Constitution debate 'Buddhism defines Thailand'

The Nation, April 23, 2007

Groups insist faith must be recognised as the national religion in new charter

Bangkok, Thailand -- Buddhist groups are increasing pressure to have the faith recognised as the national religion in the new constitution. They have threatened to reject the charter if it is not. Movement leader General Thongchai Kuersakul talks to Pravit Rojanaphruk.

Below are excerpts.

Why is there a need to have a national religion?

There are many reasons. First, a constitution is the supreme law, and yet the first of the three pillars of the nation, which is Buddhism, is not recognised.

Second, since we are living in a democratic system and Buddhists constitute 94 per cent of the population - or almost 60 million people - [the drafters] must listen to their demands. It was the Constitution Drafting Assembly that tried to promote people's participation in the drafting process and argued it's a people's constitution. Why would they do that if they won't give us a chance?

Third, at a recent world Buddhist conference attended by 43 nations, Thailand was chosen to be the centre of Buddhism of all sects.

Fourth, Buddhism has been rooted in Thailand for 2,200 years and, although there are people of other faiths, they are regarded as minorities. The King has always been defender of the Buddhist faith, but the Thai political system changed in 1932. There has been a need to include Buddhism in the constitution since then.

Another thing is that Thais have a unique identity of being forgiving and accommodating, and Buddhism moulds this unique identity.

What differences will there be if Buddhism is recognised as the national religion?

Actually, none.

People who oppose the move say Buddhism is already the de-facto national religion but our society is now based on law, so we can't avoid [including it in the charter].

Currently, only one organic law has been passed in support of Buddhism in Thailand, and that is the Royal Act on the Sangha. An important point is that there has been an attempt by a [Thai] Muslim scholar to oppose school textbooks describing Buddhism as the national religion.

The point is that the argument was made by citing the lack of such an indication in the charter. The feud has lingered to the present.

Many Buddhists worry that if you succeed it will lead to greater friction with Thais of other faiths, especially Thai-Malay Muslims in the deep South.

They just imagine things. Those professing other faiths never think about it because they coexist with us peacefully.

We have submitted letters to members of the drafting assembly who are Muslim and Christian and all went well. They said the charter should state other religions are recognised and respected by the state. And we have no problem with that.

The media often cite the issue but the truth of the matter is that the conflict in the deep South is about separatist ideology, not religion.

They not only kill Buddhists but Muslims. It's a pathetic argument and when and if they succeed [in freeing Patani], they will declare it an Islamic land.

You claim to have all Buddhists behind you. How many supporters do you really have?

I think I can't answer the question, but it must at least be in the millions. Say if we talked to 1,000 supporters and each convinced 10 more, it would be 100,000. Newspapers like Matichon may oppose it but even its own poll says 99 per cent support our move, and other polls gave us some 60 per cent to 70 per cent support.

But are you not acting against the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment?

In principle we recognise the non-attachment principle. The historical Buddha stated he was no god but the task of caring for the religion is on the shoulders of both monks and lay people. Buddhist monks have a duty to protect Buddhism.

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Prasong Soonsiri accused your group of being supported by political groups which oppose the junta.

Prasong is 80 years old. I think his mind is messed up. Ours is an innocent force. We insist we do not wish any group of politicians to join us, but many who are Buddhists want to join. His accusation is most evil.

Why, then, do you think Prasong and other charter-drafters are against your demands?

My personal feeling is that there must be a hidden agenda. The 35 drafters must have agreed not to discuss the matter.

I can't explain why, but they know it deep in their hearts. Whatever they think or act, it's undemocratic. They are dictators. They are the ones causing problems and wanting society to be divided with all sorts of demonstrations. You must ask Prasong, for I can't answer for him.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: