Thailand, through the International Federation of Muay Thai Associations (IFMA), has affrimed that it will not send its athletes to compete in Kun Khmer at the 32nd SEA Games 2023 in Cambodia. Six other nations are supportive of the Kingdom’s use of the traditional Khmer name for the sport, and have registered a number of fighters who will participate.
“We have respect for the Kun Khmer, but we can’t send athletes to compete in the sport. It is in violation of IFMA rules and Thailand does not have a Kun Khmer association,” said IFMA president Sakchye Tapsuwan, at a February 10 press conference.
The announcement is contrary to the words of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand, which was present at a special meeting of the leaders of the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) in Phnom Penh on January 26. During the meeting, the Thai side said it would join the competition, a reversal of its threat to boycott the event.
Tapsuwan claimed that he had received approval from the Thai Olympic committee to skip the event.
“We have spoken with officials from the committee and they agree with us in principle,” he said.
He added that the countries which participate in the Kun Khmer event at the games – which are scheduled for May 5 to 17 – will not be allowed to enter the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Thailand at the end of the year.
“As of now, Thailand has not registered any athletes, which means they will not compete. They have pressured several countries to waive the event, but our friends in Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines, fully support us. There are registered fighters in all 19 categories, although some countries do not practice Kun Kru (the traditional rituals of the sport). Those nations will contest 17 weight classes,” said Meam Ra, president of the KKIF.
“Each of these nations has become members of the Kun Khmer International Federation. It is up to the IFMA to make its own decisions. If they do not come, that is fine. We have more than enough entrants to meet and exceed the SEA Games quota,” he added.
“We tried very hard to coordinate with Thailand, but we have to think about the development of our sport. As the hosts, we have the right to include our traditional sport,” he concluded.