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Boxing Meets Politics in Thailand's Tense Scenario

At the London Games, the Thai boxing team produced their worst Olympic performance since 1996, returning home with only one silver medal.

Kaew Pongprayoon was Thailand's only medal-winning boxer after he lost to China's Zou Shiming in the 49kg final.

His defeat caused an uproar in Thailand as a large number of his compatriots believed he was robbed of a victory by outside influences.

At the time, it seemed Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit, the kingdom's amateur boxing chief, might not have had sufficient knowledge of boxing politics.

He had a 'friendly talk' with Aiba president Ching-kuo Wu when the governing body of amateur boxing held a meeting in Bangkok shortly before the London Games. Afterwards, Boonlert was so confident that he had done enough for Olympic success that he announced that he would step down as president of the Thailand [Amateur] Boxing Association if his men failed to win gold.

Following Kaew's defeat, Boonlert insisted he would quit as TBA president but he has since remained in the position, saying he will clear the association's debts before his departure.

Although Boonlert came across as naive in boxing politics, he seemed to know a lot more about Thai politics _ indeed, he led a campaign to overthrow the Yingluck Shinawatra governement and attacked her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Boonlert declared himself leader of the Pitak Siam (Protect Siam) group and the first rally he organised attracted about 20,000 people at the Royal Turf Club on Oct 28.

He then announced that he would arrange another demonstration at the Royal Plaza on Nov 24, which he expected to attract over one million supporters.

As it turned out, the second rally was joined by a smaller than expected crowd and Boonlert called off the demonstration following a clash with security officers.

Thaksin later counter-attacked Boonlert during a Muay Thai event in Macau, which was broadcast live on the government-run NBT (Channel 11).

The channel was heavily criticised for allowing Thaksin to use the state-run station for political purposes.

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