See the first part of this post, ‘The Development of Female Muay Thai Promotion in Thailand Part 1: Beauty Focus‘.
There was a time when women weren’t legally allowed to fight at all in Thailand, and it’s more recent than you might have thought. A ban was lifted only in 1995, which Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu wrote about in this post about culture and sexism in Muay Thai and how women are forbidden from fighting at the most prestigious Muay Thai venues in the world, Lumpini Stadium and Rajadamnoern Stadium as well as the Channel 7 Stadium.
Lois Ann Dort wrote about the history of women’s Muay Thai in her thesis ‘Sport, Tradition and Women in Competitive Muay Thai‘, which can be read in its entirety on her blog, Life of Lois. When describing how the ban of women from Lumpini stadium came about, she wrote the following.
“Women Muay Thai fighters followed their boxing brethren in the rings of Lumpini Stadium forty years ago (Sawadee Magazine, 1998). Women’s fights were held at Lumpini until the spectator turn out became too low to be profitable. The women’s fights were cancelled and it wasn’t until the late 1990’s that women came back to the ring enforce.”
While Lumpini and Rajadamnoern don’t allow women to fight, Rangsit Stadium is known for hosting female fights. Lois also wrote about how this promotion began after Muay Thai’s popularity began to grow internationally in the 1990’s.
“To supply the upsurge in demand for female Muay Thai fighters, the Muay Thai Association in Rangsit opened a special woman’s training camp. The camp was home to approximately 10 women fighters in the year 2000. They lived and trained at the camp many having left home villages throughout the kingdom to attend. The Rangsit stadium held women’s Muay Thai fights two times a week surpassing the number of male fights they sponsored (Bangkok Post, 27/03/00). “
I’ve fought at Rangsit stadium multiple times, with my first one being for the 2012 Queen’s Birthday event and the last being on a televised show. Each time I fought there, I was impressed by the effort that had been made to put a good amount of female fights on each card. Previously, Rangsit Stadium had two rings, one for men and one for women, as was and still is the case in many traditional gyms. Now, both men and women fight in the same ring. Lois also mentioned that women’s fights were ceased at Rangist in 2001 when ‘a sex abuse scandal rocked the women’s Muay Thai program‘ (you can read details of that in her thesis). I don’t know exactly when female fights resumed there, but in 2012 and 2013, televised fights took place twice a week and I was asked to fight there bi-weekly. However, I was only able to fight there four times before Rangsit Stadium stopped hosting fights altogether as a result of a pull-out by True Sport, the broadcaster which was filming there. I believe that fights have now resumed there, although not as frequently as before, but am unsure if these include female fights.
Max Muay Thai, a relatively new promotion which was founded in 2013 and puts on 4-man tournaments, recently built a new stadium in Pattaya. To my knowledge, before the stadium had been built, there had only ever been three female bouts on Max Muay Thai, two including Peach Purahong Sit. Ja Daeng after she was crowned ‘Miss Muay Siam’. The first was against Mina from Japan on October 6th 2013 and the second was against Juliana Rosa two months later on December 10th. The third was Theresa Carter vs. Nongkib Rongriankeeranakornsee on September 14th 2014. Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu recently became the first female to fight on the main Sunday event at the Max Muay Thai stadium in her bout against Muangsingjiew O. Wanchert, which took place on January 4th, 2015. Apparently, the very first female fight at that stadium actually took place the previous week, but the names of the fighters seem to be unknown, unfortunately. Hopefully, this cracks the door open a little further and we can expect to see more women fighting there soon. (Edit: As of 2021, Max Muay Thai has never hosted another women’s match)
Thailand’s Female Muay Thai Promoter
Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to Pariyakorn Ratanasuban of Onesongchai promotions (daughter of Mr. Songchai himself). She is currently the only female Muay Thai promoter in Thailand and has done a huge amount for female Muay Thai. You can read more about her work and see a full list of her credentials here. Perhaps her most notable achievement is setting up the annual Queen’s Cup event at Sanam Luang for the Queen’s birthday, which has taken place every year since 2008. When I asked how this started, she said that she “created the project of promoting female fighters in order to give opportunities to women”. She described promoting women’s Muay Thai as “100% difficult”, because “not many people support women’s Muay Thai and there aren’t many sponsors”. That being said, she noted that promotion of female fighters has improved since she first started, stating that “the audience are now more accepting of females fighting in the ring”. However, she doesn’t expect women to be allowed into the prestigious Lumpini or Rajadamnern stadiums. When asked if she though this was a possibility, she replied frankly. “No. It’s because of Thai traditions. Old people will not accept it because of their beliefs”. This seems to be the general response from most people in Thailand. Still, she continues to work tirelessly towards the growth of female Muay Thai, putting female fights into every show that she puts on for OneSongchai, except those that take place at those stadiums, of course.