Sikhio, Thailand – In Thailand’s prison system, some inmates participate in fighting matches where the reward is their freedom.
In a story that dates to 1774, Thai fighter Nai Khanomtom found himself in a Burmese prison where he was forced to fight nine Burmese champions in a row for King Mangra. Khanomotom defeated every opponent and the Burmese king was so impressed that he granted his freedom along with two wives – giving birth to a tradition of pardoning outstanding fighters.
Most of today’s fighting prisoners are neither famous nor legendary. They are commoners, unknown and widely disregarded by the outside world. They fight in tournaments called “Prison Fight”, put on by a Thai and Estonian partnership in conjunction with Thailand’s Department of Corrections.
Inmates battle foreign fighters in organised matches put on by Prison Fight, and those who win will receive money and have the opportunity to meet with the warden and have their sentence reduced. The more fights they win, the more time is taken off. An inmate is also expected to display good behaviour and personal development in addition to his fighting prowess.
Many inmates are eager for the opportunity as each fight card is fully booked by the prisoners. The Thai prisoners win the majority of fights.