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Pope begins Myanmar trip in shadow of Rohingya crisis

Pope begins Myanmar trip in shadow of Rohingya crisis

Pope Francis arrived Monday on a visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh to encourage their tiny Catholic communities and reach out to some of Asia's most peripheral and poor, but the big question looming was whether he would utter the word "Rohingya" while he's here.

Burke did not say whether Pope Francis had mentioned in any way the plight of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Myanmar's Rakhine state, who are treated as foreigners in the country.

Myanmar was ruled by a junta for five decades until a civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi came to power a year ago.

"We have been trying to bring a small group of Rohingya to meet the pontiff in Dhaka since it is not possible, at this point, to arrange a Papal trip to the refugees", added the Archbishop.

The United Nations and United States accuse the army which the general controls of "ethnic cleansing" in a campaign that has driven more than 620,000 Rohingya from Myanmar's northern Rakhine state into Bangladesh since August.

Thousands of excited Catholics and well-wishers gathered on the streets of Yangon as Pope Francis' plane touched down November 27 for the most politically controversial trip of his papacy. The Pope's visit to the country had been decided and announced before the crisis when he met Aung San Suu Kyi in the Vatican in May. "I just wanted to see him, so I came to Myanmar", said Faith from Sarawak, speaking to DVB from outside the cathedral.

The immediate fear of the trip-organizers was not related to the pontiff's possible use of the controversial term 'Rohingya, ' but had instead refocused on multiple open-air public events scheduled for his three-and-a-half day visit.

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"He might help us get the peace that we are desperately searching for", she said. "If he decides to send us back, he will do so in a peaceful way".

But a cardinal from Myanmar warned the pope to avoid even using the word "Rohingya" inside the country as it's so divisive, it could lead to protests against the minority Muslims. Myanmar's government and most of the Buddhist majority consider them Bengali migrants from Bangladesh living illegally in the country, though Rohingya have lived there for generations.

The agreement, however, did not include information about the use of temporary shelters for those who return to Myanmar.

Myanmar and Bangladesh last week inked a deal to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees in two months.

"W$3 e appeal to the Human Rights Council and to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make sure that allegations of crimes committed be investigated and to ensure that all perpetrators of human rights violations be held accountable and prosecuted", Jazairy said.

Meanwhile, Rohingya refugees are still fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday, citing a Bangladeshi border guard commander. Translated by Khet Mar.


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