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Under the deeply flawed 2008 constitution, the military retains autonomy from civilian oversight and extensive power over the government and national security, with control of the Defense, Home Affairs, and Border Affairs Ministries.
It is guaranteed 25 percent of parliamentary seats, which constitutes an effective veto over any constitutional amendments, and is authorized to assume power in a national state of emergency.
The political transition began promisingly, with the April release of over 200 political prisoners and detainees.
Nonetheless, the NLD-led government has thus far not capitalized on its initial momentum in guiding the country toward substantive reform or the creation of democratic institutions.
'There's no problem if he talks about Islam, but it's unacceptable if he speaks about Rohingya and extreme terrorists.'The Rohingya exodus from Rakhine state to Bangladesh's southern tip began at the end of August, when Rohingya militants attacked security posts and the Myanmar army launched a counter-offensive. Myanmar's government has denied most of the accusations made against it, and the army says its own investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by troops.
However, the new government inherited deep-rooted challenges, including constitutional empowerment of the military, repressive legislation, weak rule of law, and a corrupt judiciary.
Francis, who is also due to speak with civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has been warned not to even say the word Rohingya during his visit or risk causing a backlash against the country's Christian minority.
He will hold Mass for 150,000 Catholics in Yangon before travelling to Bangladesh, where he will meet with some of the 620,000 Rohingya who have fled there.
Officials regularly charge villagers with criminal trespass if they refuse to leave land, and in one case, police torched a village.
Militia commanders have also used threats, force, and arbitrary arrests to intimidate farmers and take land, particularly in areas still contested by ethnic Karen armed groups.