This thesis focusses on the townspeople in Khun Yuam- a small market town near the Burma-Thailand border. They consist of Tai, Kon Mtiang and Thai speakers, most of whom are traders. Influenced by Weber, previous anthropological studies seem to agree that the Buddhists in Thailand are more concerned with the 'other-world' than secular matters. The laypeople, males in particular, are held to be more interested in seeking their own spiritual salvation than they are in making money in trade and...[Show more] commerce. Such an assumption leads to a conclusion that religion is separated from economic and political activities. If one agrees with this assumption, one will not understand why the economic boom has taken place in Thailand. I argue that Buddhist beliefs, especially meritmaking and the accumulation of merit, and trade are closely connected. Ordinary laypeople believe that one's own prosperity and wealth are due to one's past and present merit, so wealthy people are those who already have some merit. Without merit, one hardly achieves anything in one's life. Without money, it is almost impossible to make merit. In practice, such beliefs encourage the Buddhists to trade and make money in order to use some of their money to make merit. Since it is widely believed that good Buddhists must be good citizens who are loyal to the country, religious beliefs are also related to the politics. Monks are active in converting the non-Buddhists to Buddhism, as well as promoting the national awareness of 'being Thai' to them. These activities are sponsored by the laypeople, who believe they are a kind of merit-making. In fact, such a political movement is also supported by the current trading and tourist booms, formal education, the increasing influence of the Thai languages, mass media and entertainment. This national politics tries to integrate such a remoted area like Khun Yuam into the wider community - its nation-state. It seems to be a successful work. Monks and people who are involved in trade and commerce see no conflicts between their
religious beliefs and political-economic practice and, to some degree, benefit from
all of these activities.
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