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A novice monk takes part in the KKU Nong Khai Fair Speed Drifter competition. Photos: Facebook

Thai Buddhist monks triumph in e-sports event as some fans criticise winners for wearing orange robes

  • Novice monks from the Balee Sathit Suksa school emerge victorious in the Speed Drifter competition at the KKU Nong Khai Fair
  • Chief monk defends his boys, saying they were given a chance to compete against other students and made the most of it

They abstain from stealing, lying and even singing and dancing, but when it comes to e-sports, the novice Buddhist monks from Thailand’s Balee Sathit Suksa school are champions.

Three young monks emerged victorious at the 2019 KKU Nong Khai Fair in the online racing game Speed Drifters, earning plaudits and criticism for wearing their orange robes during the competition at the Khon Kaen University Nong Khai campus in north east Thailand.

“The novices wanted to try entering the competition, so we gave them that opportunity. We didn’t expect to actually win,” Kokkiad Chaisamchareonlap, an academic coordinator and monk at the school, was quoted as saying by Coconuts Bangkok.

The tournament featured academic and e-sports events and received plenty of media coverage in Thailand, though not everyone was happy for the boys.

Some social media users said the monks went too far by wearing their robes, turning a competition into a religious statement.

Wrote @ParnkungTH: “Normally I don’t have much to do with religion, but I personally don’t think that’s right. It’s not illegal, nor anything serious but they should not wear yellow. They are only novice monks.”

Novice monks alongside other competitors in the KKU Nong Khai Fair for e-sports.

Kokkiad defended the decision to wear robes, saying: “The novices are just children, like other people their age they need to grow, develop their skills and explore their interests.

“We wanted to give the students an opportunity. A lot of them don’t have that, coming from poor families or broken homes. The three want to compete, they asked us if they could and so we gave them the opportunity.”

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He pointed out that other religious schools apart from Balee Sathit Suksa took part in the competition but his students were targeted because they won. Kokkiad added that the young monks received religious education for 20 hours a week with the rest of the time devoted to normal studies.

They were introduced to e-sports in their computer classes and trained by themselves in their spare time.

Students from the Balee Sathit Suksa school receive their prizes after the KKU Nong Khai Fair e-sports competition.

E-sports is growing in Thailand, boosted by its inclusion in this year’s Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines.

Last year, tech company Infofed opened the Thailand eSports Arena, a venue that can hold up to 50,000 spectators for major tournaments. Thailand has close to 20 million gamers, ranking the country among the top 20 in the world.