Secularism – Constitutional Drafting

To be or not to be “secular” that is the question! The hottest issue which becomes a dilemma for the Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) is the controversial question to enshrine “Buddhism”as our state religion. As you know that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is in our minds, every religion can give you the great means to reach the state of mind which is pure to comprehend the complexity of metaphysical issue. In Pattaya which is the city located between “devil and a deep blue sea”, nobody cares about the difference between “Democracy” and “Theocracy”. Most foreigners just come here to pursuit forthe”happiness”which is enshrined in the Constitution of the USA. Most of foreigners in Pattaya pray for “Hedonism” by wors hiping the sand in the beach

Secularism is not equated to Atheism The word”SecularState” should be introduced to Thai people. However, many people confusingly combine or conflate the word “Secularism” with “Atheism”.

John Lennon imagined there is no country and no religion

A “Secular State” means a state or country that officially neutral in matters of religion, neither supporting nor opposing any particular religious beliefs or practices, and has no “State Religion” or equivalent, not equate to “Atheism” which means that you do not believe in any God nor supernatural power. Most of you will spontaneously think about John Lennon and his song “Imagine” denying countries and religions. “Multiculturalism” becomes a common question for many countries to ascertain a mutual solution of “Unity within Diversity”. Somebody say that you can hear people in Pattaya speaking English more than many multicultural cities in the UK. As a matter of a censor record, it is found out that Buddhism is the faith of 95% of the population, 4% are Muslims, 0.5% are Christians and other religions. In a House Register Book (Tabien Baan), a religion of each person will be recorded. Once I became a student in the University of Lausanne, Switzerland in 1987, many students in the class admired the Kingdom of Thailand as one of the country which is “etat laic” or “secular state” in the English language. In the French language, the word “laicite” is equated to “religious tolerance”. The Model of Secularism India is the most multicultural country who enjoys the secularism. The word secular was inserted into the preamble by the 42 amendment act 1976. It implies to equality of all religions and religious tolerance. India does not have an official state religion. Every person has the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion they choose. The government must not favor or discriminate against any religion. It must treated all religions with equal respects. All citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs are equal in the eyes of law. No religious instruction is imparted in government of government-aided schools. The supreme court of India held that secularism was an integral part of the basic structure of the constitution. Since 1932, there have been already 18 constitutions in the Kingdom of Thailand. However, there is not any law or constitution enshrining “Buddhism” as a state religion. It is mentioned that the King is a Buddhist and upholder of all religions recognized in the Kingdom. Thai law is very secular especially the Penal Code which is adopted from the Penal Code of India. Most of you know that the Penal Code of India was enacted during the British rule. However, the Islamic laws involved with family and inheritance may apply in the deep South if both parties who are Muslim mutually agree. Equal Protection against Blasphemy All religions in the Kingdom are equally protected by the Penal Code of Thailand by imposing punishment for anyone who insults or harms any religion.

The Mosque and Catholic Church share the same fence in Pattaya

Section 206.- Whoever does, by any means whatever, to an object or place of religious worship of any group of persons in a manner likely to insult such religion, shall be punished with imprisonment of one to seven years or fine of two thousand to fourteen thousand baht, or both.

Section 207.- Whoever causes a disturbance at an assembly or religious persons lawfully engaged at the time of meeting in religious worship or performing religious ceremonies, shall punished with imprisonment not exceeding one year or fine not exceeding two thousand baht, or both.

Section 208.- Whoever wrongfully dresses, or uses a symbol manifesting that he is a Buddhist priest or novice, holy man or clergy man of any religion in order to make the other person to believe that he is such person, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding one year or fine not exceeding two thousand baht, or both.

You may hear that some foreigners were punished for their blasphemous behaviors by sitting on the shoulder of Buddha statue. How about some foreigners and Thais who use the statute of Buddha for decorative items” These punishments also apply for blasphemous behaviors on other religions. There is no punishment for any infidels or pagans unless your behavior is against the law. That is to say, nobody can punish you on the ground that you have no religion. The fornication or homosexuality is not punishable by the law. The Freedom of Thought The Universal Declaration of Human Right 1948 that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” is adopted by the Kingdom of Thailand as our commitments to all humans residing in the Kingdom with diversity of background. If the political impetus forces the CDA has no exit but to enshrine Buddhism as a state religion, we still remain optimistic that it will not change our national ideology of tolerance. Even the Kingdom of Thailand cannot become the “Secular State” like France, India or Singapore,but we do not believe that the Kingdom of Thailand will become a “Theocratic State”. As a matter of fact, Thai people are quite “non-exclusivist” for religious matter. The multicultural society needs religious plurality. There is a national say that all religions teach people to be good. We will have to more sophisticated to go forward for the mutual understandings. Nobody will be put in the ghetto of prejudice. In the multicultural Pattaya, you may see the mosque sharing the same wall with Saint Nicolas church. Is it the real Kingdom of Heaven for all of us” We can definitely find the sustainable peace and happiness under the shelter of His Majesty the King. It is a paradox that some hospitals in Pattaya pray that “In Cash We Trust” in stead of “In God We Trust” even they receive the dollar note from their patients. The state religion should be enshrined in our heart not constitution. Everything is impermanent except the truth of nature. Our constitution is definitely impermanent. It may not be accepted by the referendum. Behold see birds in the sky! Are they better than us” If you have any comments about our constitution please send your idea to cda@parliament.go.th