place=county could be the placeholder tag to use for tambon, maybe? It probably more closely reflects the entity’s status, and in any case would free up place=village for the thesaban tambon.

Regarding this latter part, I agree with having the thesaban tambon tagged as place=village. One of my concerns back then was that the Wiki used to suggest population ranges, where the population for place=city was 10 times that of place=town, in turn 10 times that of place=village, while thesaban tambon were by definition only 10 times smaller than thesaban nakhon. These ranges have since been scrapped, as they didn’t match actual practice, and mapping is expected to reflect each country’s established usage. So having a tag for each type of thesaban should be optimal.

Sorry for the omission Paul_012. I should have said two active users fluent in both Thai and English.

Since SAO and thetsaban is on the same level and not overlap each other, and also “admin_level=7” is idle, I think we are able to tag the SAO and thetsaban as an area with “boundary=administrative” and “admin_level=7” like current map around Ayutthaya (with “place=*” node as “admin_centre” in case of thetsaban). I know that it looks a little bit weird but it reflects the reality of administrative and it’s easier for people to search for, or to address the place inside. And if the area of thetsaban and SAO should not be shown, maybe edit the style of the renderer, not remove from the map, is a solution. Also, I’ve just discovered that many SAO is covered more than one tambon, that make me think tagging only tambon with “admin_level=8” is probably not enough.

Lastly, I agree with you to put the “place=county” for tambon that haven’t been mapped the boundaries yet.


In Thailand, the names of an administrative unit and its “main” place are usually the same, though sometimes differentiated by adding the type of administrative unit or mueang/baan for the place (e.g. Changwat Phangnga vs Mueang Phangnga). That could mislead some mappers to mix them up.

Furthermore, place boundaries are normally unclear in Thailand. In Europe, you’ll find a “city limit” traffic sign (see ) which indicates that different traffic rules apply there (mainly slow speed limit, typically 50 km/h); the sign typically displays the place name, in Germany it displays also administrative information). There is no such thing in Thailand - the same traffic rules apply, and the “city limit - reduce speed” signs are just placed some where on the road, often far away from a town…
And many settlements in Thailand are just some houses scattered along roads, i.e. not “real” villages either.

It is a good idea to clean things up, but it may mean a lot of work.

There is also a similar things in Thailand, the sign that indicates a boundary of a province (changwat) or district (amphoe), mostly on the National Highway which maintained by The Department of Highway (like ). When you’re driving on National Highway you can tell where is the boundary of each district or province. Also, for some main roads of each subdistrict (tambon), there is a sign made by the Subdistrict Administrative Organization to indicates their own boundary (like , but unfortunately this kind of sign isn’t exist on most roads.

To find the real boundary of muban or tambon is hard, since even the most reliable map like ESRI, Google Maps, or GISTDA database have mapped many tambon boundary incorrectly, or too rough. And because the tambon area is incorrect, it’s lead to district and province area incorrectness too.
For the light at the end of the tunnel, some few, very few, SAO provide their map indicates their boundary obviously in their website, like . For others the best way under this situation is to look at the Google Street View to check some house near the boundary, most house has the house number sign installed at the gate, which some of them providing the mu or tambon which can help increase the correctness of mapping. Anyway this is a huge work lol.

Hi Nitinatsangsit,

Am I understanding you correctly, in that many “villages” where the name=* has been taken from the Sign on entering, you want to change the tagging from place=village to SAO, admin level 7 ?

I do have comment, but I’m not sure I understand your intentions.
In other words, when I specifically tag a village that has a sign saying Ban ??? at its boundary on the highway, are you leaving as is, or do you intend to change the place=village tag into something else ?

Are your intentions to run some form of automated edit, are will you be doing every area individually ?

I’m sorry for not make it clear for you, I have no problem with “Ban” which has been tagged as “hamlet” by current standards (at ). What I’m talking about is the SAO, which is an administrative area of many “ban” together. Since “hamlet” should not be a subarea of “village”, so we shouldn’t tag the SAO as “village” (like current standards). However, I agree with Paul_012 that “village” may be used for SAO as something of a temporary measure, until the tambon administrative boundaries are mapped or imported.

