Refugees pour into China after Burma clashes

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The Independent Online

Beijing China has called on Burma to maintain stability after tens of thousands of tribespeople in Shan state, in the remote north-east, fled into China as a result of fighting between Burmese troops and an armed ethnic group.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that between 10,000 and 30,000 civilians had fled the conflict. The fighting could raise tension between China and Burma, whose military junta looks to Beijing as one of its few diplomatic backers and a crucial source of investment. The flight of the refugees followed the deployment of Burmese troops in the Kokang area of Shan state, and the first clashes in the area for 20 years, according to reports. Kokang is home to many ethnic Chinese and Chinese nationals, many of whom run businesses and trade across the border. "This has been building for a long time," commented Aung Zaw, editor of Irrawaddy, a Burmese news magazine based in Thailand. "The army... is straining ties with China. Beijing's biggest concern is stability near the border, it is not pleased about what's happening now."