Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat has vowed to forward a draft amendment to the Boxing Act to the cabinet for consideration as quickly as possible to protect young boxers, after a 13-year-old Muay Thai fighter died after being knocked out in the ring last weekend.
He said yesterday the ministry has received the draft amendment and related recommendations from the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).
"This draft stipulates the criteria concerning ages of young people who want to compete in this sport," said Mr Weerasak. The draft is under the ministry's consideration, he said, adding, "The ministry will rush through the process to forward it to the cabinet for consideration as quickly as possible."
The pledge came after Anucha Thasako, or Nong Lek, the 13-year-old Muay Thai fighter, lost his life after a fight in Wat Khlong Mon in Samut Prakan's Phra Samut Chedi district on Saturday. Anucha was named Petmongkol Sor Wilaithong in Muay Thai circles.
He was competing in a charity bout that pitted him against Put Lukromklao, who has the Muay Thai name of Fahmai Wor Sudprasert. Anucha was knocked cold by a punch during the third round and hit his head hard on the ring as he fell.
- Earlier report and details: Teen boxer dies after fight
He was rushed to Bangchak Hospital, then to Samutprakarn Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Anucha was said to have fought in more than 170 fights since he was eight years old.
Dr Adisak Palitpolkarnpim, head of the Child Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention Research Centre at Ramathibodi Hospital, said the existing Boxing Act has no legal limits for the minimum age of boxers.
It only states that boxers younger than 15 must be registered, and a declaration must be made about the safety equipment provided for them.
In practice, however, most failed to register and no safety equipment was provided in their matches, he said, adding the act also does not specify necessary equipment.
Citing research, Dr Adisak said the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) brain scans of more than 300 children, covering those who boxed and another who did not, show that those with extensive boxing experience suffered brain haemorrhaging and damage to their brain cells and fibres. Regular boxers were also found to have lower IQs, he said.
When these young boxers grow up, they develop memory loss and lose the ability to control their muscles, he said. Only a few continue on to become boxing champions, while many decide to quit.
Many also have learning problems due to the brain damage. "The younger they box, the more damage they receive," he added.
Brain muscles are likely to start developing more when people are 12-13 years old, he said.
He said the amendment would totally ban those younger than 12 from the sport. Boxers between 12 and 15 must be provided with safety equipment, particularly head guards, he said.
He believes more than 100,000 children aged 15 or younger engage in boxing. This figure includes unregistered boxers.
Cellphone video of the charity bout was posted to YouTube.