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Myanmar residents flee into China after new fighting
Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:27am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Fresh fighting has erupted between Myanmar government forces and an armed ethnic group in the remote northeast, forcing an exodus of residents into neighboring China, state media said.
Thousands of people crossed the border this month from Kokang in Myanmar's Shan State after clashes there, which a U.S.-based rights group said followed the deployment of troops in the area, home to a large number of ethnic Chinese.
A news website run by Yunnan (www.yunnan.cn), the Chinese province bordering Myanmar, said fighting flared again on Thursday afternoon, "leading residents from the Myanmar side to panic and flood in large numbers into our territory."
"At present, the number entering continues to increase," said the brief report.
The trouble on the frontier may raise tensions between China and Myanmar, where the military junta looks to Beijing as one of its few diplomatic backers and a crucial source of investment.
Kokang, where the trouble erupted, is home to many ethnic Chinese and Chinese nationals, many of whom run businesses and trade across the border.
He Shengda, an expert on the region at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, said the Myanmar government's efforts to impose control on the region risked sparking wider conflict.
"It would be no easy thing for the Myanmar government to rein in local power," He told the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper. "These local militia won't meekly abandon power, and a region that was peaceful may experience turmoil."
Late on Thursday, the Xinhua news agency also said the refugee influx continued, citing officials in Yunnan.
"Yunnan is helping them to settle down in designated areas with supply of life necessities and medical care," said the Xinhua brief report.
The reports did not say how many people had fled after the latest fighting, or say how many of them are Myanmar or Chinese nationals. A Yunnan official told the Global Times, the Chinese newspaper, that most were Myanmar nationals.
Earlier Chinese reports had said close to 10,000 people crossed into Yunnan to escape the fighting.
The Global Times said that the government has ordered stronger security along the border to prevent the conflict spilling into Yunnan.
The Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma has said tensions first flared on August 8 when the Myanmar army deployed hundreds of troops in Kokang, a mostly ethnic Chinese region where rebels have observed a two-decade-old ceasefire with the government. Burma is the former name of Myanmar.
The U.S. group said the mobilization of troops was a move by the junta to force ethnic groups to form political parties to contest next year's election, the first in Myanmar in 20 years. Continued...
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