Buakaw affirms Thai nationality

Buakaw affirms Thai nationality

Muay Thai legend hits back at claims of Cambodian descent amid row between two countries

Muay Thai legend Sombat “Buakaw” Banchamek, 40, says he is descended from the Kuy indigenous ethnic group but his nationality is Thai. (Photo: Banchamek Gym [Buakaw Banchamek] Facebook page)
Muay Thai legend Sombat “Buakaw” Banchamek, 40, says he is descended from the Kuy indigenous ethnic group but his nationality is Thai. (Photo: Banchamek Gym [Buakaw Banchamek] Facebook page)

Muay Thai superstar Sombat “Buakaw” Banchamek has clarified that he is descended from the Kuy indigenous ethnic group but has Thai nationality, after Cambodian boxing fans had claimed he is of Cambodian descent.

A dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the legitimate origin of the martial art has led three Thai boxers to affirm their Thai nationality after Cambodian fans made claims to the contrary.

On Tuesday night, Sombat had posted on his official Facebook page that his Kuy ancestors had settled along the Dangrek Mountains, where Thailand, Cambodia and Laos meet. However, he does not hold Cambodian nationality.

“I am a Thai citizen with Kuy ethnicity, not a Cambodian citizen as some people have falsely claimed,” he wrote.

Fans were also abuzz recently over a widely circulated photo of two boxers engaged in stylish choreography claimed to be the ancient Cambodian martial art Bokator. 

However, Thai professional boxer Panupong Tanjad posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday that the photo had been produced by him and his brother, showcasing Muay Thai in Surin province.

He wrote that he had been professionally trained in Muay Thai and was a national Muay Thai athlete and certified Muay Thai coach.

“I have never been trained in Bokator or Kun Khmer [Cambodian traditional boxing]. But the boxers in this photo are my brother and I at a photoshoot in tambon Krapho in Tha Tum district of Surin,” Panupong wrote.

The current dispute stems from the announcement by Cambodia that during the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia in May, the kickboxing sport will be referred to as Kun Khmer instead of Muay Thai.

Hosting the SEA Games for the first time in 60 years, Cambodia officials said that the kickboxing art called Muay Thai had originated in Cambodia. 

Last week the secretary-general of Cambodia SEA Games Organising Committee (Camsoc) Vath Chamroeun told the Phnom Penh Post that the committee had replaced Muay Thai with Kun Khmer to avoid confusion.

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

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

Sakchye Tapsuwan, former president of the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (Ifma), said Thailand would not send its national Muay Thai athletes to join the SEA Games in Cambodia this year.

As well, Ifma said it would ban countries that send their national athletes to compete in Kun Khmer in May. 

Vath Chamroeun counterpunched by declaring that Cambodia would not send its national boxing athletes to the 2025 SEA Games that will be hosted by Thailand.

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