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In photos: thousands flee Burma as ethnic fighters clash with military

Country’s main military-backed party has claimed victory in the elections, as refugees flood into Thailand.

Young Myanmar Buddhist monks wait for food at a Thai border police base where Myanmar refugees have taken shelter in Mae Sot, Thailand, 9 November, 2010.
Young Myanmar Buddhist monks wait for food at a Thai border police base where Myanmar refugees have taken shelter in Mae Sot, Thailand, 9 November, 2010.
Image: Apichart Weerawong/AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 15:20.

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE ARE seeking refuge in Thailand to escape fighting in eastern Burma which was sparked by the country’s recent elections, the first national poll in 20 years.

Burman’s main military-backed party announced today that it won about 80% of the votes, according to the BBC.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest on-and-off since winning the 1990 election, boycotted the vote.

Around 20,000 people are believed to have crossed the border into Thailand after fighting broke out in the east near the Thai border.

Government troops are fighting ethnic Karen rebels who are demanding greater regional autonomy from the ruling military junta. Residents in Myawaddy say government troops have pushed back the rebel fighters in their town.

The BBC reports that ethnic groups have been calling for greater autonomy from the central government since the country’s independence from Britain in 1948.

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army opposes government plans to incorporate ethnic armies into its centrally-controlled forces, according to the BBC.

The anti-government resistance movment in Burma is comprised of a number of different groups, including the Karens.

Global Post’s correspondent in Bangkok, Patrick Winn, reports that gunfire began near the Thai border shortly after the polls closed on Sunday.

Three people have been killed in the violence in Burma. Five were injured in Thailand today when a stray rocket-propelled grenade crossed the border, Al Jazeera reports. Thai Prime Ministe Abhisit Vejjajjiva said his country was prepared to provide humanitarian assistance to Burmese refugee, but warned that the fighting could continue for months.

The elections have been denounced by UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon and US President Barack Obama, as well as leaders from the EU and Japan amid allegations of fraud. 25% of seats in parliament had already been reserved for military appointments, regardless of the election outcome.

Opposition candidates have alleged seeing unsealed ballot boxes in polling stations and say they have been hearing complaints of voter intimidation.

In photos: thousands flee Burma as ethnic fighters clash with military
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  • Thailand Myanmar Election

  • Thailand Myanmar Election

  • Thailand Myanmar Election

  • Thailand Myanmar Election

  • Thailand Myanmar Election

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