I wish to set the record straight on some inaccuracies in Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s July 24/25 article, “Southern Thai separatists touch trust milestone.” The writer cites the supposed rise of Buddhist chauvism as one of the reasons for the rekindled conflict in the Southern Border Provinces (SBPs) of Thailand and mentions that “the monastic Sangha and the making of Buddhism as the national religion endorsed by the monarchy all play a role in the monopolization of religious space in Thailand.”
The fact is that while Buddhism is the professed faith of approximately 94 percent of the population in Thailand, there is no official state religion in the country. Under the constitution and in practice, freedom of religion is guaranteed, and the King of Thailand is patron of all major religions. Muslim Thais everywhere have long coexisted with Thais of other faiths in peace and harmony while preserving their distinctive practices and beliefs.
Thailand has a long-standing tradition of religious tolerance. The Thai government is working to resolve the situation in the SBPs, which is a complex problem caused by various factors including social and economic inequalities as well as ethnic and historical issues — but certainly not because of religious differences.
I, therefore, hope that the writer and The Japan Times would exercise more care with this fact in the future to avoid further inflaming the situation and playing into the hands of those who would want to turn it into a religious conflict.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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