POPE Francis dived straight into the Rohingya Muslim crisis as he arrived on a visit to Burma and Bangladesh.

Francis met Burma’s powerful military leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, and three officials from the bureau of special operations.

The general is in charge of the security operation in Rakhine state, where a military crackdown against the Muslim minority has sent more than 620,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Francis aims to encourage the tiny Catholic communities in the countries, and will reach out to some of Asia’s poorest people.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke did not provide details of the private 15-minute meeting at the archbishop’s residence, other than to say: “They spoke of the great responsibility of the authorities of the country in this moment of transition.”

Rohingya in recent months have been subject to what the UN says is a campaign of “textbook ethnic cleansing” by the military.

Burma’s local Catholic Church has publicly urged Francis to avoid using the term “Rohingya” because it is shunned by many locally as the ethnic group is not a recognised minority in the country.

However, Francis has already prayed for “our Rohingya brothers and sisters”, and any decision to avoid the term could be viewed as a capitulation to Burma’s military and a stain on his legacy of standing up for the most oppressed.