Push to make Buddhism Thailand’s state religion

Bangkok, Oct 25 (IANS) Several Buddhist groups here are hoping that the drafters of a new constitution for the country will include Buddhism as Thailand’s official state religion, a media report said on Sunday.

Supporters have declared that this time proposals to the drafters would be made peacefully, after a previous attempt failed during the coup-installed government of former prime minister Surayud Chulanont in 2007, The Bangkok Post reported.

The Constitution Drafting Assembly in 2007 had rejected a proposal to make Buddhism the state religion in the draft charter, which resulted in violent protests staged by monks outside the Thai parliament.

“No government has ever taken an interest in Buddhism, resulting in a decline in the religion,” said Korn Meedee, the secretary of a committee to promote Buddhism as the state religion.

Supporters of the move want the government to enact bills to patronise and protect Buddhism with heavy penalties, such as jail terms for monks who cause “harm and disgrace” to the religion, and also eradicate images that do not properly represent it.

“We want to eradicate non-pure forms of Buddhism, such as using the religion for commercial purposes, as well as the use of Hindu statues inside Buddhist temples,” said Korn, who added that the move would not infringe the rights of other religions.

In the past week, the group has distributed 100,000 forms for a petition in all provinces except the Muslim-dominated Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.

According to official sources, about 95 percent of Thailand’s total population are Buddhists.

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