Clashes in China-Myanmar border

MENG PENG: Fighting appeared to have subsided Sunday along China's southern border after days of clashes between Myanmar government troops and ethnic rebels sent thousands of refugees streaming into China.

At least one person was killed Saturday and dozens injured when a bomb was tossed into China, a report said.

The clashes pose a major concern to Communist China and its goal of stability ahead of the sensitive Oct. 1 celebration of its 60th anniversary. Beijing has told Myanmar to end the fighting to "safeguard the regional stability."

The fighting also threatens to strain China's close relationship with Myanmar's military junta, which has been trying to consolidate control over several armed ethnic groups along its borders to ensure next year's national elections, the first in nearly 20 years, go smoothly.

An official with the Public Security Bureau in China's Zhengkang county, which oversees the border area, said Sunday there had been no reports of fighting since late Saturday. Like many Chinese officials, he refused to give his name.

In the Chinese border town of Meng Peng, several men who said they were rebels told The Associated Press they had turned in their weapons to Chinese officials. Dozens of men wearing blue overalls, issued to them when they surrendered their uniforms, were seen in the town shopping for civilian clothes.

"We surrendered our guns. ... Besides, there was no way we would win," Ri Chenchuan, a former rebel militia soldier, said, laughing.

State-controlled media in Myanmar, also known as Burma, have not reported the violence.

A statement Sunday from the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma said fighting had stopped and about 700 rebels had fled from thousands of Myanmar troops into China.

Most of the refugees are Kokang, an ethnic Han Chinese minority group that speaks Chinese and has received support for decades from China because of its traditional ties to the Communist Party, said Aung Zaw, editor of The Irrawaddy, a magazine by Myanmar exiles.

"These are not your typical Burmese refugees," he said. Simultaneously, "China continued to provide support to these ethnic groups and support the junta. I think China is playing a double-faced role in this conflict," he said.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said up to 30,000 people have poured into the Chinese border town of Nansan from Myanmar's Kokang region in northern Shan state since early this month. Chinese authorities are providing emergency food, shelter and medical care, it said.

The Yunnan provincial government said about 10,000 people had crossed into China and authorities were housing some in seven camps in and near Nansan.

One person was killed and several were injured Saturday when a bomb was thrown across the border into China, the China Daily newspaper reported. It gave no other details.

At least 25 people had been admitted to Zhenkang County People's Hospital for injuries related to the fighting as of Saturday, said a hospital official who refused to give her name. Most of the patients are ethnic Chinese from Myanmar, she said.

Late Saturday, a few hundred refugees remained in tents and several unfinished buildings in Nansan, guarded by Chinese police and paramilitary soldiers. The scene was calm and orderly, with police and officials apparently registering refugees and taking their temperatures before letting them into the settlement area.

Li Hui, a local Foreign Affairs Department official, told AP reporters that media were not allowed in the refugee camps and ordered them to leave.

China has been known to seal off entire regions of the country during times of unrest.