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30,000 flee as China rebukes Burma

Aug 28, 2009 (DVB), Around 30,000 refugees have crossed into China according to UN estimates as fighting between Burmese troops and ceasefire groups sparked a rare admonishment from China's foreign ministry.

A spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that between 10,000 and 30,000 civilians have fled Burma's northern Shan state into China in recent days.

Fighting broke out between Burmese army troops and the Kokang ceasefire group yesterday after weeks of heightening tension.

Kokang troops yesterday attacked a police outpost near to Laogai town close to the China-Burma border, killing one Burmese police officer and injuring two.

The Kokang group has been joined by the United Wa State Army, Burma's largest ceasefire group who had held a 20-year truce with the government.

Today China's foreign ministry issued a statement urging Burma to "properly deal with its domestic issue to safeguard the regional stability in the China-Myanmar [Burma] border area".

"We also urge Myanmar to protect the safety and legal rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar," said spokesperson Jiang Yu in the statement.

China is a key ally of Burma's ruling junta, and seldom criticizes the internal affairs of its southern neighbour.

The mass of refugees pouring into China however, in addition to reports that a Burmese army shell fired across the border today killed a Chinese troop, has created a rare fissure between the two countries.

China has reportedly increased its troop patrols along the border area, and is said to be assisting the refugees.

"We have been informed that local authorities in Yunnan Province have already provided emergency shelter, food and medical care to the refugees," said the UNHRC spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.

Local sources report that a number of civilians have also escaped into inner Shan state.

Reporting by Francis Wade


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