Gunfire heard near Bangladesh border as 1000s flee Myanmar

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A United Nations report in February said the military crackdown on the Rohingya had led to gang rape, the killing of hundreds of civilians and the forced displacement of as many as 90,000 people.

Advocates for the Rohingya suggest many more civilians have died in army attacks on villages, but they have not given a total.

During Sunday prayers, the pontiff expressed solidarity with Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya Muslim community, calling for them to have "full rights".

It also proposed a joint security campaign to drive out Rohingya militants from the Rakhina state of Myanmar.

About 1 million Rohingya live in western Myanmar's Rakhine state, and conflicts between insurgents and security forces there have become increasingly deadly.

The state counsellor's office has also ordered the country's media to use the term "terrorist" rather than "insurgent" to describe Rohingya militants, a move that reaffirms the widely held belief that the former Nobel Peace Prize victor is unlikely to take any public stance against the military's actions in the country's troubled northwest. In a bid to drive them out of Myanmar, government agencies reportedly force the Rohingya to take permission for getting married, seek employment, avail health services and even for recording births. "We helped them enter through several points but are sending them to Kutupalong", said Mia, referring to another camp.

Thousands of Rohingya have fled towards Bangladesh, but authorities there have refused to let majority in, with an untold number of people - mainly women and children - stranded along the border zone.

Ashin Wirathu, a leader of a hard-line Buddhist movement, Ma Ba Tha, told the New York Times: "There is no Rohingya ethnic group in our country, but the pope believes they are originally from here".

Thousands of Rohingya have attempted to flee the violence across the border to Bangladesh, where border guards tried to push them back, leaving many refugees stranded.

But statements also say the ambushes are being carried out by groups 300-500 strong, suggesting ARSA ranks have grown in recent months.

After three years of Buddhist atrocities directed at Rohingyas, a radicalized group of Rohingyas formed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

Panic-stricken civilians, both Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines, are fleeing fearing further violence amid an army crackdown on militants.

However, a number of reports, supported by pictures and videos posted online, contradict the government's narrative and suggest the military has indiscriminately attacked innocent civilians.

The Rohingya have long faced severe discrimination and were the targets of violence in 2012 that killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people-predominantly Rohingya-from their homes to camps for the internally displaced, where most remain.

For some years now, worldwide human rights groups and the United Nations have reported wide-scale human rights violations against the Rohingyas, including extrajudicial killings, gang rapes, arsons and other violence.