Draft legislation currently before the Cabinet would bar children under 12 from muay thai fighting and threaten boxers and referees who rig bouts with up to five years in prison and fines of up to Bt100,000.
Referees caught accepting a bribe to fix a match could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined Bt200,000 fine.
The National Legislative Assembly on Thursday considered the draft amendment to the 1999 Boxing Act as proposed by member General Aduldej Inthapong and 38 others.
The assembly sent it back to the Cabinet for review and re-submission within 30 days, according to Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat.
The legislation would also require boxers wishing to compete professionally to be registered with the sport’s supervising authority. If they are between 12 and 20, they’d also need a letter of consent from their parents or a statutory agent.
It would further prohibit boxing-match organisers from letting children under 15 compete without the authority’s approval. Boxing events would have to actively promote the sport and adhere to specific safety measures and rules.
Chatsuda Chandeeying, chairperson of a National Human Rights Commission panel on the elderly, disabled, children, education and public health, in August claimed that 200,000 youngsters under 15 were participating in competitive muay thai.
Concerns arose about possible violations of their rights and the potential of punches and kicks to cause brain damage.
Chatsuda urged that the Boxing Act be amended in line with the 2003 Child Protection Act and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
She cited a study by Dr Jiraporn Laothamatas, director of Ramathibodi Hospital’s Advanced Diagnostic Imaging Centre, that was presented at last December’s National Health Assembly.
It gave the estimate of 200,000-300,000 children taking part in boxing competitions and being exposed to injury.
The study report said brain injuries caused by direct blows to the head were difficult to detect but could lead to neurological disorders later in life such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
It said young fighters’ IQ scores were on average 10 points lower than those of youngsters who did not fight.
Dr Adisak Plitponkarnpim, director of the hospital’s Child Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention Research Centre, said the 1999 Boxing Act bars children age 15 and under from muay thai and requires they be formally registered, but the law is routinely ignored, and children as young as four are in the ring, often with inadequate safety gear.