A story of fish fighting in the southern part of Thailand is the most exciting and the most active in Thailand. From my interview to the breeders and suppliers all agreed that, 80 percent of fighting fish bred in Thailand sent to this region. They said that if south players stop to play the fighting fish, theirs’ breeding business may come to an end. Giving the rough picture that, there are 14 provinces in the south region. Each province has around 200 players we will have 2, 800 players. And if each player uses 50 fighters a month, the demand for top fighters is 140, 000 fighters that breeders support to the south players per month. If we multiply by 12 months it will be 1, 680, 000 fighters that south players consume the fighting fish every year (an actual number should higher than this).
Each province approximately has 10 fighting rings. There are four main provinces breed fighters supply to south players, Nakornpathom, Nakornsawan, Petchaburi and Padrew.
Because of fighting fish in the south so popular, the local Government legalized the fighting fish ring by issue the fish fighting license to the person who applies for it. The license has to renew every year and government get paid by tax. The ring is legally open 7 days and active entire year. It may slightly slow down a few months in winter (November – February), traditionally players turn to play fighting cock.
The southern part of Thailand is the hottest battle field of fish fighting; the players also play an important role as a connecting bridge exchanging fighters stock between Thai and Malaysian breeders. Many players in south import the fighter from Malaysia and forward the good fighters to the breeders in central part of Thailand and vice versa, from Thailand to Malaysia.
The factors of popularity:
There are many factors contributing to the popularity of fighting fish in Southern of Thailand.
- The meeting point of toughest fighter; the south of Thailand is located between Malaysia and central part of Thailand. Both regions produce the top quality fighters. The south players are the meeting point of top breeders from Thailand and Malaysia. In the old day there were many Malaysian and Thai players carrying the fighting fish crossing the border to fight in another country.
- The rich of natural resource, all provinces of south of Thailand facing to the sea, Gulf of Thailand and Andaman. The areas are very famous on natural sea side resources. Many players have very solid financial support from tourism business, rubber tree and mining.
- Agricultural base and traditional way of life, most of the players own the rubber tree plantation and follow theirs’ traditional way of life. They have a lot of free time in the day and people in the village know each other well. They play the wild Imbellis when they were young.
- The habit of favor to challenging and gambling, the southern men slightly are more aggressive on challenging than other region of Thai people. The fighting bull, fighting cock and bird competitions is even more popular in the south.
- The unique family character of south young man is; they are homeward bound. Most of the young people prefer to go back home to follow theirs’ family business scheme after graduated from the University. So the linkage of local culture and friendship are not broken. They can learn and drive the traditional social practice from the older generation which nail them to the homeland.
- The climate is very suitable for keeping the fighting fish; the region is tropical rain fall on the entire year. The tropical rain climate with high temperatures and high humidity throughout the year. Daytime temperatures around 25°C - 30°C all year round. There is no winter season in South of Thailand. These supportive climate factors are very good for keeping the fighting fish.
Fish fighting practice in the Southern of Thailand:
The major income of the players in south of Thailand is from the rubber tree which passed from theirs’ ancestor to theirs’ parents and to themselves. They can collect money from the rubber tree everyday as long as the rubber trees are there. They started to collect the rubber in the very early morning 3 AM and finished theirs’ diary job in the late morning, 8 AM. So they are free on the day time.
The fighting ring started late at 10.00 AM in one of the player house who registered with the local government showing the license on the entrance gate. It can be even in the shade of rubber tree. The player comes to the ring one by one by motorbike or pickup car with the fighters in the round whisky bottle in his old cloth bag. The ring was crowded with players after an hour. The busy matches started after a few minutes when the players show off theirs’ fighters.
There are four kinds of fish fighting in the south of Thailand, wild Imbellis, hybrid Imbellis , Green Cheek (Complex hybrid) and captive bred fighter.
The ring provided three rows of table, one table for the group of wild Imbellis fighter. One table is for hybrid green cheek and one table is for the captive fighting fish. In the present day, the captive fighter table seems to be busier and more challenging than the traditional fighting fish, Imbellis fighter and green cheek fighter. Using the gambling sense, they said that the captive fighter can fight longer so they can play the bet longer.
Fighting wild Imbellis:
A story of fighting wild Imbellis in Thailand began the same way happened in other fighting fish in Indonesia, Betta Smaragdina in the north east of Thailand. The stories were told undated and no record, that the farmer observed the wild Betta fighting in the rice field; that the younger learned from the elder. So he took some of them home, jarred each of them in the glass jar and watching its aggressiveness to the Betta nearby jar. He let the wild Betta fought in the earthen jar as he saw in the rice field. It happened even more impressive than he saw the fish fighting in the open air rice field. Both displayed more aggressive the colors ever darker, they fought even longer period of time. The challenge started from the small money or anything they had in hand. The loser searched the new fighter and challenged to the winner. From one small group spread to the other groups, bigger and bigger, became a cumulative social practice and culture. It is accepted as a challenging hobby for a man in the south region.
The time to play the fighting fish is on rainy season that wild fighting fish easy to find. In the dry season player does turn to play fighting cock. After fought a fighter was freed back to its habitat, just a backyard of his house, waiting for the next year match.