Source: Associated Press
By NICOLE WINFIELD
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — Pope Francis insisted Tuesday that Myanmar’s future depends on respecting the rights of each ethnic group, an indirect show of support for Rohingya Muslims who have been subject to decades of discrimination and a recent military crackdown described by the U.N. as a textbook campaign of “ethnic cleansing.”
Francis didn’t cite the crackdown or even utter the contested word “Rohingya” in his speech to Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other authorities and diplomats in the capital. But he lamented how Myanmar’s people have suffered “and continue to suffer from civil conflict and hostilities,” and insisted that everyone who calls Myanmar home deserves to have their basic human rights and dignity guaranteed.
Rohingya Muslims have faced state-supported discrimination in the predominantly Buddhist country for decades, deprived of citizenship and unable to access basic services such as adequate education and health care. In August, the army began what it called “clearance operations” in Rakhine state following an attack on police posts by Rohingya insurgents. The violence, looting and burning of villages has forced more than 620,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.