Thai Charter Drafters Reject Buddhism as National Religion

June 30, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Yahoo! News

Wire Service: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand's constitution writers have rejected a plea to name Buddhism as the national religion, a drafter said Saturday, despite protests and hunger strikes by campaigning monks. ADVERTISEMENT

The Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA), appointed by the junta that seized power last year, on Friday voted 66-19 not to include Buddhism in the new charter, which replaces a 1997 version torn up by the coup leaders.

"Religion is a very sensitive issue, which has never before been mentioned in the constitution, so we are afraid that it will be divisive," said Wuthichart Kalayanamitra, a CDA member.

About 95 percent of Thais are Buddhist, but critics of the proposal had warned that naming a national religion could inflame tensions in the Muslim-majority south, where a separatist insurgency has raged for three years.