Multilingual Information Technology Initiatives
in Thailand.

International Symposium on Standardization of
Multilingual Information Technology (MLIT97)
Singapore, May 26-28, 1997

Thaweesak Koanantakool, Ph.D.
National Electronics and Computer Technology Center
Bangkok Thailand.


This paper describes the chronology of I.T. localization and internationalization initiatives which have taken place in Thailand and were, in some circumstances, extended to some countries in the South and Southeast Asia, namely, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The languages of these countries share some common characteristice: they are character based (ie. non ideographic), multi-level display and do have common ancestor: Sanskrit. Input and ooutput methods of these languages share common software logic. This report has been compiled by the authors own participation in the localization efforts centered in Thailand.

Please refer to Thailand's country report at MLIT 97 for detailed discussion about the techniques used in localization of Thai language.

Additional information and suggestions are welcome.

Milestones of Southeast Asian Initiatives

The information contained in the following chronology was first published in Thai language in 1983 (Reference 1). It was updated to cover new developments after that date.

B.E. A.D. Milestones
25101967 IBM Mainframes in Thailand were capable of reading Thai EBCDIC codes. Line printers were localized to print Thai characters using four-pass printing per line.
25131970 UNIVAC 9400 Series sold in Thailand were equipped with Thai punched-card reader and line printers. The techniques used were the same as IBM
25151972 Control Data mainframe systes were capable of Thai language input/output an data processing.
25181975 WANG computer systems became Thai-language capable.
25191976 Control Data terminals were first implemented with three-level display. A standard 80x25 text terminals were then capable of displaying 8 lines per screen.
25221979 WANG computer demonstrated Thai text display capable of 8 and 12 lines per screen.
25241981 Kasetsart University demonstrated the first Thai interactive Text editor on microcomputers.
25251982 The first Thai text editor package was released by Kasetsart University. The Thai Easy Writer software ran on a modified Osborne-1 and Victor 9000 in text mode (4-level, 8 lines per screen).
25261983 The first stand-alone terminal capable of displaying 25-lines Thai display was demonstrated. Kasetsart University demonstrated microcomputer for Laotian language using character mode and 4-level display similar to Thai language.
25271984 All brands of DOS-based microcomputers were available with 25-line Thai display adapters. The character codes were, however, not identical due to lack of industrial standard. There were no fewer than 20 incompatible codes in use (see Reference 2).
25271984 Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI) appointed a team of expert in information technology to look after the technical issues in IT. The committee, TISI/TC536, tackled the first task on the character code standard.
25281985 TISI/TC526 issued a draft character code standard for public comments.
25281985 Control Data computers were delivered to Myanmar to handle data processing using the country's language.
25291986 TISI announced TIS 620-2529 : Standard for Thai Character Codes for Computers.
25301987 Apple Computer released the Thai system and laser fonts used with the Macintosh for Thai desktop publishing market.
25301987 Local vendors in Thailand (Telbiz Limited) first released text-mode multi-font Thai display adapter for PC (DOS) with pull-down menu accelerator package. In the 1990, other Thai display adapter developers (iRC, Dyna) followed.
25311988 Prince of Songkla University demonstrated a Thai graphical authoring system called DARA with double-Hercules graphics resolution (ie. 720 by 900 pixels by 1 bit graphics). The system was capable of displaying presentation with good-looking proportionally spaced fonts similar to early version of MS-Powerpoint.
25311988 TISI announced TIS 820-2531 : Layout of Thai character keys on computer keyboards.
25321989 With the improved CPU speeds in personal computers, double-Hercules monochrome graphics became the prefered method for Thai display. Freeware Thai-language drivers became available. Notable contributions were ThaiTip, Summit Computer Thai Driver, VTHAI, CU-Writer by Chulalongkorn University.
25321989 Telbiz Limited, upon requested of COMPUTER AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY COUNCIL OF SRI LANKA (CINTEC), jointly develop Sinhalese display card and display drivers for both monochrome and VGA version. The input and output method used was similar to Thai language.
25321989 Mahidol University initiated the project "Buddhist Scripture Information Retrieval" (BUDSIR). This database contains the digital Pali Tipitaka and Atthakatha wiht data search services.

This project is for the development of computer technology to aid the study of the Pali Canon by The Royal Decree of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great.

