Will Buddhism become Thailand's state religion?

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As a junta-appointed committee attempts to craft Thailand’s 20th constitution in less than a century, Buddhist activists are pushing to add something unprecedented: a state religion.

Theravada Buddhism shapes life in Thailand so much that it might be mistaken for the official faith: By law, the King must be Buddhist, and he outfits the country’s famous Emerald Buddha in a new seasonal costume three times each year on the grounds of the Grand Palace. Western tourists flocking to Bangkok would be hard-pressed to envision Thailand without its temples, monks collecting alms, and pictures of the King, which dot everything from currency to busy roadways.

But even though roughly 95 percent of the country practices Buddhism, it has never been proclaimed “official,” despite enjoying some legal protections. Previous attempts to toughen up penalties for “offending” or “contaminating” the religion have ended in failure and protests.



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