The Muslims in Thailand : A Review
by Omar Farouk Bajunid
Kyoto University Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Issue Date: Sep-1999
The tendency to portray Thailand as being overwhelmingly Buddhist in character and composition has tended to overshadow the role of its non-Buddhist minorities. Historically, politically and culturally the Muslims have been an integral part of Thailand for centuries. Islam is not only the second largest religion in the kingdom but also enjoys royal and official patronage. But yet, a review of existing works would reveal serious gaps in the academic treatment of the subject. The main corpus of literature on the Muslims tends to view them as a marginalized border minority rather than a well integrated national minority. Invariably it is the role of the Malay-Muslim segment of the Muslim population that is highlighted rather than the others. In contrast to this dominant trend this article offers a description of the national position of the Muslims in the modern Thai polity. It begins with a literature review and then proceeds to trace the history of the Muslims in the Thai kingdom. Their contemporary sociological profile and political role is subsequently described. The article concludes with suggestions on ways in which further research and documentation on the Muslims in Thailand could be undertaken to promote a comprehensive understanding of their actual role in Thailand.