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  • » 11/04/2015, 00.00

    THAILAND

    Bangkok: monks leading a Buddhist extremist movement for a confessional state



    Inspired by fundamentalist groups in neighbouring Myanmar, Thai Buddhists want to incorporate Buddhism as state religion in Thailand’s new constitution. Ethnocentrism and fears of Muslim encroachment are behind the demand. Since 2004, sectarian clashes in the south of the country have claimed 6,500 lives.

    Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A campaign by Thai Buddhist monks to have the country’s ruling military junta include Buddhism as the kingdom’s state religion has been boosted by Buddhist extremism in neighbouring Myanmar.

    Thailand and Myanmar are both overwhelmingly Buddhist. Religious violence and hatred have increased in the latter in the past few years.

    Taking advantage of anti-Islamic sentiments, the Myanmar’s Ma Ba Tha Buddhist movement has promoted sectarian laws in order to segregate and persecute the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, which it views as a threat. Since 2012, sectarian violence has caused the death of 300 people and the displacement of an additional 140,000.

    "What happened in Myanmar confirms our suspicions that Buddhism is threatened by various subtle means," said Thai campaigner Banjob Bannaruji, who chairs the Committee to Promote Buddhism as the State Religion.

    Thai Buddhists, he added, have tried for decades to get religious laws like those in Myanmar, but without success.

    Since a military junta took over in 2014, Thailand has been waiting for a new constitution, which must be approved by a referendum.

    In September, the  National Reform Council rejected (as undemocratic) a first draft, requiring a rewrite that could delay elections to 2016.

    A previous attempt to include Buddhism as the state religion in the 2007 constitution, written after an earlier military coup, went nowhere.

    However, campaigners stand a better chance this time round, said Ekachai Chainuvati, a constitutional law expert at Siam University in Bangkok.

    Adopting Buddhism as a state religion could give the constitution greater popular appeal and improve its chances of passing a referendum, he said.

    Amorn Wanichwiwatana, spokesman for the Constitution Drafting Committee, said he could not comment on the likelihood of the idea being adopted. "But we have to listen to every suggestion," he added.

    Thailand has about 350,000 monks. Many Buddhists fear the rise of Muslims. The latter are the majority in four southern provinces, where violence has caused the death of 6,500 people since 2004.

    For every monk killed "a mosque should be burned, starting from the northern part of Thailand southwards", wrote Aphichat Promjan, a monk in Wat Benjamabophit (a famous Bangkok temple) on Facebook on 29 October.

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    See also

    28/04/2007 THAILAND
    Buddhism the state religion, a “useless and dangerous” proposal
    Monks hold protests, urging the Constitutional Assembly to recognise Buddhism as the national religion, “to preserve and improve the profession the faith”. The population, politicians and religious, maintain that the proposal is both useless and dangerous and warn: “it could aggravate tensions in the South”.

    08/07/2009 THAILAND
    Thai Buddhist monks promote activities to attract the faithful to temples
    94% of Thais are Buddhist but only a small percentage attend places of worship. For the feast of Asalhabucha, which recalls the first sermon of Buddha, the religious leaders call for prayer, meditation and living the monastic experience for one day.

    28/04/2016 16:16:00 THAILAND
    Thai Muslim leader calls for learning from other religions to build peace

    The Department of Religious Affairs organised an inter-faith forum that brought together leaders of major religions. According Abdulau Nhumsuks, a member of the Bangkok Islam Association, the idea that learning the teachings of other faiths is a sin “is old-fashioned and incorrect”.



    03/07/2012 THAILAND
    Thai society rediscovers the values of the Buddha to combat materialism and economic crisis
    In June, the celebrations were held for 2600 years of illumination of the "awakened". In a conference, hundreds of faithful, monks and nuns discuss the value of faith and the challenges of modernity. The risks of globalization, promoting an education system capable of forming good citizens.

    02/03/2016 18:21:00 THAILAND
    Thai Bishop calls for a stop to conflicts under the pretext of religion

    Mgr Joseph Chusak Sirisuthi, secretary general of the Thai Bishops' Conference, spoke at a seminar in Bangkok on the role of religion in school education. Teachers and school administrators across Thailand attended the conference. For organiser, "All religions teach peace and love, which must be the foundations of a good society."





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