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Myanmar clash triggers exodus into China
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-28 09:22

A clash in Myanmar's Kokang region Thursday triggered an exodus of ethnic Kokang people into China's nearby Yunnan province, said Yunnan's foreign affairs office Thursday.

"The number of people crossing the border is on the rise," the office said in a statement.

Yunnan set up reception areas and offered shelter and daily necessities to the displaced people, the office said.

Thousands have already fled this month from northeastern Myanmar into China after tension ramped up between government troops and the Kokang area's regional army, AP reported on Wednesday.

Several thousand have streamed over the border each day into the town of Nansan, in southern Yunnan province, AP quoted one resident as saying.

Between Aug 8 and 12, about 10,000 people are believed to have left Kokang, most of them were Chinese traders and expatriate workers, according to reports in the Chongqing Evening News.

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Tension started to rise on Aug 7 after Myanmar's government troops sent 30 police officers into a weapons repair factory in Kokang to find out whether the facility was being used to produce drugs, the paper reported.

The Kokang army, which has observed a ceasefire with the national government since 1989, disliked the incursion.

It said in a statement that the government army was pressuring it to join a border security force under the government's control ahead of Myanmar's elections planned for next year, AP reported. The Kokang army is part of an alliance of four ethnic groups called the Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front.

"The clash indicates that the Myanmar government has intensified its efforts to control the Kokang army loyal to Kokang supreme commander Peng Jiasheng. There's division among the Kokang army, and the government wants to take advantage of it," said Song Qingrun, senior researcher on South Asia studies with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

"The government's top priority is to ensure a peaceful election, especially in regions like Kokang," Song explained.

Song said the situation will not impact China-Myanmar relations but will hurt local businesses and border trade. More than 10,000 Chinese businessmen and workers earned their living in Kokang, where up to 90 percent of shops are owned by Chinese.

China Daily