Myanmar has begun releasing political prisoners, including western nationals, ahead of the power transfer in the country following elections in November.
Reuters has said the first batch of 18 prisoner has already been released after US Assistant Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with the administration earlier this week.
"So far, 18 political prisoners were released from Insein Prison. They will release a total of 21 people today," Reuters quoted a prison official at Yangon's Insein prison as saying.
The outgoing administration under President Thein Sein has agreed to release more than 100 prisoners in political amnesty.
The prisoner release is significant in the run-up to the power transfer to longtime democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi.
However, officials have also struck another line, saying prisoners were being released as a commemoration of the World Buddhist Peace Conference that starts in Myanmar on Friday, Reuters said.
End to repression
Most of the prisoners are those arrested for protests against the military junta's rule over the years. Over 2,000 journalists, activists, politicians and even comedians were imprisoned in Myanmar during decades of military rule, inviting harsh western sanctions on the country.
Thein Sein's semi-civilian government replaced the junta in 2011.
The new parliament will hold its first session on February 1, setting the stage for the creation of a government dominated by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).