The issue of changing the name of Thailand back to the old name of Siam has been in the news again recently. This is thanks to a petition launched by historian Charnvit Kasetsiri. The Nation reports:
"People who have been part of our country have different ethnic, linguistic and cultural identities. Therefore, to reflect historical fact and the present reality, the name of the country should be Siam, not Thailand," historian Charnvit Kasetsiri wrote in an open letter issued yesterday.
This is a viewpoint I am quite familiar with as it is also a frequent theme of Sulak Sivaraksa's writings. Sulak even goes so far as to refuse to use the name Thailand. For a little bit more background on the history of the names Siam and Thailand Wikipedia is a good place to start.
The country's official name was Siam (Thai: สยาม; IPA: [saˈjaːm], RTGS: Sayam) until 24 June 1939.  It was again called Siam between 1945 and May 11, 1949, when it was once again changed by official proclamation. The word Thai (ไทย) means "freedom" in the Thai language and is also the name of the majority ethnic group.
It is the nationalist sentiments in the name Thailand that are of most concern. The name implies that Thailand is a land for the Thai people. However, this excludes other ethnic groups, many of whom continue to be denied basic rights or are subject to education and propoganda which forces them to assume a Thai identity. Sulak's viewpoint is better explained in this book review by Jeffrey Sng:
He decries the name change from " Siam" to " Thailand" on June 24, 1939, as an attempt to claim ownership of this country for ethnic Thais at the expense of the Mon, Lao, Cambodian, Shan, Malay, hill-tribe and other ethnic minorities in our population. At a lecture he delivered at the Siam Society earlier this year, Sulak traced [he problem of separatist violence in the South back to a nationalist agenda which sought to establish the primacy of Thais over other ethnic groups- Modern Thai nationalism which emphasises the primacy of the former and its right to dominate other ethnic groups in the polity has alienated minorities, especially the Malay Muslims in the southern provinces. Sulak continues to campaign to have the Kingdom's name changed back to " Siam".
Sanitsuda Ekachai has an opinion piece (link via 2Bangkok.com) in the Bangkok Post further discussing the issue. She also identifies the issue of exclusion of minority groups as a key problem in the name and mindset that go with the name Thailand. She writes:
Name is a very important part of our identity. It defines how we see ourselves and how we relate to others. Naming is political, and politically dangerous when it makes one particular group more powerful than others.
While the inclusive Siam is more in line with our pluralistic society, the word Thailand gives ownership to only the ethnic Thais while alienating other ethnic groups as "the outsiders".
She concludes by saying:
For Acharn Charnvit, embracing cultural pluralism is the key. Reverting to Siam or not, discussing the pros and cons of it so we understand who are manipulating our sense of identity and what ugly forces are behind our patriotism, is a start in the right direction.
If his campaign has only received lukewarm reception, it is not his fault. The Pibul regime is long gone, but its racist legacy is deeply rooted in our minds, thanks to the education system and popular media. If we choose the path of prejudice and heartlessness through ethno-centric nationalism, we have but ourselves to blame.
I wholeheartedly agree and await the day when Thailand is once again Siam.