Thais to boycott Kun Khmer

Thais to boycott Kun Khmer

Cambodia refuses to back down on name

A Muay Thai bout at a previous SEA Games.
A Muay Thai bout at a previous SEA Games.

Thailand will boycott a kickboxing event at the SEA Games in Cambodia in May, officials said, in a row with the hosts over what to call the sport.

Thai officials are angry at plans by Cambodia to refer to the event -- which they regard as their national sport -- on the official programme as Kun Khmer instead of Muay Thai.

While the name Muay Thai may be better known around the world, Cambodian officials insist the sport originated from their Khmer culture.

The event is one of a series of combat sports at the 11-country regional Games, alongside kickboxing, karate, taekwondo, kun bokator and vovinam.

Cambodia is hosting the Games for the first time.

Charoen Wattanasin, vice-chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand (NOCT), said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had not endorsed the term Kun Khmer.

"They are violating international regulations for sports competitions," he told AFP.

"The Thai boxing association won't be sending athletes to compete."

Cambodian sports officials are refusing to back down.

"We are the host country so we have the right to change it to Kun Khmer as the sport has its origin in Khmer and it is our culture," Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee, told AFP.

"We have to satisfy our people."

He said Cambodia would retaliate and not send fighters to Thailand when it hosts the 2025 Games. The sport will be called Muay Thai at that event.

The International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA) condemned the Cambodian move.

"Kun Khmer is not Muay Thai, like judo is not karate. There might be similarities but Kun Khmer has no recognised federation," IFMA general secretary Stephan Fox told AFP.

As the sport's governing body, the IFMA would be responsible for organising it at the Games, including by providing referees and officials and arranging anti-doping measures.

Fox said the IFMA would not take part in the SEA Games in Cambodia and the federation has written to its members telling them not to go.

In a letter sent last week, the IFMA accused the Cambodian organisers of copying the Muay Thai technical handbook used at the last SEA Games, held in Hanoi last year, and simply changing the name to Kun Khmer.

IFMA president Sakchye Tapsuwan said Thailand would not send athletes to take part in the discipline which is not recognised by the IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

"I believe Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam will also not participate in the event," said Sakchye, who is also president of the Amateur Muaythai Association of Thailand.

He said that the IFMA had already notified countries that participation in Kun Khmer at the SEA Games may result in them being banned from taking part in the World Games and the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.

Thailand and Cambodia have repeatedly clashed over their cultural heritage, with 2011 seeing several months of bloody military conflict over a disputed temple on the border.

Cambodia ultimately won that dispute when the UN's top court ruled in its favour.

Muay Thai secured Olympic recognition as a sport in 2021, but its pathway to the Olympic Games is uncertain because of safety concerns.

It allows some moves that are banned in other forms of kickboxing, such as elbow- and knee-strikes. afp/bangkok post

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