Fierce fighting between the army and rebels in the Kokang region of north-east Myanmar has forced tens of thousands of people from their homes, and about 30,000 of them have fled into China.

China has called for peace and said it supported efforts to resolve the conflict so refugees could go home.

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People fleeing the fighting in Laukkai, the main city in the Kokang region of the northern Shan state, walk towards a rescue convoySoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar China
People travel in a truck to a refugee camp in Nansan, Yunnan province, China, near the border with MyanmarReuters
Myanmar China
A vehicle carrying refugees from Laukkai arrives at temporary refugee camp in a monastery in LashioSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar China
People fleeing fierce fighting between Myanmar's army and ethnic rebels arrive at a temporary refugee camp at a monastery in LashioYe Aung Thu/AFP
Myanmar China
Refugees who fled from violence in Laukkai hold bags of oranges at a temporary refugee camp set up in a monastery in LashioSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar China
People who fled from conflict areas near the Myanmar-China border gather at a temporary refugee camp at a monastery in LashioYe Aung Thu/AFP
Myanmar China
Refugees charge their mobile phones at the temporary refugee camp at a monastery in LashioSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters

On 17 February unknown attackers shot and wounded two people in a convoy of eight vehicles marked with the emblem of the Myanmar Red Cross Society.

The Red Cross condemned the attack on volunteers trying to rescue trapped villagers from the strife, saying they were carrying out humanitarian duties.

A driver and another man were wounded in the ambush near Laukkai, an incident the government blamed on the Kokang rebels.

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Zaw Min Htike 37, a volunteer driver with the Myanmar Red Cross Society, tries to stop the bleeding after being wounded when the convoy he was in was fired upon by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army between Laukkai and Chinshwehaw, on 17 February, 2015Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar China
Moe Kyaw Than, a volunteer with the Myanmar Red Cross Society, reacts after he was wounded when his convoy was fired upon on 17 February Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar China
Zaw Min Htike 37, a volunteer driver from the Myanmar Red Cross society who was wounded in an attack on a convoy, holds a newspaper featuring his picture on the front page, at a hospital in LashioSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Myanmar China
Moe Kyaw Than, a volunteer driver from the Myanmar Red Cross society who was wounded in an attack on a convoy, recuperates in a hospital in LashioSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters

Myanmar President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in the region and imposed a three-month period of martial law. At least 50 government soldiers and 27 rebels have been killed, according to state media.

The main rebel force is called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). It emerged from the remnants of the Communist Party of Burma.

Three other groups, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, the Kachin Independence Army and a faction of the Shan State Army, are reported to have joined attacks on the military this week.

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Myanmar soldiers patrol in Laukkai, the main city in the Kokang region of the northern Shan stateAFP

The clashes are a setback for government efforts to forge a nationwide ceasefire and end a patchwork of insurgencies that have bedevilled Myanmar since its independence in 1948.

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 50 million people, only recently emerged from a half-century of military rule.