New Movement Demands that Buddhism be Made the Official Religion in Thailand

Push for Buddhism to be declared Thailand’s official religion in the new constitution is gaining momentum.

A newly launched campaign in Thailand is demanding that Buddhism be made the state religion. The campaign is said to be influenced by radical Buddhists from the neighboring country of Myanmar, who have also been fighting for Buddhist domination and against claimed Islamic insurgency.

As the junta backed committee prepares to frame the country’s 20th constitution, experts believe that the new campaign will play a pivotal role in helping the junta gain popularity in Thailand. The military junta has been facing a hard time trying to win the hearts of the Thai people, even though the country has been under their control for almost 2 years now.

Experts also predict that the campaign will fuel the anti-Islam sentiment in Thailand, which seems to be experiencing a growing acceptance these days.

But, according to Amorn Wanichwiwatana, spokesperson for the Constitution Drafting Committee, the chances of the idea being implemented is something he cannot comment on at this stage.

On the other hand, Ekachai Chainuvati, an expert on constitutional law from Siam University, Bangkok, believes that the campaign might actually be successful. The move might make the constitution seem more appealing.

95% of Thailand’s citizens are Buddhist and the religion plays a key role in Thai culture. In fact, the law requires the King to be Buddhist and also for him to outfit the Emerald Buddha every three years with a new costume. However, Buddhism has never been proclaimed as the country’s official religion. Movements in the past supporting the establishment of Buddhism as a state religion have, in fact, been met with animosity.

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Thailand, unlike Myanmar, has managed to practice religious tolerance. But, things seem to be taking a different turn as the Thai campaigners are pushing aggressively for Buddhism to be declared state religion in the new constitution.

The group responsible for the move is said to be inspired by Myanmar’s Ma Ba Tha, a radical Buddhist outfit that successfully convinced the Myanmar Government to pass a series of statutory laws in favor of Buddhism. Banjob Bannaruji, a supporter of the movement and also the Chairman of the Committee to Promote Buddhism as the State Religion, states that Myanmar serves as an example of how Islam can be a threat to Buddhism in Thailand.

While Buddhism in Myanmar has gained ground, Buddhism in Thailand has been wrought with scandal. Several reports of Monks being involved in theft, narcotics, and prostitution has led to people demanding that changes be made. 

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