Thailand Fears It Has Too Many Buddhist Temples

ROME, MAY 11, 2003 ( Thai authorities say they are worried that too many Buddhist temples are being built in the country, depriving the population of needed resources.

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At least 32,000 active temples exist in Thailand, reflecting a big increase in recent years, the Misna missionary agency reported.

Laws require a minimum distance of 2 kilometers (about 1 mile) between each shrine, but those statutes have been ignored in the construction boom.

«The construction of a temple is one of the most important gestures of faith for the Buddhist religion, but considering the present economic situation, perhaps the people should think before building a new one,» said Suthiwong Tantayaphisalsut, director of the National Institute for Buddhism.

The government is concerned that scarce resources are being diverted, especially by farmers in the poorest rural areas, to construction of the temples.

Vice Minister Wissanu Krea-Ngam commissioned his office to draw up a new bill aimed at curbing the proliferation, while respecting religious practices.

Thailand is estimated to have at least 50,000 abandoned temples. More than 90% of Thailand’s 63 million inhabitants are Buddhists; the monks and novices alone number 500,000.

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