Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi announced Thursday that her government plans to release all political prisoners as quickly as possible, making the declaration her first act in her newly created job as state counsellor.
The statement, posted on the Facebook page of the office of President Htin Kyaw, declared the release a priority, suggesting it might begin by next week, which is Myanmar’s traditional New Year festival and has in the past been the occasion for prisoner releases.
There are about 100 political prisoners left over from the military-backed government that was recently replaced by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. There are also about 400 people facing trial on political charges, and they would have those charges dropped or suspended under Suu Kyi’s plan. Several dozen of those facing trial are students who early last year staged a protest against state education reforms.
Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in last November’s election, ending a half-century of army-backed rule. She is by agreement of her party the de facto head of government, though the military-era constitution does not allow her to be president because her two sons have British citizenship. Shortly before the election, she announced her intention to run the government by being “above the president” if her party won.
Suu Kyi’s announcement was released shortly after the new government’s first Cabinet meeting Thursday. Her plan specifies the laws under which the prisoners could be released and charges dropped, specifically avoiding a process that would require the agreement of a military-controlled board.
Under the previous military-backed government that took power in 2011, more than 1,100 detainees were released. The junta that ruled before that kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for a number of years, and jailed hundreds of her supporters and other critics.