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Practical Guide > About Thailand

It is estimated that 94.5% of the population in Thailand are Buddhists, 4.5% are Muslims and less than 1% are Christain.

Buddhism is a key part of most Thai's life. Temples and shrines can be found everywhere throughout Thailand and most households will have a shrine outside their house.

Buddhism in Thailand mainly follows the Theravada movement and is based on the original teachings of Buddha (Siddhartha). Buddhism first appeared in the Thailand region in about 220BC by the monk Sohn Uttar Sthavira. It is thought that Theravada Buddhism first reached Thailand during the 6th Century AD from Sri Lanka. This became the state religion when the Thai Kingdom of Sukhothai was founded. Although Buddhism is considered by many to be the state religion of Thailand, it does not form part of the Thai constitution. Over the last few years there have been a number of protests and campaigns to get this changed.

During the last half of the 19th century, Buddhism became more centralised and stronger links with the state were established.

Thai Monks of Buddhism.
Monks usually start from the age of 8 or older and serve as Dek Wat (a child of the Wat). While serving as a Dek Wat, the boy would receive a basic education at the Temple. It was often the case that if a child was to progress to higher education, he would first have to serve as a Dek Wat. This was for most Thai families the only form of education available to the young, before introduction of state primary schools.
After serving 4 or more years as a Dek Wat, the boy would become a "novice". This would last for about one or two years before the young man would have the chance to become a full monk or bhikkha. In most cases a young man will only serve as a bhikkha for one year, with the others remaining monks for up to three years. A small number of those will remain Monks beyond that.
A person who has been a Monk will have more opportunities to achieve a leadership position than someone who has not spent time as a Monk. This is especially true in villages were this is often a requirement for leadership.

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