Thailand and Cambodia kick off over rival martial arts

Global interest in the ancient martial art of Muay Thai has boomed in recent decades to the point where Thailand’s national sport is now touted as a future Olympic event.

The nation next door, however, remains stubbornly resistant to its appeal and Cambodia, which lays claim to a near identical, arguably even older kickboxing heritage, has decided that no references to Muay Thai will appear on the schedule when it hosts the Southeast Asian Games in May.

The snub by the Cambodian organisers has whipped up a diplomatic and cultural storm in the region. Thailand has announced that its fighters will boycott the event and the fallout has included a Cambodian businessman offering a huge cash prize to anyone who can beat the top Thai fighter, an intervention by the Thai prime minister and an unusual marriage offer from a glamorous Cambodian TikTok idol.

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