12 Feb 2018

In accordance with Thai conceptions of Buddhist kingship, Thai rulers have felt obliged to devote considerable energies towards the promotion and protection of Buddhism. Over the past century (and more), state laws have been instituted and bureaucratic agencies established to regulate and implement such promotional and protective activities. This article outlines some broad trends and patterns in the bureaucratization of Buddhism in Thailand, and discusses their implications for religious freedom. It argues that although Buddhism has been extensively bureaucratized, the implications for religious freedom have been less severe than one might perhaps expect, owing not least to the fact that Buddhism is a monastic religion. However, recent developments—taking place in the wake of the 2014 military coup and of the 2016 royal succession—suggest that the legal environment is changing in ways that may have negative implications for religious freedom in Thailand.