Religious Diversity and Political Change in Thailand

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Announcing: Lovichakorntikul, Petcharat and John Walsh, “Religious Diversity and Political Change in Thailand,” Journal of Social and Development Sciences,” Vol.4, No.12 (December, 2013), pp.538-41, available at: http://ifrnd.org/Research%20Papers/S4(12)3.pdf.

Abstract:

Thailand continues to undergo a process of political modernization, moving from a feudal to a
fully-fledged and modernized capitalist society. This is a process that has involved numerous missteps
and backward turns – most recently the 2006 military coup and the 2010 massacres – and the dissolution
of previously existing cultural and social bonds. Marketization of all regions of the country has brought
about changes in land ownership, social relations and gender relations but has not, as yet, brought about
changes in religious beliefs or in the relationships between people of different belief systems. The
majority Buddhist philosophy has been invigorated by emphasis placed on figures such as the goddess
Guan Yin, who is eminently appropriate for the age of plenty, while animist hill tribes people incorporate
new ways of life into a flexible and accommodating belief system. Only in the southern provinces
bordering Malaysia, where the majority of people are ethnic Malay Muslims, is there a division between
people based on religion. A faction of people in the border regions have been agitating for autonomous
rule or, at least, an end to unfair and unpleasant treatment by high-handed representatives of the Thai
state and their mandate to enforce the longstanding triumvirate of Thai language, Buddhist belief and
respect for the monarchy as defining characteristics of citizens. Agitation has led to acts of terrorism and
suppression including atrocities on both sides. These divisions are not reflected in any other part of the
country, although plenty of other symptoms of division are.
Keywords: Religious diversity, political change, Thailand

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