Thailand

[Thailand] Constitutional monarchy in southeastern Asia, covering 198,115 square miles with a population of approximately 64,600,000; known as Siam until 1939. It is thought that the first Christian missionary in this region was a French Franciscan, Bonferre, who preached there about 1550. In 1554 two Dominicans, Father Hieronymus of the Cross and Father Sebastian de Cantu, came as chaplains to the Portuguese soldiers who were in the service of the king of Siam. They established three parishes and made many converts. Both were murdered in 1569, but others soon took their places, and in spite of intermittent persecution, in which there were additional martyrs, the work was continued by the same orders and by others, including Jesuits and Augustinians. In 1662 a Vicariate Apostolic of Siam was founded; this has since been reduced in extent and renamed Bangkok; since 1669 it has been under the care of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris. Siam became a refuge for hundreds of Christians who fled from persecution in Annam andJapan. The Church there has often been protected and assisted by the kings, particularly Phra-Narai: in the 17th century and Mongkut and Chulalongkorn in the 19th and 20th, though many local mandarins and Burmese invaders have been hostile. Since the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has had 17 constitutions and charters with government forms ranging from military dictatorship to electoral democracy; all have acknowledged a hereditary monarch as the head of state, and the current one is King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The people are primarily Buddhist with less than 1% being Christian. Ecclesiastically, Thailand is governed by the archdiocese of and the dioceses of See also
New Catholic Dictionary

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