Burmese flee fighting and pour into Thailand

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A day after Burma held an election meant to usher in peace and stability, clashes have erupted between minority rebels and government soldiers, a reminder of divisions that have long bedevilled the country.

Fighting broke out between ethnic minority Karen rebels and government troops in two locations along Burma's eastern border with Thailand, in the town of Myawaddy and in another area about 200 km further south, as votes from Sunday's election were being counted.

Five Thai villagers were wounded when four rocket-propelled grenades landed on Thai soil near the town of Mae Sot opposite Myawaddy, a Thai official said, as about 12,000 people fled the fighting in one of the main trade gateways along the border with Thailand.

Villagers continued to pour over the border into Mae Sot as a splinter faction of the Karen militias seized parts of Myawaddy.

Refugees waded through streams carrying children and elderly women as plumes of thick smoke filled the air after what Myanmar opposition media said were government buildings captured and set ablaze by rebels.

Animosity between majority Burmese and ethnic minorities in the hilly borderlands that form a horseshoe around the central Irrawaddy river plain goes back centuries.

Sunday's election for a bicameral national parliament and 14 regional assemblies, the military-ruled country's first polls in 20 years, is not expected to bring any quick fix.