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Thai cops and cabbies busy birthing babies

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For police in traffic-clogged Bangkok, "to protect and serve" means more than chasing criminals and issuing parking tickets - it also means delivering babies.

An estimated 300-400 babies are born each year in taxis and tuk-tuks - motorized trishaws - to mothers trying to get to hospitals through the city's notorious traffic jams.Although a city hospital began a service two years ago to send trained nurses by motorcycle to stranded motorists, all too often the only available caregivers are taxi drivers and traffic policemen.

Last year, the cabbies began receiving midwife training. This year, it's the cops' turn.

Seventy policemen in their dark brown uniforms sat like schoolchildren Thursday morning for the first class, held at the headquarters of the Traffic Police. Dr. Kamthorn Pruksananonda drilled them in the ABCs of obstetrics.

"It is not that we want them to deliver babies, but as the traffic is critical, it would be good for people if the traffic police have some knowledge to provide assistance," Kamthorn said.

After the doctor's lecture and a video, the policemen broke into smaller groups to practice on a doll and a plastic woman's torso.

Some of those who smiled through the lecture and video broke into a sweat as they took pains not to pull or twist the surrogate infant.

Police Lt. Col. Thaweelap Sirisawasbutra, one of those attending, recalled how unnerving it was when he was faced with a pregnant woman about to give birth.

"I was informed that a pregnant woman would give birth in a taxi. I didn't know what to do. It was full of blood."

While he tried to clear the traffic, the woman went ahead and delivered the baby on her own, he said.

About 700 of the force's several thousand men will receive the training.