THE 29th Sea Games in Kuala Lumpur sees the continuation of an “ugly tradition” of the host nation emerging champions, the Bangkok Post reported today.

The report said in the last 10 Sea Games before KL 2017, the host nation had emerged champions six times, including Vietnam (2003) and the Philippines (2005). Thailand also emerged champions when it hosted the Games in  2007 and 1995, and tiny Singapore emerged first runner-up when it hosted the Games in 2015.

Malaysia today tops the medal standings with 142 gold medals, while Thailand is a distant second with 70. Thai officials are under fire at home for failing to achieve their target of 109 medals and for falling short of their 95-gold haul in the last Games hosted by Singapore.

The report cited veteran Thai contingent chief Thana Chaiprasit as saying the officiating at the Kuala Lumpur Games was the worst he had seen.

 He said officials of other countries had similar views, but did not lodge a complaint because it would be useless as “the hosts only want to become overall champions”.

The Bangkok Post listed several organisational and officiating controversies that dogged the Kuala Lumpur Games.

Among them was Indonesia’s accusation of cheating in Malaysia’s victory in pencak silat, a Malaysian women walker running the last few metres to the finish line to win gold and two Malaysian gymnasts awarded gold for the same event.

The report said the Thai women’s volleyball team was not provided transportation when it landed at the airport, and breakfast was in short supply at their hotel.

The report also said that the start time of the Muay Thai final was moved from 3pm to 1am.

Thai officials also accused Malaysia of stacking this edition of the Games with sports the host nation excels.  But the report notes that Thai officials were part of meetings that determined the line-up of events, and therefore should not complain.

Another controversy that marred the KL Games was an upside-down Indonesian flag printed in  a souvenir programme book, a gaffe that incurred the wrath of Indonesians. Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Putrajaya have since apologised.

MEANWHILE, Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama reports:

Thai PM defends Malaysia’s gold medal haul

BANGKOK: Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended Malaysia’s large haul of gold medals in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, saying that “it was normal” for the host country due to the better preparations they made.

Although applauding the admirable performance put up by Thailand’s athletes in the biennial games, he noted that ‘certain sport associations’ in the country were still beset by problems and wanted it fixed once they return home.

“It is normal that the host country would get more (gold medals) following their preparations. It is the same when we were the host country, when we also could manage the types of sport and this time they (Malaysia) had better preparations,” he told the media at the Government House here today.

Despite coming second behind Malaysia in the overall medal tally and losing the regional crown, the Prime Minister insisted that he was still happy with their excellent performance and for putting up a good effort during the multi-sport games.

“I am happy that we finished in the second place even though I wanted them to finish first,” he said.

Prayut’s comments came following a wave of criticism hurled by Thai media and fans against Malaysia and aspects of its hosting of the SEA Games, especially the officiating.

Besides criticising the hosts over trivial matters that happened during the Games such as lack of food and transportation for athletes, they also accused Malaysia of committing unsportsmanlike behaviour in its quest to collect the most gold medal and become the overall champion.

An English newspaper, Bangkok Post in an article titled “An ugly tradition continues in Malaysia” today, said, emotions are running high among Thai fans and journalists who vented their anger by dubbing the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games as “SEA Kong” or (SEA Cheating).

It also said that head of the Thai contingent to the Games, Thana Chaiprasit had claimed that the officiating at Kuala Lumpur SEA Games was the worst compared to other SEA Games as well as the Olympic and Asian Games.

He also claimed officials from other countries shared his views.

Despite the harsh views held by the Bangkok Post, another popular English daily, “The Nation” was more introspective in its assessment of Thailand’s performance during the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, choosing to blame the declining quality of its athletes instead at Malaysia.

In a scathing remark aimed at the country’s sports authorities, The Nation in its editorial several days ago said Thailand had largely failed in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

“At Kuala Lumpur 2017, Thailand largely failed in ‘international sports’. In other words, if regional (traditional) sports performance is removed from the medal table, the Kingdom will still trail Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam,” it said.

The inclusion of traditional sports in the SEA Games said the newspaper, have been used as an excuse by Thailand if it loses its regional domination to Malaysia, but it cannot rely on that argument anymore.