Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1
The country has an area of 198,000 square miles and a population of 64 million. According to the 2000 census, approximately 94 percent of the population is Buddhist and 5 percent is Muslim; however, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academics, and religious groups estimated that approximately 85 to 90 percent of the population is Theravada Buddhist and up to 10 percent of the population is Muslim. There are also small animist, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, and Taoist populations. According to the Religious Affairs Department (RAD), the numbers of persons who do not profess a religious faith make up less than one percent of the population.
Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion. The Buddhist clergy (Sangha), consists of two main schools: Mahanikaya and Dhammayuttika. The former is older and more prevalent within the monastic community than the latter, which grew out of a 19th-century reform movement led by King Mongkut (Rama IV). Both groups are governed by the same ecclesiastical hierarchy.
Islam is the dominant religion in four of the five southernmost provinces, which border Malaysia. The majority of Muslims are ethnic Malay, but the Muslim population also includes descendants of immigrants from South Asia, China, Cambodia, and Indonesia. The RAD reported that there are 3,610 registered mosques in 66 provinces, of which 2,312 are located in the five southernmost provinces. According to the RAD, 99 percent of these mosques are associated with the Sunni branch of Islam. Shi'a mosques make up the remaining 1 percent.
According to RAD statistics, there are an estimated 360,836 Christians in the country, constituting 0.5 percent of the population. While there are a number of denominations, the Government recognizes five Christian umbrella organizations: the Catholic Mission of Bangkok (Roman Catholic), the Church of Christ in Thailand (Protestant), the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand (Protestant), Saha Christchak (Baptist), and the Seventh-day Adventists. The oldest of these groupings, the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), was formed in 1934 and has 500 registered churches. The Catholic Mission of Bangkok presently has 250 to 300 registered churches. The Evangelical Foundation of Thailand has 750 registered churches but approximately the same number of followers as the CCT.
According to a 2002 Government survey, there are 9 recognized tribal groups (chao khao), comprised of approximately 920,000 persons. These groups generally practice syncretistic forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, and spirit worship.The Sikh Council of Thailand estimates that there are 70,000 Sikhs, most of whom reside in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Pattaya, Samui Island, and Phuket. There are 18 Sikh temples in the country.According to RAD statistics and local Hindu organizations, there are an estimated 95,000 Hindus in the country. There are six Hindu temples--five in Bangkok and one under construction in Phuket.
The majority of ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese practice Mahayana or Theravada Buddhism. There are more than 718 Chinese and Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist shrines and temples throughout the country. Included in this statistic are 19 Vietnamese temples, 17 Chinese temples, and 682 Chinese shrines that registered with the Ministry of Interior. Many ethnic Chinese, as well as members of the Mien hill tribe, practice forms of Taoism. Some ethnic Chinese also practice Christianity, mainly Protestantism.
Note: The World Christian Database (WCD) estimates, used in the Religious Adherents section above, count each person as belonging to a maximum of one religious group. For more information, see the WCD methodology document. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom report estimates, used in the Religious Demography section, use less restrictive criteria in which a person who identifies with more than one religion is classified as a follower of each. In certain cases (such as Japan and other nations with strong folk religion traditions), this can cause counts to vary widely between estimates. Users are advised to consult the relevant source documents before determining which counts to cite.
1. The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the 2600-page award-winning World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. This extensive work on World religion is now completely updated and integrated into the WCD online database. Designed for both the casual user and research scholar, information is readily available on religious activities, growth rates, religious literature, worker activity, and demographic statistics. Additional secular data is incorporated on population, health, education, and communications. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.
2. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.