25331990 National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) released a draft suite of IT standards for Thai language developed by the Thai API consortium (TAPIC). The proposed standards were called WorTorTor: The common specifications for Thai language application programming (see Reference 3).

TAPIC's WorTorTor standard was endorsed by 14 government and private organizations. The draft standards became de facto in the industry and was being adopted as new TISI standards.

25331990 TISI announced the Recommendation for the layout of Thai character keys on computer keyboards for line graphics for dot-matrix printers TIS 988-2533. The standard improved the dot-matrix printing efficiency by using three-pass method in preference to the four-pass method.
25331990 Kasetsart University demonstrated the Thai Kernel System or TKS with a suite of software packages for office use. The project was granted by Science and Technology Development Board (STDB, now become NSTDA).
25331990 High resolution film output devices for desktop publishing became widely available. Publishing in Thai language with professional quality (2400 dpi) became possible with desktop publishing.
25331990 The Royal Institution released a draft standard for Thai Glyphs for expert comments. The draft document described the anatomy of Thai fonts, the names associated with each part of the glyphs and the recommendation for standard proportions of Thai fonts.
25331990 International Research Corporation (iRC) and MicroWiz System independently manufactured THai display adapters capable of monochrome 25-line Thai display and double-Hercules graphics.
25331990 Kasetsart University demonstrated the interactive Thai official dictionary.
25341991 TAPIC proposals were adopted by TISI/TC536 to become national standards for Thai language input/output methods for computers. WorTorTor specifications were translated into English by Digital Equipment Corporation for its internal use in Digital UNIX internationalized package.
2535-25381992-2995 Major computer manufacturers (Digital, Sun, HP, IBM) adopted WorTorTor standards as their specifications for internalization of their operating systems. In the same period, TISI/TC536 has applied for ISO-8022 code extension registration with ECMA and Thai character standard code was registered as IR-166.
25391996 NECTEC Language and Knowledge Science (LINKS) released Lexitron, an interective Thai-English and English-Thai dictionary for use with Windows operating system.
25391996 The Value System Company and its software developer partner jointly released the first commercial Thai-OCR package for Windows/HP scanner platform.
25391996 TIS 620-2533 (Thai Standard Character Code) became part of ISO 8859 (part-11). Draft of ISO 8859-11: The latest part of ISO-8859 (8-bit single-byte coded graphic character sets): Part 11: Latin/Thai character set is avaliable under NECTEC's IT-Standard page.
25401997 NECTEC Software Laboratory (SWL) released it first Thai OCR package with ThaiSoft Company to handle the joint production and marketing responsibilities.


  1. Thaweesak Koanantakool, What has happened after the Standard Thai Character Codes?, Microcomputer Magazine, Number 37, March 2531 (1988) (in Thai).
  2. Thaweesak Koanantakool, Are we ready for a standard Thai Character Code?, Microcomputer Magazine, Number 9, August 2527 (1984) (in Thai).
  3. Thaweesak Koanantakool and the Thai Application Programming Interface Consortium, Thai language & Computers: Basic Standard Development of Information Technology of Thailand, 1991. (in Thai)
  4. Thai Industrial Standards Institute, TIS 820-2538 : Layout of Thai Character Keys on Computer Keyboards, September, 1995. (in Thai)
  5. Thai Industrial Standards Institute, TIS 1099-2535: Standard for Province Identification Codes for Data Interchange, August, 1992. (in Thai)
  6. Thai Industrial Standards Institute, TIS 1075-2535: Standard for Conversion Between Computer Codes and 6-bit Teletype Codes, January, 1992. (in Thai)
  7. Thai Industrial Standards Institute, TIS 1074-2535: Standard for 6-bit Teletype Codes, January, 1992. (in Thai)
  8. Thai Industrial Standards Institute, TIS 1111-2535: Standard for Representation of Dates and Times, September, 1992. (in Thai)
  9. Thai Industrial Standards Institute, TIS 620-2533: Standard for Thai Character Codes for Computers, August, 1990. (in Thai)
  10. Thai Industrial Standards Institute, TIS 988-2533: Recommendation for Thai Combined Character Codes and Symbols for Line Graphics for Dot-Matrix Printers, August, 1990. (in Thai)