Stunt guru and Tony Jaa's master dies

Thailand’s acclaimed martial arts action choreographer and film director Panna Rittikrai died from liver disease and acute renal failure in hospital Sunday afternoon. He was 53.

Panna was pronounced dead at 12.50pm at Ladprao Hospital in Bangkok. He was diagnosed with liver disease in November last year and sent to the hospital late last month after his condition deteriorated. Doctors later discovered he also had a brain tumour.    

The Khon Kaen native and father of two starred in countless action films over more than two decades of a career as an actor, stuntman, fight choreographer and director, before gaining recognition for "Ong-Bak" in 2003. He is known as the martial arts master of, and the man behind the making of, action superstar Thatchakorn "Tony Jaa" Yeerum.  

Panna’s career hit a peak when he and Tony Jaa developed muay boran, an ancient, acrobatic precursor to muay Thai, and worked and trained for a year, developing a film around it, before producer-director Prachya Pinkaew later used their work to create the acclaimed international hit "Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior" in 2003.

Panna was a key man behind the global success of the action film "Tom Yum Goong" (called "The Protector" in the US and "Warrior King" in the UK). He also helped choreographed fight scenes in "Tom Yum Goong 2" which was released late last year. 

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