Fearing Myanmar border battles, Thai kids taught to take cover

BANGKOK (REUTERS) – Thai army rangers on Thailand’s north-west border have been training children to duck, crawl and take cover, readying them for a spillover of fighting if conflict between Myanmar troops and ethnic armies resumes.

Thai elementary school students were performing evacuation drills late last week and preparing them for clashes as opposition mounts against Myanmar’s military in the wake of its Feb 1 coup and use of deadly forces against demonstrators.

A video seen by Reuters shows students walking along tracks, then hitting the ground of a schoolyard in Mae Hong Son province at the command of rangers in uniforms and berets, who demonstrate techniques for keeping safe from gunfire.

More than two dozen ethnic armed groups are active in Myanmar’s borderlands, while the Karen National Union, one of the most prominent, has vowed to support the resistance movement.

The Thai authorities are bracing themselves for a surge of refugees and have set aside areas to shelter more than 43,000 people in Mae Sot district, according to plans seen by Reuters.

The coup has cast doubts on the military’s commitment to a nationwide ceasefire agreement with rebel armies, with which it shares a long and bitter history of conflict, worsened by allegations of atrocities by government troops against civilians. The junta has said it will respect the ceasefire.

Dozens of civil society organisations from Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state have joined condemnation of the coup in a further sign of ethnic minorities uniting against the army.

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