On behalf of the world muaythai community, IFMA mourns the tragic and untimely passing of Anucha Thasako, a youngster who had a whole life in front of him taken so suddenly. He undoubtedly will be sadly missed by his loved ones and friends.

For years IFMA have fought against professional child fighting which has been prevalent in Thailand in the past. Internationally, all the IFMA member federations are mandated to adhere to the IFMA and IOC approved rules and regulations adapted for youth. The 2018 Youth World Championships which have been held in Thailand serves as proof as countries such as Australia, Russia, France, Morocco et al, send competitive teams under their sport ministry and/or NOC.

These rules have been decreed for the single purpose of protecting our youth, the traditions of our art while at the same time like in any other sport, promote youth development. Regardless of the sport rules can be adapted for youth to play, for example in shorter fields, over shorter time sets or with additionally protective gear so that they can practise sport safely allowing for healthy development.

IFMA has long protested against the lack of regulation in Thailand, where youths are permitted to compete in professional muaythai in any age without proper protection using the same rules as senior boxers. This in and of itself is not only dangerous, it is a permanent threat to our most important assets in life, our youth.

Because of this, Thailand has created a bad image of gladiator fighting in the name of muaythai, which in many ways has been a permanent struggle for IFMA’s journey through the Olympic movement and global development.

The recent tragedy has sparked new life into this debate within the mother land of the sport with proponents calling for a ban of boxing for children under 12 altogether. While IFMA is relieved by the move to finally regulate youth participation in the sport, a complete ban would hinder the development of the sport at the grassroots level. What is needed is simply to enforce the requirement for promoters and event organisers to follow the IFMA rules & regulations for youth bouts.

The IFMA rules & regulations are accepted in the world of sport. These rules allow youths as young as 10 years to compete in amateur muaythai using full protective equipment and adapted rules in terms of bout times and limits on strikes to the head and body. Moreover, there is absolutely no head contact permitted under the age of 12. From there, slowly the rules are developed towards 15 yrs and to the seniors.

Additionally, the IFMA rules call for proper medical declarations and rest period as well as doping control and hydration checks.

We have formed alliances with organisations such as UNESCO, UN and UNICEF and are a full signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code. We organise youth seminars and workshops with the most recent one held here in Bangkok with the attendance of 1000+ kids from some 82 countries.

IFMA is currently working through the relevant channels within the Royal Thai Government and has had high level talks, to encourage Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly to adopt and follow the IFMA rules & regulations recognised by the IOC.

IFMA places the athletes at the heart of all its work. Needless to say, our children and youth lie at the centre of all we do. IFMA will continue from the highest level of the organisation to engage in this discussion and hopes that before the end of the year, Thailand will pass legislation to ensure the health and safety of our young athletes whilst encouraging them to do sport and giving them the opportunity to develop.