Boxing age limit under review again
Muay Thai fighters 'need early start'
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has ordered a review of a draft amendment to the Boxing Act, as its new minimum age limit for young boxers has drawn both plaudits and criticism.
The proposed change to the 19-year-old act, prepared by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), is in the public spotlight after a 13-year-old boy succumbed to severe head injuries after a charity Muay Thai (Thai boxing) bout in Samut Prakan last Saturday.
The current law does not set a minimum age but only stipulates a need to register children who practice the martial art under the age of 15.
Proponents support the NLA's proposal to prohibit children younger than 12 years old from participating in the sport, but opponents argue the new rule would affect the development of new boxers and their opportunity to earn a living.
Child boxing was discussed Wednesday during a meeting of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand. Gen Prawit, who chairs the committee, instructed the Tourism and Sports Ministry, which is now considering the NLA-backed bill, to decide on the most appropriate direction for the sport.
Gen Prawit wanted the ministry to look into both the "safety aspect and a need to develop boxing", his spokesman Khongcheep Tantrawanich said after the meeting.
Lt Gen Khongcheep said Gen Prawit also suggested the use of sports science to build up children's skills if they are too young to practise Muay Thai, and stressed the need to provide young boxers with the proper protective gear.
Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said all concerns would be weighed before the ministry comes up with a version of the bill to be forwarded to the cabinet for approval.
Saturday's fight drew a quick response from authorities, who demanded measures be put in place to ensure no more athletes die fighting.
Anucha "Nong Lek" Thasak, who uses the fighting name Petmongkol Sor Wilaithong, was knocked out by Put Lukromklao during a district-level match the same day. He collapsed after being punched in the third round and smashed his head on the canvass.
"It was an accident," said 1984 Olympic boxing silver medalist Thawee Amphonmaha. The boxer, also known as Khaophong Sitthichuchai, urged the public not to rush to conclude that Thai boxing is too dangerous for children.
"An adult like me could also fall to his death if I collapsed that way," he said.
The boy could also have gradually developed brain injuries over his five years of boxing, according to Adisak Palitpolkarnpim, head of the Child Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention Research Centre at Ramathibodi Hospital.
Nong Lek is said to have contested over 170 bouts since the age of eight. That averages out at three fights a month, despite there being a legally mandated 21-day interval between fights, Dr Adisak said.
Children are more prone to brain damage than adults, he added.
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