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Thousands Flee Burma After Standoff With Government

Tension between Burmese government forces and an armed ethnic group has sparked an exodus of thousands of people from the country's northwest into neighboring China.

Reports from the region say large groups of people crossed the border Tuesday from Kokang in Burma's Shan state into China's southern Yunnan province. One Chinese news report says at least 10,000 have arrived from Kokang in the past three weeks.

Tensions in the region have been on the rise since August 8 after the Burmese government deployed troops in Kokang, which is populated largely by ethnic Chinese.

The Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front, an alliance of four ethnic groups, issued a statement saying the military sent troops into Kokang to force people to join a border security force.

Some exiled Burmese activists say Burma's military leaders are trying to neutralize the threat of ethnic groups by forcing rebel fighters into the government's army.

The government has signed a cease-fire with armed ethnic rebels, but relations between the two sides have never been stable.

Burma is home to more than 100 ethnic groups.

Critics say the government is using force and other tactics to prevent any dissent ahead of next year's elections.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.