Together with Muay Thai, Cock Fighting has been a sport in Thailand for hundreds of years. It all started with King Narasuan in the 16th Century who bred birds for cock fighting. It is a bloody sport where the birds often fight to the death. Deadly metal spikes were attached to the legs and razors fixed to the wings. If the loser didn’t die outright then it would end up in the cooking pot. The meat of fighting cocks are apparently high in protein and very tasty. Cock fighting takes place all over the country and it goes hand-in-hand with gambling. It mainly takes place in rural areas and is a popular sport with Thai farmers. However, in recent years, there has been a campaign to clean up the sport and to bring it into the modern age.
A few days ago I attended the “Festival for the Preservation of Thai Cock Fighting”. This took place at Bangkok Cockpit on the Eastern outskirts of Bangkok. It is in Bang Saotong District of Samut Prakan along Luang Phaeng Road. The cock fighting stadium is largely the brainchild of Dhanin Chearavanont (in the white shirt in this picture), the CEO of CP Group which produces animal feed and livestock such as chickens and pigs. This is a billion baht industry. Dhanin Chearavanont is mainly responsible for cleaning up cock fighting and preserving the pure bred Thai fighting stock for future generations. Together with the “Thai Native Chicken Conservation and Development Association” he has drafted a new set of rules. These include the rules that the spurs of the fighting cock have to be covered (much like boxing gloves) and rounds are shorter at ten minutes with a maximum of five rounds. If the cock runs out of the ring twice or sustains a serious injury then the fight is brought to an end.
As you can see from this picture (and my video here), it is still a bloody sport. Although you can clearly see that the spurs on their ankles have been covered, they were still inflicting heavy damage to their opponent. After watching a match I think there is a lot of similarity with Muay Thai. They are both sports which can kill. Some people may argue that fighting cocks had no choice, but young boys are often recruited to be fighters by their parents who look forward to financial winnings. Did these kids really have a choice? Personally I am saddened by both forms of sport and would like to see them banned. Having said that, at is purest level, Muay Thai is beautiful – it is an art form. However, together with cockfighting, it is belittled by rampant gambling that takes the sport to the extremes for the pleasure of the punters. If we took away all forms of betting from both kinds of stadium then will these sports still survive? I doubt it.
The guest of honour at the festival was Chavarat Charnvirakul, the Interior Minister. He is seen in my picture being presenting a painting by Dhanin Chearavanont. Incidentally, to the left of that same picture is the famous Ad Carabao who is very active in promoting cock fighting. I found it interesting in Chavarat’s speech when he said that part of the aim of this event was the intention to promote Thai cock fighting as a cultural attraction for foreign tourists. Apart from the fact that I was the only international media there and the only foreigner in the thousand strong crowd, he seems to not realize that cock fighting is banned in many countries as a barbaric sport. I know it is part of the Thai heritage but it is not exactly something that we can be proud of. I know that they have made great improvements in cleaning up the sport but there are still plenty of underground fighting pits that still allow the use of blades. I would personally hesitate before promoting this as a tourist attraction.
You can see more pictures that I took of this event over at the Samut Prakan Forums. I have also posted a video in our Paknam Video Blogs.