Thai political party plans a B9bn (US$ 250 mil) Buddhism fund

by PONGSATORN SINGNOY, The Bangkok Post, Nov 8, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand -- The Puea Pandin party is leading its election campaign with a promise to set up a 9.999-billion-baht Buddhism fund to heal social, economic and political ills. The fund is one of its nine flagship policies, deputy party leader Juthamas Siriwan said yesterday.

Ms Juthamas, a former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor, said she was confident the nine policies for public well-being and happiness could be translated into action.

The religious development fund, which is aimed to build up the minds of the people, was one of its tangible measures to accommodate these policies.

Uthit Siriwan said the fund would focus on supporting the 300,000 monks, novices and nuns in the 30,000 temples across the country.

If in the government, the party would push its plan to turn temples into spiritual development centres.

The party believed the fund would help spread Buddhism so that people could apply religious precepts to heal their problems.

The fund would promote virtues and goodness through the temples and monks. That would bring about success in solving all problems plaguing the country _ whether family, economic, social, political or drug related.

He said the party had sought views from monks across the country when formulating the policy. The Buddhism fund would be financed mainly by a public budget with support from the government.

Wutthichai Damrongwat said Thailand was a leading Buddhist country. The lives of Thai people had deep links to monasteries. However, the funding for Buddhism was small compared to the number of temples across the country.

Puea Pandin had realised the importance of Buddhism, the religion followed by 94% of Thai people, but would not belittle other religions, he said.