Thursday, June 07, 2007

Buddhism in Thailand

As an ex resident and as someone with profound respect for the institutions and people of the distinctive country of Thailand let me say blankly that the current proposal there to change the constitution to make Buddhism the national state religion is stupid.

The current government of Thailand is an unelected military junta and elections will be held this year. Effectively Thailand is a Buddhist country with Buddhism permeating every aspect of Thai life. More than 90% of Thais are Buddhist.

But southern Thailand has a significant Muslim population and 2,000 people have died there since 2004 in a conflict where Buddhists are increasingly seen as the enemy. Within Buddhism throughout the country there is increasing paranoia about the rise of Islam.

Changing the constitution to make Buddhism the official religion will not change people’s beliefs but will make the situation in the south much worse. It will also shift the ethos of Thai Buddhism from being an open tolerant religion.

I am no defender of intolerant Islam (or indeed of any religion) which sees itself as the religion and denies the role of other belief systems. The recent events in what used to be tolerant Malaysia are appalling. Other Islamic countries are much worse in terms of making the lives of non-Muslims very difficult.

The attractive feature of Thai Buddhism has been its refusal to display religious intolerance – from both a moral and practical viewpoint this should not change.


conrad said...

HC, Malaysia has never been a tolerant place. Ask any Chinese person that comes from there, including all the one that moved to Australia because they got sick of it.

hc said...

I agree the record with its Chinese has been appalling. But things getting worse there now.

Thai Chat said...

I agree with you.
But one may understand why they want to do it with the events in the southern province...