The emergency decree in effect in the majority Muslim southern area gave military, police, and civilian authorities significant powers to restrict certain basic rights, including pre-trial detention and searches without warrant, which they used frequently, and delegated certain internal security powers to the armed forces, often triggering accusations of unfair treatment. The government continued to arrest suspected Malay Muslim militants, some of them juveniles, and in some cases held them for a month or more under an emergency decree and martial law provisions. Human rights organizations maintained the arrests were arbitrary, excessive, and needlessly lengthy. Civil society groups accused the army of torturing some suspected Malay Muslim militants at detention facilities. For example, representatives of a local NGO faced possible legal action for defamation after they publicly called for an investigation into allegations that irregular military units had tortured a suspected militant in April. Military and police officials denied the accusations.
Due to concerns about violence, the government continued to provide armed escorts for Buddhist monks for their daily rounds to receive alms and during Buddhist festivals.
Muslim professors and clerics, particularly in the southernmost provinces, faced additional scrutiny because of continuing government concern about Malay Muslim separatist activities. Government officials and journalists stated that some Islamic schools indoctrinated youth into supporting the conflict. Academics at a regional university concluded that southern insurgents targeted state schools and teachers in response to a perceived effort to impose Thai Buddhist culture on the region.
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) continued to deny the request of Falun Gong representatives to register officially as a foundation or association. Falun Gong leaders’ appeal of the Administrative Court’s 2013 ruling to uphold the MOI’s denial remained pending at year’s end. Falun Gong representatives reported that authorities harassed group members in Pattaya and Bangkok. In early August police officials dispersed a group of Falun Gong members while they distributed leaflets at a pier in Pattaya. Authorities confiscated the leaflets and other possessions, but later returned them after group members paid a fine. Falun Gong leaders said that authorities also prevented adherents from distributing materials in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
The government subsidized activities of the five recognized religious communities. The government allocated 5.4 billion baht ($164 million) for the fiscal year (October 1-September 30) to support the National Buddhism Bureau, an independent state agency. The bureau oversaw the Buddhist clergy and approved the curricula for all Buddhist temples and educational institutions. In addition, the bureau sponsored educational and public relations materials on Buddhism and daily life. The government budgeted 401 million baht ($12.2 million) for the RAD, including 61.5 million baht ($1.9 million) for Buddhist organizations; 8 million baht ($243,000) for Islamic organizations; and 2.2 million baht ($67,000) for Christian, Brahmin-Hindu, and Sikh organizations. The RAD fiscal year budget also included allocations for religious lectures, Buddhist Sunday school, Islamic study centers, religious activities for persons with disabilities, and interfaith events. The government provided funds to promote and facilitate Muslim participation in the Hajj.
The government funded Buddhist and Islamic institutes of higher education, religious education programs in public and private schools, renovation and repair of temples and mosques, and daily allowances for travel and health care for monks and Muslim clerics.
The RAD provided funds for the restoration of religious buildings of non-Buddhist, non-Muslim religious groups. These groups did not receive a regular budget to maintain religious buildings, nor government assistance to support their clergy.
Private donations to registered religious organizations remained tax deductible.
Religious groups generally proselytized freely. Monks working as Buddhist missionaries were active, particularly in border areas among the country’s tribal populations. According to the National Buddhism Bureau, there were 5,011 Buddhist missionaries working nationwide.
Muslim and Christian missionaries did not receive public funds or state subsidies. Islamic organizations had small numbers of citizens working as missionaries in the country. Christian organizations had larger numbers of missionaries, both foreign and Thai, across all denominations operating in the country. Sikhs and Hindus had smaller numbers of missionaries.
There were close to 1,600 registered foreign missionaries, mostly Christian. Some missionaries were present in accordance with formal quotas set along religious and denominational lines. Many unregistered missionaries, however, also lived and worked in the country without government interference. Registration conferred some benefits, such as visas with longer validity, but being unregistered was not a significant barrier to foreign missionary activity. Many foreign missionaries entered the country using tourist visas and proselytized without RAD’s authorization. There were no reports that the government deported or harassed foreign missionaries working without registration.
The government recognized 39 elected Provincial Islamic Committees nationwide. Their responsibilities included providing advice to provincial governors on Islamic issues; deciding on the establishment, relocation, merger, and dissolution of mosques; appointing persons to serve as imams; and issuing announcements and approvals of Islamic religious activities.
The government sponsored interfaith dialogue through regular meetings and public education programs. The RAD carried out and oversaw many of these efforts including a central interfaith youth camp, regional interfaith youth camps in 30 provinces, and, in conjunction with provincial authorities, Youth Reconciliation Camps in 62 provinces to foster mutual religious understanding. The RAD sponsored an annual interfaith assembly and interfaith caravan to Loei Province, which brought blankets, clothes, and other necessary items to people in need.