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Aung San Suu Kyi to Push for Release of Myanmar Political Prisoners

Leader of the National League for Democracy party (NLD) and Myanmar's new Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi smiles during a press conference after a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, April 5, 2016.

Myanmar’s ruling party leader Aung San Suu Kyi has promised to push for the release of political prisoners and student activists in the Southeast Asian country.

In her first statement since assuming the role of state counselor, the National League for Democracy leader said “I am going to try … for the immediate release of political prisoners, political activists and students facing trial related to politics.”

Lawmakers voted to establish the state counselor position this week, a move that makes Aung San Suu Kyi the country's de facto top leader.

According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-profit human rights group based in Thailand, there were 90 political prisoners in jail and more than 400 activists facing trial as of February.

Included in the new government in Myanmar, sworn in last week, are many many democratic activists who spent years in jail under the former military-ruled government. Aung San Suu Kyi herself spent many years under house arrest.

Her National League of Democracy party came to power following a landslide November election that ushered in the country's first civilian-led government in more than five decades. But the military still remains a political force - it holds 25 percent of all parliamentary seats.

The democracy leader, who stated during the election campaign that she would hold a position “above the president,” is also Foreign Minister and Minister of the President's Office. Because her children are foreign nationals, Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from being president. Her childhood friend Htin Kyaw holds that position.