Buddhists of Southern Thailand

  • Pre-Entry
  • Pre-Evangelism
  • Evangelism
  • Discipleship
  • Phase-Out
  • Completed

The Country

A unified Thai kingdom was established in the 14th century and was known as Siam until 1939 when it became the constitutional monarchy of Thailand. This land of free enterprise achieved steady growth due largely to industrial and agriculture exports, until flooding crippled the manufacturing sector in 2011. Yet less than 1% of the labor force is unemployed, even with an influx of two and a half million migrant workers from neighboring countries. The tropical climate of Thailand is divided between the warm rainy season stretching from mid-May to September and the dry cool weather arriving in November through mid-March. In the general area of our project, the capital city of Bangkok is a major regional force in finance and business, an international hub for transport and health care, and a regional center for the arts.

About the People

Southern Thailand, located on the Malay Peninsula and with an area of around 27,000 square miles, is a little larger than West Virginia. The western part has steep coasts, while the east side is dominated by river plains. It is a growing region with a population of more than 9 million. With a more tropical climate, it is home to many of Thailand’s pristine beaches and resorts. This narrow land mass is also home to many fishing communities.

The main language is Southern Thai. The culture mixes strong Indian influences, Chinese traditions, and elements that are uniquely Thai. With its diverse geography, friendly people, and stunning scenery, Thailand has earned the name “Land of Smiles.”

Roughly two thirds of Thailand’s population is made up of Thai ethnic groups, and much of Thailand’s culture comes from the ethnic Thai people. The remaining third of the population is made up primarily of Chinese and other minorities including Vietnamese, Khmer, Hmong, and Mien. One of the most important influences on Thai culture has been Buddhism. Many of the traditions and beliefs of the people in Thailand stem directly from Buddhist principles. Hinduism has also made important contributions to Thai culture, and the close links between Thailand and India can be seen in art, literature, and in many Thai customs. The cultures of nearby Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and China have also played an important role in forming the traditions of Thailand, as have indigenous belief systems such as Animism.

Thai culture is deeply influenced by religion. With around 90% of the country being Theraveda Buddhist, the belief system and values of Buddhism play a huge role in daily life. Another roughly 10% of the population is Muslim with the majority of these living in Southern Thailand. The most important values to Thai people include respect, self-control, and a non-confrontational attitude. Losing face by showing anger is a source of great shame. No matter how frustrated or upset a person might feel, he or she will always strive to maintain a positive and friendly attitude, a sense of humor, and a smile.

Respect for elders and for those in higher social positions is also important. Children are expected to respect their parents and teachers. The young must show deference to the elderly. Those with highly prestigious positions in society, such as doctors, important public figures, and monks are highly revered.

About the Project

Less than one percent of Thailand’s population is Christian. However, most of these live north of Bangkok. There has been less outreach to the Southern Thai people. Our project seeks to take the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ to the Buddhists in southern Thailand.

People-Group Facts

Population: 9 million
Language: Thai
Religion: Buddhism, Islam

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