Army rangers on Thailand’s northwest border have been training children to duck, crawl and take cover, getting them ready in case the fighting spills over if the conflict between Myanmar troops and ethnic armies resumes.
Elementary school students in Mae Hong Son province were performing evacuation drills late last week and preparing them for clashes as opposition mounts against Myanmar’s military in the wake of its 1st February coup and use of deadly forces against demonstrators.
A video seen by Reuters showed students walking along tracks then hitting the ground of a schoolyard 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.
Thai authorities are bracing for a surge of refugees and have set aside areas to shelter more than 43,000 people in Mae Sot district, according to 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 the condemnation of the coup in a further sign of ethnic minorities uniting against the army.