THE DEPARTMENT of Children and Youth (DCY) is preparing to take action against all those involved in organising the November 10 muay thai match, in which a 13-year-old boy was killed.
DCY director-general Somkid Somsri said yesterday that his department will also call on provincial child-protection committees to warn muay thai gyms not to allow children to fight in boxing rings. He warned that officials would file a police complaint against them under the Child Protection Act if they did.
As for the death of young fighter Anucha Tasako, all relevant agencies are conducting a fact-finding inquiry that should bring clarity by Friday, Somkid added.
He cited a forum held by involved agencies on Monday and said they unanimously agreed that young children’s job was to study, not earn money for themselves or their family.
Child boxing, which breaches the Child Protection Act 2003 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, could affect the kids’ health and development, Somkid said.
He added that the Social Development and Human Security and the Tourism and Sport ministries need to discuss whether child boxing should be deemed a sport, a competitive entertainment activity or a form of gambling.
If children practise muay thai as a sport, they need to wear protective gear, but if they fight to make a living, then it is against the law, he added.
If they were driven to fight due to their families’ financial hardship, state agencies must provide aid so families can take care of their kids without sending them off to fight.
This file photo taken on June 28, 2012 shows young Muay Thai boxers fighting in the ring at a boxing stadium in Buriram province. - Thousands of child boxers compete in Thailand's traditional martial art with dreams of belts, glory and prize money -- but the death of a 13-year-old on November 10 has lit up a sensitive debate over whether competitors start too young. // AFP PHOTO
Related agencies joined the Monday forum primarily to express their opinions about an amendment of the Child Protection Act and resolved to forward the bill to the Cabinetfor consideration soon, he added.
Meanwhile a bill to amend the 1999 Boxing Act to prevent minors below the age of 12 from taking part was not on the Cabinet’s agenda yesterday, a Government House source.
Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said the Sports Authority of Thailand’s Boxing Committee recently agreed that the bill amending the Boxing Act should be submitted to the Cabinet to clarify the definition of a non-sport muay thai match, and if it is acceptable for children under 15 to engage in bouts. The committee has not discussed a ban on children under 12.
The minister said the Sports Authority of Thailand agreed to check on muay thai gyms and ensure match organisers nationwide adhere to regulations.
The 1999 Boxing Act requires all muay thai boxers to be at least 15 years old, but it is widely known that many children begin fighting years earlier and fight in unauthorised bouts or events that take advantage of the current law’s loopholes.
Weerasak also said an initial inquiry into Anucha’s death found some illegal aspects, such as the absence of a licensed doctor in attendance, and not putting the young fighters through physical examinations beforehand.
The Thai Civil Rights and Investigative Journalism Centre cited a report last March that only 10,373 child boxers and 17,508 boxers over 15 had been registered from 2010 to 2017, despite a 2007 estimate there were as many as 100,000 child boxers in Thailand.
Meanwhile, five networks advocating on family, children and anti-gambling issues have expressed their support for the draft bill to amend the 1999 Boxing Act.
They are calling on lawmakers to ensure children under 15 do not engage in professional fighting and furthermore that children learning muay thai as a martial art must wear protective gears and must avoid inflicting direct blows to the head or any forms of violent fighting during practice.
They also want the government to help poor children access state aid and welfare that they are entitled to, so that they have other choices in life than risking their health in fighting or other dangerous activities.