The emergency decree in effect in the majority-Muslim southernmost provinces since 2005 gave military, police, and civilian authorities significant powers to restrict certain basic rights, including pretrial detention and searches without warrant, which they used frequently, and delegated certain internal security powers to the armed forces, often followed by accusations of unfair treatment. Human rights organizations reported 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 emergency decree and martial law provisions. Human rights organizations stated the arrests were arbitrary, excessive, and needlessly lengthy. Civil society groups accused the army of torturing at least three suspected Malay Muslim militants at detention facilities. Human rights groups criticized the detention of 17 activists from the network of ethnic Malay Muslim students at Princess of Narathiwat University in April.
Since 1984, the government has not recognized any new religious groups. Despite the lack of formal legal recognition, civil society groups reported unregistered religious groups operated freely, and the government’s practice of not recognizing new religious groups did not restrict their activities.
In August following 10 years of legal proceedings, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that practitioners of Falun Gong were allowed to register legally as a nonprofit foundation or association. Media reports, however, highlighted continued incidents of harassment of Falun Gong adherents by military officials. In September media reported that soldiers in the northern Mae Hong Son province briefly detained and confiscated literature from six Falun Gong activists suspected of disrupting the peace by distributing pamphlets describing the Falun Gong and criticizing treatment of the group in China.
Due to stated concerns about violence, the government continued to provide armed escorts to Buddhist monks for their daily rounds to receive alms and during Buddhist festivals.
According to human rights organizations, 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, including some supported by foreign funding, indoctrinated youth into supporting the conflict.
The government subsidized activities of the five recognized religious communities. The government allocated 5.1 billion baht ($141 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 412 million baht ($11.4 million) for the RAD, divided among funds supporting Buddhist, Islamic, 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 also 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.
Religious groups proselytized without reported interference. Monks working as Buddhist missionaries were active, particularly in border areas among the country’s tribal populations, and received some public funding. According to the National Buddhism Bureau, there were 5,161 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 across all denominations had larger numbers of missionaries, both foreign and nationals, operating in the country. Sikhs and Hindus had smaller numbers of missionaries.
There were 1,424 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 religious groups reported that 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. Committee members in the southernmost provinces reported acting as advisers to government officials in dealing with the area’s ethnic and religious conflicts.
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, and, in conjunction with provincial authorities, Youth Reconciliation Camps in 76 provinces to foster mutual religious understanding. The RAD also sponsored an interfaith bicycle ride in Bangkok. In August 1,500 participants attended an annual RAD-sponsored interfaith dialogue event in Bangkok.