Buddhism without a living Buddha: State management of religion in post-Bhumibol Thailand
Keywords:Thailand, Buddhism, State management of religion, Department of Religious Affairs, Constitution, Sangha Act
This article examines Thailand’s religious attitudes under the government of Prayut Chan-o-cha in the post-Bhumibol era (2018-2019). The article argues that this government has provided justifications for state intervention in people’s religious lives. Field research was conducted in the Department of Religious Affairs of Thailand from June to September in 2018 and 2019 to analyze state policies and gain a better understanding of Thailand’s management of religion. The article also analyzes the 2017 constitutional change and the 2018 Sangha Act to reveal how Thailand deals with different religions in the country. The research found that, in the post-Bhumibol era, Prayut’s government has attempted to give Buddhism an even greater position of superiority over other religions by supporting it with government policies and constitutional clauses. In contrast, King Rama X, the successor of Bhumipol, has pursued the king’s traditional role as a religious sponsor. However, unlike his predecessor, he does not devote himself to the traditional kingly virtues derived from Buddhism.