Push to Include Buddhism in New Constitution

April 10, 2007

Source: Radio Australia


Thailand is in the middle of drafting a new constitution. Many lobby groups have been voicing their opinions since the drafting process began last September. But one of the most controversial lobbyists is the Thai Buddhist clergy, who are again calling for the religion to be part of the new constitution.

HILL: Buddhism's influence on Thai culture is obvious to even a first time visitor. Bangkok has hundreds of temples, known as wats, and the Thai calendar revolves around Buddhist celebrations. About 95 per cent of the country is Buddhist but the minority that is left are protected by a constitution that does not discriminate. But, as Thailand military government begins the process of drafting a new constitution, there are growing calls from the Buddhist clergy within Thailand to make Buddhism the national religion.

SIVARAKSA: It is most inappropriate. Because Buddhism is universal - it includes all humanity and all sentinel beings. Once you make it part and parcel of nationalism you endanger not only Buddhism, you endanger nationalism also,

HILL: Sulak Sivaraksa is a Thai intellectual and social commentator based in Bangkok. He is against the move to indoctrinate Buddhism in the Thai constitution, because he fears it will encourage discrimination like it has elsewhere.

SIVARAKSA: As you can see, in Sri Lanka, the Sinhala claim to be Buddhist - they regard the Tamils, Christian, Hindu as the enemy which is very dangerous. In our country we have about five million Muslims in the South that feel they are deprived of many basic rights already. If we made Buddhism national religion, so we end up they are nothing, they are nobody -we have a crisis in the South already. Why should we add salt to the wound?