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Page last updated at 19:20 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:20 UK

'Thousands flee Burma violence'

Burmese soldiers
Hundreds of government troops are said to have moved into the region

Thousands of people have fled across the Burmese border into China in recent weeks amid violence between ethnic groups and the government, reports say.

Some 10,000 people have entered China from Burma's north-eastern Shan state this month, according to Chinese media.

Hundreds of government troops are reported to have moved into the area.

The ruling junta is said to be putting pressure on the ethnic rebel groups to put their fighters under government control ahead of polls due next year.

In a statement released through the US Campaign for Burma (USCB), the rebels in Kokang said tensions in the region were "extremely high".

"With anticipation of resurgence of war, tens of thousands of ethnic people have fled," they said.

USCB said the problem had begun when government troops were deployed in the largely ethnic Chinese Kokang region of the state.

A businessman in the Yunnan town of Nansan, who gave his name as Li, said the first wave of people had arrived after 8 August, but many returned home.

Map

But since Monday, several thousand people had been arriving every day, he told the Associated Press news agency.

Local people said the refugees were being housed in camps set up by the Chinese government.

"We haven't seen anything like this happen for about 10 years," Xie Feifei, a shop owner in the Yunnan town of Nansan, told Reuters.

But Mr Xie said the numbers were beginning to drop as, he thought, "everyone who wants to escape has already".

Burma is scheduled to hold elections in May 2010 but critics say there is little chance they will be free and fair.

Some of the rebel groups have resisted government pressure to join the government's "border guard forces", believing it to be an attempt to neutralise their influence on the elections.



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