Beyond Bhuddism: The Diversity of Religion in Thailand

A temple of the primary religion in Thailand. Buddhism is the primary religion in Thailand.

Thailand is among the most religious countries in the world, with around 94 percent of the population identifying as religious. There’s also quite a lot of freedom of religion in Thailand, people in Thailand are free to practice whatever religion they choose, even ones that aren’t officially recognized by the government as long as they don’t harm the state.

Religion in Thailand is characterized almost entirely by one faith — Buddhism. While Thailand has no official state religion, Buddhist monks have special privileges that clergymen of other faiths do not. These include never having to pay for public transportation and having special seats set aside for them at airports and train stations.

Many foreigners may not realize it, given how Buddhism is so dominant, but there are many religions in Thailand. The other two most widely practiced religious beliefs in Thailand are Islam and Christianity, both of which are practiced by small but significant portions of the population.

What religion is in Thailand? The government officially recognized five religions: Buddhism, Islam, Brahmin Hinduism, Sikhism, and Christianity.

There are also a number of unrecognized religions that are practiced in the country. The unrecognized religious groups generally operate freely and their lack of recognition does not hinder their operations.

So, what does the landscape of religion in Thailand look like exactly?


The primary religion in Thailand is Buddhism. More than 93 percent of the population identifies as Buddhist and 90 percent of the population identify as Theradava Buddhists. In total, there are more than 63 million people in Thailand who identify as Buddhist.

The Buddhist heritage is evident in Thai culture and its history. Various dynasties that ruled over parts of modern-day Thailand, such as the Khmer Empire and the Mon Lavo Kingdom, are believed by scholars to have been influenced by Indian Buddhist practices. It’s believed that Buddhism was introduced to Thailand during the 3rd century.

This Buddhist influence on Thailand may best be exemplified by the sheer number of Wats (Buddhist temples) that dot the urban landscapes. Almost every tourism-focused article related to Thailand is going to mention at least one Wat and probably multiple if it’s focused on Bangkok specifically.

There are also its ties to the monarchy. Many of the aforementioned Wats were commissioned by kings. Not to mention that the king himself, while the upholder of all religions, must be an adherent of Buddhism. The king also has to complete some Buddhist and Brahmin rituals to symbolize becoming a living god.

The exterior of a mosque in Thailand. People in Thailand are free to practice whatever religion they choose.

There’s the tradition of Buddhist kingship, wherein the legitimacy of the state was tied to its protection and support of Buddhism and its institutions. Because of this, Thai kings are historically viewed as patrons of Buddhism in the country.

There have also been a number of movements to officially adopt Buddhism as an official state religion, though those have been unsuccessful.

What is the religion in Thailand? Well, here’s your answer.


The second most prominent religion in Thailand is Islam. Around 5 percent of the country’s population is Muslim. Most Muslims in Thailand are Sunni. Islam came to what is now Thailand as early as the 9th century thanks to Muslim merchants.

The early modern period of Thailand had a number of Muslims from the Coromandel Coast serving as eunuchs in the palace and the court. At that point, what was then Siam was known for religious tolerance.

Many of Thailand’s Muslims are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. They trace their origins back to countries like China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Still, the majority of the Muslims in Thailand are Thai-Malay.


By population, the third most practiced religion in Thailand is Christianity. First introduced in the 16th century by European merchants, Christianity today is practiced by a little more than 1 percent of the total Thai population.

There’s also speculation that Christianity in Thailand could have come even earlier when Nestorian (Eastern rite) Christians fled to what is now Thailand after the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty in China in 1368.

Of the 767 thousand or so Christians in Thailand, around 400 thousand of them are Catholic, with the remaining being divided among other sects. Thailand currently recognizes five different sects of Christianity; Catholicism, Southern Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of Christ in Thailand, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand.

While they are not officially recognized, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) has been active in Thailand for decades. There are also some Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country.

Now, the above three are the most practiced religions in Thailand. But there are still a few more religions practiced in the country.

An altar in Thailand. You’ll see a diverse array of religions in Thailand, from statues to monuments and temples.


Because of Thailand’s relative proximity to the Indian subcontinent, there are a number of Hindus in the country and there are traces of Hindu influence in the country. For example, the former capital of the country is Ayutthaya. The city was named after Ayodhya, the birthplace of Rama, a major deity in Hinduism. The Khmer Empire of Thailand also had Hindu influences.

As far as population goes, there are just over 80 thousand Hindus living in Thailand as of 2020, a massive increase from just under 14 thousand in 2018. Their numbers constitute about 0.1 percent of the total population. They’re projected to hit around 132 thousand, 0.2 percent of the population, by 2050.


Then there’s the last recognized religion in Thailand; Sikhism. Historically, the first known Sikh to come to Thailand arrived in 1884 in Bangkok, with others joining in the early 1900s. By 1911, there were several hundred Sikh families in Thailand. They were concentrated mostly in the Thonburi region.

This early Sikh community had no Gurdwara, a place of worship. Because of this, these early Sikhs held their prayers in their homes, rotating homes every week. It wasn’t until 1912 that they established their own place of worship.

As of 2018, there were around 12 thousand or so Sikhs living in Thailand, making for 0.018 percent of the total population.

Religion plays an important role in Thai culture and society. Thailand is not a country wherein its religion can be separated from its culture, it’s certainly not something that can be separated from its monarchy for historical reasons. While there is a singular religion in Thailand that is observed by a vast majority of the population, Thai people are free to worship however they please so long as it does not harm the state.

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