Intimidating things to say during a fight
While incarcerated, the best Thai boxers were coerced into fighting Burmese combat experts.
The ultimate champion, as legend tells it, was a Thai named Nai Khanomtom, who was granted his freedom after besting one of the Burmese monarch’s top fighters.
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The friends are regarded as two of the best fighters in Klong Prem and both were little troubled by their foreign opponents at the Prison Fight event. “Muay Thai fighters command a lot of respect in Thailand,” says Surawuth Rungrueng, the guard responsible for encouraging the development of boxing in Klong Prem.
“It encourages discipline and focus, which is something that that these guys lost somewhere on the outside.” Sentence reduction is not automatic and if a prisoner behaves badly he won’t be put forward, no matter how skilled he is.
They may be criminals but they are also human beings so staging the fights is good karma for us.” During a recent visit to Klong Prem, we encountered an atmosphere that was surprisingly convivial.
“It was a special feeling to test my Muay Thai skills out in a Thai prison,” says Alexei Vignol, a 20-year-old from Lyon in France who was narrowly beaten in Klong Prem recently.
“I guess you could say that it is intimidating to fight criminals inside a high security facility, but if you get scared by that then you shouldn’t be a boxer.” The incorporation of foreigners has been spearheaded by an independent organization named Prison Fight.
A boxing ring and rudimentary training equipment dominates the outside yard. Boxing provides distraction and there’s also the chance of getting your time shortened if you become a champion.” Despite the historical context, granting convicted felons parole for sporting prowess is still controversial.
We find Moo with his cellmate Pod at the side of the ring. We understand the techniques and we understand the mentality.” “It helps us focus our minds,” adds Pod, 35, who collected debts in Bangkok’s infamous Nana Plaza red-light district and has served eight years of a life sentence for murder. Healthy distraction in the prison yard is one thing, but why should convicted drug runners and murderers earn their freedom with their fists?
“But if a prisoner shows real commitment to improving himself then we are willing to offer incentives,” says Surawuth Needless to say, the prisoners seize the opportunity.