Pope Francis urges Myanmar generals to free political prisoners, return to democracy

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Pope Francis on Monday urged Myanmar’s military leaders to free political prisoners and resume the country’s “brusquely interrupted” path to democracy.

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The pope made his appeal in his annual address to the diplomatic corps as tens of thousands of people joined a third day of nationwide demonstrations in Myanmar against the military’s removal of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi a week ago.

Myanmar police on Monday warned protesters to disperse or face force shortly after state television signaled impending action to stifle mass demonstrations against a military coup and the arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Tens of thousands of people joined a third day of street demonstrations in towns and cities across the country to denounce the military for its seizure of power last Monday.

In the capital Naypyitaw, three lines of police in riot gear could be seen across a road as protesters chanted anti-coup slogans and told police they should serve the people not the military, according to media and a live feed of events.

Police placed a sign in the road saying that live ammunition could be used if demonstrators breached the third line of officers.

Earlier, police in Naypyitaw briefly turned water cannon on protesters.

Reuters has been unable to contact the junta for comment on the protests, but state media signaled possible action against them in the first comment from any government channel, saying the public wanted rid of “wrongdoers.”

“We, the whole people who value justice, freedom, equality, peace and safety, not only refuse to accept the lawless wrongdoers but also request that they be prevented and removed through cooperation,” the MRTV television station said in a comment.

Though not attributed to any authority or group, it was later read out on a military-owned network.

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