Telegraph reviews Kickboxing Kids: “Shocking and disturbing”
The documentary following young Thai children forced to fight for money was palpably distasteful, says Jake Wallis Simons
I’m a big fan of Channel 4’s Unreported World strand, in which a team of reporters track down controversial stories from the most far-flung parts of the globe. This week’s episode, Kickboxing Kids, which documents the lives of young Thai children who are trained to fight for money, maintained the high standard to which viewers of the programme have become accustomed.
Mary-Ann Ochota, the presenter, was rather cheery to begin with. So when she was confronted by the sight of two seven-year-olds beating each other unconscious to the baying of a 1,000-strong crowd, she looked profoundly shocked.
But she quickly came into her own. The most disturbing scene came when Nat Thanarak, 11, weighed in the day before a bout to discover that he was three kilograms too heavy for the category. His handlers spent the rest of the day trying to make him lose weight by forcing him to run up and down alongside a motorway in the searing heat, wearing a rubber “sweat suit”.
They then locked him in the car with no air conditioning, and forced him to lie in the back of a pickup truck under a black tarpaulin, wearing a woolly hat. It was pushing 30 degrees. Needless to say, he wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything.
Ochota broke with journalistic convention and confronted the handler about it, suggesting that it was cruel to treat a child in this way. Needless to say, he took little notice. But her distaste was palpable, and reflected the audience’s own.
Nat’s fight did go ahead, and he was beaten. His father and trainer berated him, asking repeatedly whether he did not regret missing out on all that money?
Because that’s what it all came down to: 30,000 children, some as young as seven, fight professionally in Thailand, some for as little as £4 per bout. Nat, as a popular fighter, stood to earn £1,000 for that fight alone. That’s more than his mother, who worked in Bangkok and sent money home, could raise in a month.
Towards the end of the programme, Ochota visited a scientist who had studied the detrimental effects of Thai boxing on a child’s brain. But Nat’s parents were poor, and his fighting was making them rich. With such powerful incentives, it seemed unlikely that they would allow him to hang up his gloves any time soon.
Source: The Telegraph