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news - Burma Says Chinese Tip-Off Led to Border Clash

september 10th, 2009

"Burma troops were acting on a tip-off from China when they seized an illegal arms factory last month, triggering several days of clashes with an ethnic militia that sent more than 30,000 refugees fleeing across the border into China, an official said.

Burma's ruling military junta secured the northeastern region of Kokang late last month and thousands of refugees have since returned to their homes. On Tuesday, it held a government-organized tour of the region for diplomats and reporters.

Burma Deputy Home Affairs Minister Brig. Phone Swe told participants that government troops seized the weapons factory near the Chinese border on Aug. 8 after being informed about it during a ministerial meeting with China on combatting transnational crime.

Burma's junta earlier said the ethnic militia then raided a police checkpoint and took 39 police officers hostage. Fifteen officers were later killed, leading to full-scale fighting that state media say killed 11 soldiers and eight militia members, it said.

Phone Swe's comments appeared to be an attempt to show that relations with China--the junta's top ally--were on a steady keel, after speculation about strains following the refugee influx and a rare public request from Beijing that Burma calm the situation.

Burma's border regions have for decades been the site of clashes between ethnic armies and the ruling military that have displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Burma is largely estranged from the West, but China has maintained close economic and diplomatic ties with the junta, ensuring Beijing's access to its neighbor's vast mineral wealth. Major Chinese state companies are big investors in Burma's oil and gas industries."

MORE: "Burma says Chinese tip-off led to border clash" (AP)

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