OK, noted, although I will make it clear that Ban ??? is predominantly tagged as place=village, as well as being used for hamlets, at least under current practice. When tagging a hamlet near to village, I don’t consider it to be a “sub-area” of that village, its just a collection of less houses which if physically smaller in size that the village, gets a hamlet tag.

If an SAO is generally a collection of villages, would not the tag place=district work well for that ?

While I commend any attempt to rationalise data, I’m just little confused as to how you are going to make this work for the multitude of villages & hamlets that are already on the map … and if its an automated process you propose, I’m sure we would all welcome the details, before implementation.

Should you have a list of SAO’s that can be added to the map as districts, thereby not changing existing village/hamlet tags, then this would be great (providing any duplicates were taken care of).

But if I understand right, there are many SAO’s that also contain the same name as the predominant village, in which case I think both nodes should exist, and not that the SAO tag replaces the village tag.

OK I’ve got it. I’ve seen that many “ban” has been tagged as “village”, but should that all changed to “hamlet”?, as declared in current guidelines. By the way, I’m not going to make it like automated process.
What I mean is the current guidelines that tell me to tag the SAO as “place=village” seems not logical. However, tagging SAO as “place=district” may not appropriate too because “district” is an official translation of “amphoe” which is larger than SAO. So SAO should be tagged as something else, probably “county”.

What I’m going to do now is not to make changes to anything mapped in OSM, but to suggest for changing the guidelines.

For what I’m doing in OSM now is tracing some tambon and SAO’s boundary, and added the location of every ban in that tambon. If the task is done, for each tambon, what to do next is to deal with the SAO’s “place” tag, which has been discussing what it should be, removed or changed to something else. Until we have a consensus, I would leave it in its current state.

In my experiences most SAO is using the name of any tambon in their area, which is derived from the name of any ban in their area, but it’s may not such a “predominant” village. For some tambon, that village is truly largest, but for many it doesn’t. In my opinion, if the node of every “ban” in each tambon together with tambon’s boundary is mapped, the tambon’s node should be removed because people can search for it as an area, which is reflect their condition better.

Sometimes, this small “hamlets” are a “Moo” of the village close to them.

So, if we do the naming correct, then this hamlet is for example “Ban Na Pae Moo 16”.

This small Moo are hard to find out.

In the village I stay, we have 5 or 6 Moo. The house we live is Moo 4, the next house 10m away is Moo 13. And the village itself is Tambon.

As there are many villages in Thailand named the same - like “Ban Dan” (normally the first vilage at the border of a Changwat) it makes - for me - sense when we add the Amphoe or Changwat to the village name.

Like Ban Dan, Rasi Salai, Sisaket

Then it is clear for any search results.


I have been thinking about this issue for a while, and now I think keeping place=town for thetsaban tambon might be the best choice. Another reason is if we tagged thetsaban tambon with place=village, Thailand will have very few town or city in OSM, compared with neighboring countries.
But for SAO, I still strongly recommend to remove the place=village tag and use something else such as place=county.

What should we do for place=village tag?
In my opinion, since:

  1. Most muban in OSM still has been tagged as place=village, much more than place=hamlet.
  2. Very few SAO have already been tagged in OSM.
    [(1) and 2) Tell us that the current guidelines are not yet applied to the map enough.]
  3. The official translation of muban from government is “village”.
  4. state that place=hamlet should be less than 100-200 inhabitants, while the population of muban in Thailand is about 746 in average, with more than 95% of them have more than 200 inhabitants.

So, I think we should use place=village for muban (“village” for official translation), while place=hamlet can still be used for some small muban with less population.
But how much population of muban is the criteria to be village, or hamlet? I suggest 500, because if we use 500, the scale of settlements in Thailand in OSM would be like this:

city > town > village > hamlet
50000+ (thetsaban nakhon) > 5000-50000 (thetsaban mueang+tambon) > 500-5000 (large muban) > 1-500 (small muban)

Looks quite perfect, ten times the population for each scale.

In addition, for each tambon, for nearby muban with the same name but different “mu” number (mostly same settlement in physical appearance but divided for administration), I suggest tagged them only once and count their population together for scale measurement. For “mu” number, I suggest tagged as boundary only.

P.S. The latest population can be found at , not hard to acquire the data.