Muay Thai = Child Brutality

At first I wasn’t going to go. I was equating Muay Thai, Thailand’s version of all-contact kick-boxing, with bull fighting. But then I rationalized that the fighters didn’t die in the end (like the bull) and it was their choice to get into ring.

As Thailand’s national sport, Muay Thai is characterized by its 8 points of contact, where a boxer fights using his (and her — there are female fighters too) hands, feet, elbows, and knees. So I was expecting there to be some violence and blood and brutality.

What I wasn’t expecting was that there would be children participating. Of the nine bouts I saw, four featured kids, some as young as 7 years old.

The children’s participation was appalling for a number of reasons:

    1. The children wore no safety gear or head protection.
    2. One of the youngest children was knocked unconscious, probably suffering a concussion.
    3. The children’s mothers were in their corners screaming for them to fight harder.
    4. The children were each paid 200 baht, the equivalent of $6, for their performance in the ring.

I was astonished. I couldn’t believe that parents would send their young children into fight, let alone with no protective gear. But apparently, I was the only one who felt this way. All around me the crowd was wild during the matches, with bets being placed on the child most likely to be victorious.

And it wasn’t just local Thais enjoying the sport. Another tourist sitting next to me had brought his 6-year old daughter, who was obviously traumatized to see her fellow kindergarteners being beaten. Even so, the father-daughter duo stayed for all the matches.

Child Fighters

After my initial shock and some internal deliberation, I decided not to leave, even though I found the whole experience nauseating. Instead I chose to stay and document what I saw. Here’s some video of the children fighting each other in the ring:

Cant’ see the video? Click on this link: Children Muay Thai:

Adult Boxers

The adult matches were no less brutal. One man broke a leg, another broke his nose. And one unfortunate Canadian combatant (the only foreigner on that night’s roster) was knocked down 3 times.

Here’s some footage of the Canadian being pummeled:

Cant’ see the video? Click on this link: Canadian Muay Thai:

Protecting Children

I’m surprised that there are no laws to protect children from fighting in the ring. I can’t see how it can be worth it for the families to have one of their young sons risk serious bodily injury—especially brain trauma– for the sake of $6.

I know I come from a developed country and a privileged background. But there are global standards for protecting children. And prohibiting children from participating in Muay Thai – at least without adequate protection — should be one of them.

In the UK, where children also participate in Muay Thai tournaments, there are rules to protect the kids. For instance, head shots are illegal in children’s fights and full padding is required. This is certainly a start.

What are your thoughts…Should children’s Muay Thai be allowed? If so, what precautions should be taken? Write me, I’m interested to hear other opinions!

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 and is filed under Social Issues.

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