October 17, 2019
Latest News

Cockfighting rakes in millions in Thailand

By Noel Caballero

Samut Prakan, Thailand, Sep 12 (efe-epa).- In the arena, two roosters fiercely fight each other with pecks and pushes, while outside, the spectators cheer them on with shouts and gestures, placing a bet on which bird will last the longest.

Cockfighting is a legal and traditional sport in Thailand, in which enormous amounts of cash change hands.

"We want to boost the economy through cockfights, hoping that they would benefit farmers, herders, and even the audience, as well," Lerdchai Horbunluekit, the president of the Association for the Conservation of Thai Roosters, told EFE.

There are no official figures available about the money generated by the regulated activity in Thailand – which can be traced back to the reign of the Siamese King Naresuan (1590-1605 AD) – but some of the roosters can cost up to $165,000 and the total amount of bets on a single fight can climb as high as 10 million baht ($326,000).

In Samut Prakan province – bordering the Bangkok Metropolitan Region – lies the Terdthai stadium, considered the mecca of cockfighting in Thailand. Events are held here on the first and third Sunday of every month.

Amid strict security measures, spectators can watch fights in around 20 small rings.

The principal arena – situated in the center of the complex and with a capacity for 500 viewers – is reserved for the most important and national-level fights.

The biggest bet wagered at the stadium, which also set a national record, came in February 2018 and amounted to a staggering 33.7 million baht.

After the trainers agree on the number of rounds – which can reach up to eight and last for 22 minutes – before the fight, the roosters run, flutter and attack each other tirelessly until one of the birds backs away defeated or falls.

The stands fill with a deafening roar of spectators as they shout and gesticulate.

A member of the audience can lay down up to 25,000 baht, a sum bigger than the average monthly wage in the country.

Although betting is illegal in Thailand, the Gambling Act 1935 has a provision under which the interior ministry grants special licenses – which have to be renewed for each event – for cockfights, with a maximum of three events allowed per month.

The sport is classified as a traditional activity under the animal cruelty prevention act of 2014, which mandates that the birds are not tortured or killed during the fights.

"We are working (together with the Ministry of Interior) on several laws to extend the protection of roosters," Lerdchai said.

Nonetheless, unofficial cockfights with less strict safety measures for the roosters and smaller bets are held openly across the country, including in the capital, Bangkok.

"I have invested a lot of money in the roosters. I do not want anything bad to happen to them and I don’t want them to die either. If they lose the fight, they would be treated as breeders. They are pets for me," owner Thotsaphol Aphiwatanasiri told EFE.

His rooster, Petchnikom, had just won its fight, earning him some 440,000 baht.

Thotsaphol said he and his partners had invested more than half a million dollars in raising and fighting roosters.

Petchnikom was bought a few months earlier for 330,000 baht, which is a sizable sum, but nowhere near the record price fetched by a rooster, which was more than 5 million baht.

Every week, around 4 million baht are spent in the sale and purchase of roosters, according to the president of the ACTR.

"The rooster trade is currently very good thanks to social networks. They really facilitate the trade between buyers and sellers," Lerdchai said.

Proudly sitting next to its prized fighter and champion – which has earned a well-deserved three-week break from fighting before it returns to the arena – Thotsaphol said cockfighting was "a very prolific business." EFE-EPA


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Cockfighting rakes in millions in Thailand

By Noel Caballero

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