Many people in Thailand try to change their fortunes by changing their names.
A 46-year-old man named Baramee Thammabandan, formerly known as Teerapol Lilitjirawat, says it worked for him. (His new name, Baramee, means “charisma” in Thai.) He is now a successful name-change consultant.
Another example is female Olympic weightlifter Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon, formerly known as Junpim Kuntatean.
At 28, Junpim Kuntatean had won a silver medal in the world weightlifting championships but then suffered an elbow injury a year before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Hoping to change her luck, she visited a fortune teller who suggested a name makeover. The new one, Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon, which roughly translates as “Sparkling River-flow of Brilliant Prosperity,” was a challenge to TV commentators, but she did win a gold medal. She wasn’t reachable for comment now, but told reporters after winning that “some people believe in fortune tellers and I am one of them.”
Traditionally, someone seeking a name change would talk to a fortune teller, who would come up with an auspicious replacement name based upon the day and time of that person’s birth.
Nowadays, though, many methods exist. There are name-change consultants (like Baramee Thammabandan), name-change websites (like thaigoodname.com and fortunename.com), and name-change apps. Mathematicians have even gotten involved:
Mathematicians at Naresuan University, about 200 miles north of Bangkok, came up with a novel algorithm for selecting auspicious names in 2009 to make the process even simpler. Based on old beliefs about how different letters of the alphabet can influence a person’s fate, the formula looks at the statistical auspiciousness of a name, as calculated by its perceived attributes such as wisdom and strength, along with the number of letters in a name.
But there are drawbacks to name-changing.
One businesswomen, who changed her name from Sutheera Visetsung to Benyapa Sujirapat (meaning “flourish with wisdom”), said her new name has forced her to “rebuild business relationships from scratch.” It also caused a lot of confusion when she sent out her wedding invitations:
“I sent out the invitation cards, but nobody knew it was me because I was using my new name,” she says. Many of her guests only agreed to attend after she visited them in person.
The quick and easy name-change process in Thailand has also made it tough for law enforcement to keep track of name-changing criminals. Lt. Gen. Panu Kerdlarbpol of the Thai Police said, “We can’t rely on names and ID cards to accurately identify people any more.” Instead, the police are increasingly dependent upon fingerprints.