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Pope meets general blamed for Rohingya exodus

Pope meets general blamed for Rohingya exodus

Pope Francis met with Myanmar's military commander on Monday during the first-ever papal visit to the Southeast Asian country amid scathing criticism by the worldwide community over the government's handling of the Rohingya Muslim crisis in Rakhine state.

He met General Min Aung Hliang, the powerful head of the Tatmadaw, the Burmese military, for 15 minutes at Yangon's St Mary's Cathedral.

Myanmar denies any wrongdoing despite testimony by refugees pointing to a widespread campaign of rape, murder and arson.

But despite the decades of internal strife, it is the recent exodus of more than 620,000 Muslim Rohingya people from northern Rakhine State and what the pope decides to publicly say about them that has grabbed the world's attention.

Myanmar's government doesn't recognize the term "Rohingya".

The trip was planned before the latest spasm of violence erupted in August, when Rohingya militants attacked security positions in Rakhine.

The Rohingya are not recognised as an official ethnic group.

Thousands of Catholics have gathered in Yangon to get a glimpse of Pope Francis, who begins a trip to Myanmar fraught with diplomatic risk over its treatment of the minority Muslim Rohingya people.

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Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for her failure to speak out in support of the Rohingya, but she has no control over the military under the 2008 Constitution.

Pope Francis arrived in Myanmar, the country that has been accused of ethnic cleansing this year.

"His motto is love and peace so he will surely talk about peace", U Kyar, a government schoolteacher, told ucanews.com. "We feel so thankful that he came to visit us". "If he decides to send us back, he will do so in a peaceful way". The Pope is scheduled to meet Aung San Suu Kyi and the army chief. He'll greet a delegation of Rohingya Muslims and meet with Bangladesh's political and religious leadership in Dhaka.

The agreement, however, did not include information about the use of temporary shelters for those who return to Myanmar. "Also, we need a time for healing in this country". The Rohingya, who have fled to Bangladesh following a Myanmar military crackdown, are not officially recognized as one of the country's 135 separate ethnic groups and are commonly referred to as Bengali.

"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.

Agence France-Presse reporting was used in this story.

The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold special session in Geneva on December 5 on crimes committed against Rohingya in Myanmar, Reuters reported on Monday, citing unnamed U.N. sources.


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