The Malay population of Thailand is almost entirely Muslim, making Islam the largest non-Buddhist religious community. Since Buddhism does not seek proselytes and shows the greatest tolerance towards other religions the Muslims have complete freedom of worship: indeed the government is at present encouraging the construction of mosques in the southern provinces.
Among the country’s Chinese population Buddhism, either Mahayana or Theravada, is as widespread as Taoism or Confucianism. There are also many Christians among the Chinese.
The first Christian missionaries came to Thailand as early as the middle of the 16th century, but there have been relatively few converts. The Roman Catholic mission claims 300,000 adherents, the Protestant mission 60,000. Their importance, however, is greater than the figures would suggest. In the fields of health and education their contribution has been of decisive importance, and the services they have rendered have been recognized and appreciated by the Thai government. One of the main centers of the Christian community is Chiang Mai, where there has been a Presbyterian mission for over a hundred years. The German missionaries of the Marburg Mission operate in other parts of the country.