Last November, a 13 year old boy died after being knocked out in a Muay Thai ring. Afterwards, a law was proposed that would ban kids under 12 from fighting in Muay Thai matches.
But even the governor of the Sports Authority, which enforces sport law, isn’t so sure it will pass.
For some kids, Muay Thai is a way to support their family. Dao Tai Chew is 13, and lives in Bangkok with his grandmother. If he can win a fight, he can make enough to pay rent for a few months. But it’s not only about money – some kids simply start early to better their chances of creating a career as a professional fighter.
Doctors in Thailand have published several studies showing that allowing children to participate in Muay Thai fights is dangerous, and can lead to reduced brain function as they grow older.
But Muay Thai, like football in the US, is a national sport, and closely woven into the culture. And, just like football in the US, even the suggestion that changes be made for safety’s sake is enough to enrage athletes, coaches, and – especially – fans.
While the national conversation in Thailand swirls around whether or not kids should be allowed to fight, VICE News went to Bangkok to talk to two young fighters, aged 10 and 14, who are continuing to step into the ring.
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