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Photograph: Freeimages.com / william schenold

Myanmar began releasing political prisoners on Friday, a day after newly appointed state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said all remaining detainees held for political reasons would be set free.

The political prisoners were to be among a more general amnesty for around 4,000 prisoners across the country, local media reports said, citing unnamed government officials.

A group of 69 student protesters, arrested a year ago during a march to demand freedom and reform in the education sector, were released after charges were dropped, one of them said.

"We already believed we would be freed sooner or later since the new government took power," student protester Nandar Sit Aung told dpa by phone.

"Now it’s time to work to rebuild our country," he said.

The government aims to release all political prisoners and activists awaiting trial by the Thingyan New Year period, which starts on April 11, according to a statement signed by Suu Kyi on Thursday.

There were currently 90 inmates convicted of political crimes and a further 418 awaiting trial in the country, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).

It was not clear how many were to be released Friday.

Releasing prisoners of conscience held for their involvement in peaceful political activities is one of the priorities of the new government, Thursday's statement said.

This was in line with the long-standing advocacy for those prisoners by her National League for Democracy party, endorsed by the will of the people in the landslide election victory in November, she said.

General prisoner amnesties are fairly common in Myanmar. An amnesty in July for almost 7,000 inmates included around 20 political prisoners.

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