Is it child abuse to let Kids fight in the boxing ring in Thailand?

Girls fighting for survival: Two barefoot boxers are sweating and dodging, kicking and punching each other to the head and stomach in a lit-up stadium. A roaring crowd of men who have bet large sums is urging them on, and in the fighters’ corners after each round, their entourages hurl instructions: ”Use your right fist to stab!”, ”turn and kick!” and ”you can’t lose!”. They are among an estimated 30,000 children who fight professionally in Muay Thai child boxing tournaments in Thailand. Two of the girls, Stam and Pet, are the focus of a new documentary, “Buffalo Girls” [Read Full Story].

Before you judge the parents of these two girls, read the full article first. On the surface it seems to be child abuse as the family of these girls are using them to buy material goods. But Muay Thai is very much part of the Thai culture and for many families, it is a way for them to get themselves out of poverty. It is very well for us to get on our high horse and tell them that this bloody sport must stop. But, what is the alternative? We cannot take away one method of escape for them without replacing it with something else. Anyway, as @macarthy pointed out to me on Twitter, even in the UK they have Muay Thai fight clubs for kids.

Buffalo Girls: Their faces beam with youthful innocence. Like other young children, they laugh and play, in spite of their hardscrabble existence. But on Saturday nights in rural villages throughout central Thailand, some of the nation’s 30,000 child boxers enter the ring, where their tiny fists, elbows, knees and feet fly, pummeling one another in pursuit of prize money as strangers, neighbors, and even their own families, wager on the outcome. Is it exploitation, empowerment or economic necessity?

You can watch the trailer on youtube here.

Strictly Baby Fight Club: This powerful documentary offers a rare insight into children’s Thai boxing, which is one of the fastest growing martial arts in the UK, with over 500 registered clubs. Children as young as four or five are becoming the latest recruits to organised fighting, where some people’s attitude is that if you’re good enough to fight, you’re old enough. The programme follows five primary school children (Channel 4 UK).

There are two extracts from this documentary on youtube here and here.

5 thoughts on “Is it child abuse to let Kids fight in the boxing ring in Thailand?

  • May 18, 2012 at 6:50 pm
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    Once I saw one of these kids. Local champion. But the parents told that the kid has got so many hits to the head that he can not think so well anymore. Likely had some brain damage due the sport. The kid will never be able to grow to his full potential he once had a chance.

    I agree fully with your toughs, just saying it’s no-no is not good enough, but alternatives should be offered.

    It should come from the culture as well. The little fighters are offered money as long as there is spectators of this sport. Football could be better alternative.. but are there other sports in Thailand the spectators are willing to pay for the tickets to see an game?

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  • May 18, 2012 at 6:51 pm
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    Same like prostitution. It’s easy to be on the moral side of the debate. But when the bleeding hearts who advocate that poor kids can’t train and fight, show us the funds with which they will send the kid thru school til he or she is 18, while helping sustain the family thru that time, I will respect their POV.

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  • May 18, 2012 at 6:53 pm
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    People should tend to their own concerns ..if u don’t like what you see in thailand stay out

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  • May 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm
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    I believe the children has no choice as I do believe that they might come from pretty poor families who need them to find living in order to support their families. Besides being be beggars, this would be an alternative way for them to earn monies. It is pretty sad.

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  • May 19, 2012 at 8:51 am
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    It is very easy to take the high moral ground from where most people do so – a leafy city suburb in a rich part of the world. Child or adult, male or female, Muay Thai is a way out of poverty. Go live in a province and eke out an existence on 100baht a day, then make your call on what is right and wrong.

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