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Thai army invites in kids for gun play

(Reuters) - Thailand’s army opened up some of its military barracks to children on Saturday to let them handle and pose with weapons and other hardware on the country’s annual Children’s Day.

The army plays a big role in Thailand’s public and political life. It seized power during political turmoil in 2014 in the 19th coup since absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932.

The armed forces traditionally opens up facilities on the second Saturday in January, when many attractions grant free entry to kids for Children's Day. One event in southern Thailand was marred on Saturday by the crash of a jet fighter in which the pilot was killed. Nobody else was hurt and the crowd was far away.

At barracks across Thailand, children get to play with everything from small arms to tanks. They were not allowed to fire the weapons.

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The military government has promised to restore democracy, but delays in finalizing a new constitution are widely expected to push a general election beyond the end of this year.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who took power in the May 2014 coup, showed off his kickboxing skills at a Children's Day event at Government House in Bangkok. Shortly after the coup, he introduced the junta's 12 Thai values for children with an emphasis on deference to authority and the monarchy.

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Angus MacSwan)