On August 23, 2022, the Thai newspaper Thai Post has reported that the Ministry of Culture has officially approved three Catholic churches. No new Catholic Church had been recognized since 1929.
Itthiphol Khunpluem, Minister of Culture, stressed that the recognition of churches was a measure to address the need for religious harmony. “This certification of the Catholic Church is seen as a way to promote and encourage religions in Thailand, in order to bring them into line with the current situation.”
The minister also added that this measure aims to encourage people to have a place for their religious activities and to “receive education and inculcate correct morals according to religious principles.”
The Ministry of Culture has approved St. Thomas Apostle Church in Bangkok, St. Monica Church in Nan Province and St. Joseph Artisan Church in Phrae Province.
The kingdom had only recognized 57 Catholic churches until 1929. With these latest approvals, the number has risen to 60.
In 2019, according to statistics, Thailand had about 388,000 Catholics, about one-half of one percent of the 69 million people of this predominantly Buddhist nation.
In 2021, the Thai Council of Ministers passed a formal law to allow approval of places of worship.
The decree states that a new parish can only be established if it has a permanent resident priest and a minimum of 200 parishioners who can support the parish.
In exceptional circumstances, a diocese may request a waiver of these criteria requiring a resident priest and a minimum number of parishioners.
The provisions of the law state that the list of parishes thus established will be published annually by the Department of Religions and that they will have up to 2 years to apply for approval.
The Social Communication Commission of the Bishops' Conference of Thailand welcomed the new decree in 2021, saying the recognition meets the need of “the current situation and provides greater security and guarantees for the future” of the Catholic church in the country.