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August 30, 2009

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Fresh Myanmar fighting erupts

FIGHTING erupted in northeast Myanmar yesterday after days of clashes in which the leader of ethnic forces said more than 30 government troops had been killed.

The fighting in Kokang in Myanmar's Shan State, following the deployment of government troops, has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing over the border to the town of Nansan in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

The leader of the Kokang Group which is fighting Myanmar's army said his forces had captured at least 50 soldiers as well as killing more than 30 on Thursday and Friday, the Chinese Global Times newspaper reported on its Website.

Peng Jiasheng, also known as Phone Kyar Shin, gave no details on casualties among his forces, whom he said he was commanding from a safe location in Myanmar.

Splinter group

Reports from Chinese media and Myanmar groups in exile said the fighting began after the Myanmar military, allied with a local splinter group, took control of facilities run by the Kogang Group, also known as Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, in Laogai, in the capital of Shan State.

Myanmar wants ethnic groups to take part in its elections next year, the first in two decades.

Activists and observers say the government deployed troops because it is trying to forcibly recruit rebel fighters for an army-run border patrol force.

They say the aim was to disarm the ethnic insurgents and neutralise their threat ahead of the polls. They say the clashes erupted because of their refusal to agree to the army's demands.

The Kokang region bordering Yunnan has a population of about 150,000. It is home to a large number of ethnic Chinese, many of whom are Chinese citizens who own shops or trade in Myanmar.

Myanmar citizens housed in refugee camps in Nansan spoke of days of fear, gunfire and cannon blasts.

"It's chaos over there now. It's a real war. They keep saying they're going to stop but then it starts again,?said Li Jiao, an ethnic Chinese.


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