Myanmar cardinal defends Suu Kyi on eve of pope trip

Myanmar's Catholic cardinal has defended Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi against "unfair" criticism over Myanmar's military crackdown on Muslim Rohingya, and says terming it "ethnic cleansing" is unhelpful and premature.

Cardinal Charles Bo spoke to The Associated Press on Friday ahead of Pope Francis' visit next week to Myanmar and Bangladesh — to where nearly 620,000 Rohingya have fled to escape the violence in Myanmar's poverty-wracked Rakhine state.

Bo said Suu Kyi certainly should have spoken out earlier. But he said: "Aung Sung constitutionally has no voice to say anything to the military. And she is in her own clever way trying to negotiate with the military."

He urged Francis to avoid using the term "Rohingya" on the trip, or at least make clear that he wasn't making a political statement.