Most Thai people (around 95%) are Buddhist, whilst 4.6% are Muslim, and Christianity comprises 0.7%. Most of Thailand’s Muslims live in the south of Thailand. There are also a significant number of Hindus and Sikhs. Thailand also has a history of animism – which generally means the belief in souls and spirits – and this is still practiced by some of the people of the hill tribes in the north of Thailand.
Although Buddhism is by far the main belief, Thailand prides itself on religious freedom and welcomes the emergence of newer religions and beliefs.
The strain of Buddhism worshipped in Thailand is Thai Theravada Buddhism, which is supported and overseen by the government. Most men are expected to become a monk at some point in their life, and this is often undertaken during the three monk Khao Phansa period, which begins in July.
Monks can be easily recognised by their saffron coloured robed and shaved heads. Monks cannot carry money and so can be seen early in the morning collecting their daily food. Monks also receive a number of government benefits, such as free use of public transport.
Religion forms a cornerstone of most Thai people’s lives, entwined with daily activities and special events. Most people will worship at the temple (known as a wat) during festivals and monks and spirits are consulted when important decisions need to be made such as weddings and starting a business.