Under the watchful eyes of prison guards and coaches, 20 Muay Thai boxers prepare to enter the ring on Mother’s Day in Thailand.
Inside the walls of Thailand’s Nonthaburi Prison, 16.5 kilometres from Bangkok, about 13 Muay Thai boxers are inmates participating in the “Continuing Muay Thai Skills” program.
The program was created to help inmates with social rehabilitation through sport, preparing them to fight at a tournament organized in honour of Mother’s Day in Thailand.
In 2021, prison director Preethida Somchit launched the “Continuing Muay Thai Skills” program to promote health, discipline, and harmony in the prison; however, it was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Training six hours a day, six days a week, the project also offers inmates the chance to make a living as professional muay Thai fighters or coaches outside prison.
Thai boxing is taught to prisoners in prison so they can have a career after finishing their sentences. Ayuth Sintoppant, director general of the Corrections Department, told EFE that the program aims to create careers.
Thailand, the Birthplace of Muay Thai
Thailand is considered the birthplace of muay Thai, one of the deadliest martial arts in the world. Thai Boxing is also known as the fight of the eight limbs because the knees and elbows are used in combat in addition to the feet and fists.
Tens of thousands of people visit Thailand annually to participate in or attend regional, national, and international competitions. Many also come to learn the sport.
This project has now gained the support of several Thai boxing gyms, and Nonthaburi Prison now serves as the main stage for various competitions.
The project allows prisoners to make a worthwhile career, which I think is very helpful. Moreover, it helps society forgive them for their past and reduce stigma towards them,” Sintoppant said.
Like many other prisons in Thailand, most inmates serve sentences for drug offences in Nonthaburi Prison.
Consequently, Thai boxing has been presented as a chance for inmates to rebuild their future outside the prison walls, as they receive training from professional boxers and compete in tournaments all year long.
According to the Department of Correction, at least 2,000 former professional athletes are currently being held there, including leaders in Muay Thai boxing, football, petanque, futsal, and sepak takraw.
The prison system holds a large number of former regional and national champions. In prison, we want them to practice all year long so that they can continue their careers after they are released,” Sintoppant said