April 18, 2007

Thai Monks Call for Buddhism to be Declared State Religion

Philip Ryan

Buddhist monks are planning to stage a rally in central Bangkok on April 25th to pressure the Constitution Drafting Committee to enshrine Buddhism as the state religion. The military regime currently controlling Thailand is resisting this move, and urging all involved to carefully consider what they are asking. The monks involved do not seem to represent the Buddhist leadership in Thailand, nor are they explicitly involved with a political group.

The southeast Asian nation is roughly 90% Buddhist, but has been experiencing acute inter-religious conflict in its largely Muslim southern provinces where some 2,000 people have died since 2004. (27 people have been beheaded in the same period. One of the victims, still unidentified, was killed on the eve of Ramadan, and had the following note pinned to his corpse: "You have arrested innocent people from the village. I have killed innocent people in return.")

In other Thai news, Thailand's military government has cracked down on websites heavily in recent weeks, most notably youtube.com, which hosted a video found to be insulting to the king. (Thailand's king has little political power but is an important symbol of national identity.)

Thailand has blocked some 45,000 websites so far, many for political reasons. Sites praising the former government or criticizing the current one have been suppressed, for example. Still, Thailand's government pays lip service to returning to democracy and is not to be compared to that of its horrible neighbor Burma, or its other neighbor Laos, one of the world's last national Communist governments.

Speaking of Laos, the Plain of Jars is cool, and here's an article about it, or rather the 14-year-long struggle for control of the area during the "long Southeast Asian War" in a U.S. Air Force magazine. Also, Thailand seems to have had more than ten constitutions since 1932. The U.S. might be due for a new one too.

Philip Ryan, Webmaster

UPDATE: A source familiar with Thai politics informs me that there are strong indications that Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed Prime Minister and enemy of the governing junta, has a lot to do with the Bddhist monks' challenge to the Thai constitution. Thaksin, an avowed enemy of the current Thai rulers, of course has a strong interest in discrediting the government and its newest attempt to define a new Constitution.

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