Pope Francis to visit Myanmar, Bangladesh in November

Aug 30, 2017, 05:18
Pope Francis to visit Myanmar, Bangladesh in November

The Rohingya, one of the world's largest stateless communities, are fleeing in droves towards Bangladesh, trying to escape the latest surge in violence in Rakhine state between a shadowy militant group and Myanmar's military.

Bangladesh border guards told Reuters they had sent about 550 Rohingya back across the Naf river that separates the two countries since Monday, despite an appeal by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for Dhaka to allow Rohingya to seek safety.

State authorities should issue clear instructions to security forces to refrain from using disproportionate force, minimize damage and injuries and respect the right to life, he said.

The agency said it communicated its readiness to support Bangladesh in helping the refugees fleeing Myanmar.

In a statement that risked complicating his visit to Myanmar planned for later this year, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the Rohingya.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, ARNO President Nurul Islam urged "the attention of the United Nations and the worldwide community, powerful countries, the OIC, ASEAN and Myanmar's neighbors to bring consistent pressure to bear on the Myanmar government and the military".

But a spokesman for the group told Asia Times that it had no links to jihadi groups and that its members were young Rohingya men angered by events since communal violence in 2012.

Speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St Peter's Square following the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father said: "Sad news has reached us of the persecution of our Rohingya brothers and sisters, a religious minority".

The UN believes the army's response many amount to ethnic cleansing, allegations denied by the government of Aung San Suu Kyi and the army.

"These terrorists' goal is to get their own territory", said major General Aung Ye Win, vice chairman of the Myanmar military's True News Information Team, at the press conference attended by local and global reporters and military attaches from the United States, China, and Bangladesh.

At least 104 people have been killed in the fresh bout of violence involving Myanmar's military and the armed group.

Bangladesh's foreign ministry said it was concerned that thousands of "unarmed Myanmar nationals" had assembled near the border to enter the country.

There are approximately 1.1 million Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Myanmar authorities say Rohingya "extremist terrorists" have been setting the fires during fighting with government troops, while Rohingya have blamed soldiers, who have been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings.

"I highlighted that Indonesia remains committed to providing help and assistance to the Myanmar government to ease the situation or help build a conducive Rakhine state", she added.

Those include Rohingya villages as well as Rakhine-majority settlements attacked by the militants.

There have been numerous eyewitness accounts of summary executions, rapes, and arson attacks by the military since the crackdown began.

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