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Myanmar's Suu Kyi vows 'immediate release of political prisoners'

Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has announced plans to free all political prisoners to ease reconciliation efforts. The move has been seen as her government's attempt to mark power in the formerly junta-run nation.

In her first statement since assuming her

new role as Myanmar's "state councilor,"

Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to free all political prisoners, student protesters and political activists, while suggesting that mass amnesty may be possible.

"I am going to try... for the immediate release of political prisoners, political activists and students facing trial related to politics," Suu Kyi wrote in a statement published on Facebook.

Although the statement did not provide a specific deadline, the government hopes to release the prisoners by the start of the upcoming Thingyan New Year period, which begins on April 11.

"They would be freed unconditionally within days as the government believes this would help with national reconciliation," said National League for Democracy spokesperson Win Htein.

Currently, 90 political prisoners remain in jail, while at least 418 activists are awaiting trials, according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Forty of those in prison are students who are facing charges for unlawful assembly and rioting during education reform protests in March 2015.

Suu Kyi's administration, which is comprised of numerous democracy activists who spent years imprisoned by the military,

took power last week,

ending nearly 50 years of repressive army rule.

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Myanmar swears in civilian president

Despite enacting numerous reforms while in power, Myanmar's former President Thein Sein's government cracked down heavily on political activism, according to a report by Amnesty International. As a result, hundreds of people were arrested, charged, detained or imprisoned since 2014, said the human rights group.

Suu Kyi also spent 15 years under house arrest.

Under Myanmar's junta-era constitution, Suu Kyi is banned from becoming president but has appointed

her close aide Htin Kyaw

to the position as a proxy.

Her new role as state councilor - which was signed off by Kyaw on Wednesday - was specially designed for Suu Kyi to enable her to have sway over the parliament as well as the cabinet.

rs/jil (AFP, dpa)

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