I sympathise with impoverished families who face losing extra income under a new law prohibiting children under 12 from boxing in professional bouts.
But medical research indicates that, of the 300,000 child boxers in Thailand, 3 per cent or about 9,000 will suffer brain damage at an early age and thereby lose out on opportunities later in life.
The dilemma we face is how to preserve this sport, which is a national heritage, while at the same time avoiding the abuse of children in the ring.
Authorities should consider protecting child boxers with mandatory safety equipment, as well as banning kicks and strikes by elbows and knees to the head, which cause the most damage.
People in boxing circles complain that if Thai kids are banned from boxing, they won’t develop the “bones” of muay thai skills (“kra dook muay”) needed to compete at the adult level. As a result, Thais will lose ground to foreign boxers, they say.
Perhaps sports science offers safer ways to develop kra dook muay in children? Or is unprotected boxing in the ring the only way of building muay thai “bones”?