In a move toward the ASEAN Community, Thailand will launch two projects in 2013 to promote relations and understanding within ASEAN through the use of the religious dimension.
Director-General of the Religious Affairs Department Preecha Gunteeya said that the Department had mapped out four plans in preparation for the realization of the ASEAN Community in 2015.
The plans seek to boost religious cooperation, exchange religious knowledge and learning, promote religious organizations, and develop capacity-building to help strengthen religious mobilization. A budget of 24 million baht will be used to carry out various projects under these plans.
As for 2013, two major projects, involving a budget of 16 million baht, will be implemented. In the first project, the Religious Affairs Department and various religious groups will conduct a survey of Buddhist Sunday schools, especially those located along border areas linking with neighboring countries.
The schools with good potential will be developed into ASEAN moral and ethics learning centers. Buddhist monks from other ASEAN countries will be invited to observe the operations of these centers in Thailand for the establishment of such a center in their countries.
In the second project, people in other ASEAN member countries will be urged to join religious activities in Thailand on the occasion of major annual Buddhist holidays, such as the “World Day of Vesak,” or Visakha Puja, and the beginning and the end of Buddhist Lent. The activities also include the merit-making ceremonies Thot Kathin and Thot Pha Pa.
Moreover, royal kathin robes will be presented to temples in various ASEAN nations, as well. At the initial stage, the royal kathin presentation will be held in five countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Singapore. Thailand will also host meetings of ASEAN religious leaders and the ASEAN youth camp for religious relations.
This religious dimension is seen as an important strategy to contribute to a strong foundation for greater understanding and good neighborliness in ASEAN countries, which share many cultural similarities.
Annual meetings and seminars for religious leaders, organized by Thai government agencies to share and exchange knowledge and information, have proven beneficial to society at large.
Meanwhile, Director-General of the Office of National Buddhism Nopparat Benjawatananun said that during the celebration of the 2013 World Day of Vesak, which occurs on 24 May, Buddhist leaders from all over the world will gather here. On this occasion, they will also discuss the development of the Buddha Monthon Religious Center in Thailand as the World Buddhist Center.