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Little Thailand: Thai Para-Athletes Are Happy Indonesia Hosts the 2022 ASEAN Paragames

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Photo: Media Center APG 2022

Solo – Little Thailand. He got the nickname, not because of his posture, but because people from other countries saw him as the representative of Thailand. His name is also the same as his country: Thailand Khamtong. Little Thailand was in Solo to watch the 2022 ASEAN Paragames.

He was at the stands at Manahan Stadium to support Thai para-athletes competing in the para-athletics. His attire was unique as he cheered his compatriots from the sidelines. Khamtong wore a traditional Thai outfit complete with a hat.

“This is like the Ramayana hat in Indonesia,” the 58-year-old said.

Khamtong knew about Hanoman and Ramayana. The two wayang (puppet) characters are the same in Thailand according to Khamtong as he danced imitating Hanoman.

He passionately explained about his hat and outfit. He said that his golden orange top is the traditional attire of Thai royalty, while the green bottom is similar to batik.

He excitedly waved the Thai flag and beat his drum. On the first day, the Thai para-athletics team won a gold medal through Uthai in the men’s 5,000 meters T20.

T20 is a disability sport classification for para-athletics in track and jump events. It broadly covers athletes with intellectual disabilities. All athletes with intellectual disabilities need to meet the specified main criteria:

  • An IQ score at or below 75 (an IQ score of 100 is considered average).
  • Significant limitations in adaptive behaviors (conceptual, social, or practical adaptive skills such as communication, self-care, social skills, home living, health, and safety difficulties),
  • Onset acquired before the age of 18.

Aside from supporting the para-athletes, Khamtong deliberately dressed uniquely in the stadium to attract attention. He was happy when people saw him and immediately recognized his country of origin.

“When people looked at me, they immediately greeted me and knew that I am from Thailand. They said ‘hi, little Thailand’,” he said.

Khamtong is used to following the Thai paralympic team when competing aboard. He said that he could serve as anything. He could serve as an official or reporter. His ID card in the 2022 ASEAN Para Games Solo indicates that he serves as a reporter from the Paralympic Committee of Thailand.

Khamtong is similar to the Spanish football supporter, Manolo el Bombo. Manolo was always there to support Spain in every tournament. Khamtong’s life is full of experience as he has traveled around the world.

He has visited cities in Indonesia. He also attended the 2011 ASEAN Para Games in Solo 12 years ago. However, he felt that the current edition is very special.

Photo: INASPOC

This is because the paralympic event is held in Indonesia after four years, including its cancellation in the Philippines in 2019 and Vietnam in 2021.

“We are very thankful to Indonesia. Thank you, Indonesia, for holding the games after four years of no competition. Look, the Thai para-athletes are very happy to compete once more,” Khamtong said excitedly while pointing to several Thai para-athletes.

He was also happy to be back in Indonesia. He mentioned the hospitality of Solo people after a few days in the Batik city.

“The people here are very nice to me. Very friendly,” he said.

Therefore, the 2022 ASEAN Para Games with the tagline ‘Striving for Equality’ is a good moment for ASEAN countries to establish friendship in fighting for the equality of people with disabilities.

Khamtong displayed his eagerness to establish friendship by putting a sticker of the Indonesia flag on the back of his outfit. He also put both Indonesia and Thailand flags at the top of his hat.

“So, Thai people will see their flag and Indonesian people will see their flag when they look at me,” Khamtong said.*

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