Soft power panel promotes Muay Thai

Soft power panel promotes Muay Thai

The traditional combat industry needs direction

The government has pledged to improve Thailand's soft power by introducing sports, with Muay Thai one of its most powerful tools.
The government has pledged to improve Thailand's soft power by introducing sports, with Muay Thai one of its most powerful tools.

After the cabinet was formed in September, it quickly established the National Soft Power Strategy Committee, which recruited experts from various creative professions.

This week the committee picked 11 segments for soft power and pledged to implement the Thailand Creative Content Agency (THACCA) Act, which will enable a single agency to set policies for soft power segments.

The 11 segments comprise: fashion, books, film and drama series, festivals, food, design, tourism, gaming, music, art and sport.

One of the main sports the government plans to promote via soft power is Muay Thai, with the private sector hoping for a direction spanning the ecosystem to enhance the competitiveness of the combat sport.


Muay Thai is the only sport in the world that uses the origin country in its name, said Pimol Srivikorn, president of the Taekwondo Association of Thailand, who is responsible for sports in the committee.

There are more than 30,000 Muay Thai gyms and 10,000 boxing camps worldwide, he said during his presentation to the committee meeting at Government House last month.

Muay Thai has even been taught at a school in Finland by a Thai trainer, said Mr Pimol.

The sport generates more than 40 billion baht annually, including 18 billion spent by foreigners participating in Muay Thai classes.

Muay Thai shorts have also become important export items, affirming the sport's popularity.

The well-known Muay Thai competition ONE Championship is broadcast in 190 countries and reaches an audience of 400 million people, more than the 251 million estimated for the Premier League.


With international travel ramping up following the pandemic, most Muay Thai gyms have consistent revenue growth, said Sutthinun Ritthiboriluck, owner of Khun Suek Muay Thai gym in Krabi and founder of the Muay Thai booking platform Now Muay Thai. The platform offers more than 30 operators in tourism destinations nationwide, including Phuket, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai.

The majority of customers are foreign tourists and amateur athletes who stay in Thailand for weeks or months to attend Muay Thai courses, taking leisure trips interspersed with their training, he said.

Some hop from gym to gym during their trips, said Mr Sutthinun.

Despite the growing demand, the industry faces a dearth of quality professional trainers, he said.

The official curriculum, Kru Muay Thai, which is regulated by the Sports Authority of Thailand, only produces around 60 trainers per type every year, across three licence types.

There's an imbalance between demand and gym supply worldwide, said Mr Sutthinun.

In addition, after graduation there is no mechanism to track trainers or match them with training camps, he said.

Even the existence of the licence is not yet widely known among Thais, said Mr Sutthinun.

He suggested the government roll out an intense promotion to support the sport and trainers.


While some people are training to become professionals, the industry should expand opportunities as interest is growing among amateurs, he said.

The authorities should also offer smaller leagues and events to encourage new influencers in the sport, said Mr Sutthinun.

As many quality gyms and trainers remain unknown to a wider audience, Now Muay Thai intends to promote the industry through its platform that contains content and class information, he said. Students can rate trainers' classes and see reviews on the site.

On the supply side, Mr Sutthinun is also developing an open database, Muay Thai Dataverse, collecting registered personnel data for boxers, managers, trainers and stadium operators for future usage.

Mr Pimol said within six months, Muay Thai competitions of various sizes should be held, along with intense offline and online promotion.

By next year, a World Muay Thai Institute needs to be established to certify standards and follow up on results, similar to how South Korea operates Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo Headquarters, to regulate its national sport, he said.

"The industry needs sufficient budget allocation from the government, along with collaboration between ministries," said Mr Pimol.

The Labour Ministry should provide certificates for boxers and trainers before guiding them to teach abroad, he said.

The Culture Ministry and Tourism and Sports Ministry should be responsible for promoting soft power, said Mr Pimol.

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