3 young Thai monks crowned esports champions

Novice monks playing Speed Drifters at the 2019 KKU Nong Khai Fair. Photo: Nkc Academic/ Facebook


When the average citizen pictures esports champions, they probably don’t imagine three youths draped in saffron robes.

Three novice monks went internet famous today after being crowned winners of an online racing game at an annual competition held at Khon Kaen University’s Nong Khai campus over the weekend. The 2019 KKU Nong Khai Fair features academic as well as esports competitions. The winning team studies at Balee Sathit Suksa, a high school for young monks in the northeastern province.

“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, told Coconuts Bangkok today with a chuckle.

The students and a fourth monk accompanying went famous for their unconventional look in images spread widely online. The students, he said, are high school seniors.

Though many domestic media outlets to pick up the story said the pious quartet prevailed in the massively popular battle arena game ROV, Kokkiad said they got it wrong. “All these news publications got the information wrong, but I don’t know how to correct the information,” he said. 

Logos for both games were shown on a placard in images of them posing with their awards.

Kokkiad said that although Balee Sathit Suksa is dedicated to novice monk students, they only study religion for 20 hours a week, with the rest of their time devoted to traditional curricula. The students were introduced to esports through a computer class, he added. Some took such a liking to it they began training every day in their spare time. 

It’s difficult to overstate how hugely popular online gaming has in Thailand. Many are turned in this week to the Thai captain of a Malaysian team contesting a US$33 million prize in Shanghai this week at a tournament for DOTA2 called The International.

Not everyone is happy for the champions, however. Online, some Thais chastised the boys for wearing their robes during the competition. 

“Usually I don’t make a big deal out of religious things, but I think this is inappropriate. It’s not illegal nor is it extreme, but I just feel like the monks should not have worn the robes to compete in the tournament,” Twitter user @ParnkungTH wrote Sunday night.

Kokkiad dismissed such criticism as unreasonable, saying “the novices are just children, like other people their age that need to grow, develop their skills and explore their interests.” 

The academic coordinator doesn’t believe novices should be denied any opportunities just because of the robes they wear.  

“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 to. So we gave them the opportunity,” he said

Balee Sathit Suksa wasn’t the only religious school to send novices to compete – they were simply the only ones to win, he noted with a hint of pride.