Myanmar announced on Tuesday a mass prisoner amnesty, raising hope for the imminent release of hundreds of political detainees in what would be a major sign of change in the authoritarian state.

The fate of the estimated 2,000 political prisoners, who include pro-democracy campaigners, journalists, monks and lawyers, has long been a top demand of Western nations that have imposed sanctions on Myanmar.

More than 6,300 elderly, sick, disabled or well-behaved prisoners will be pardoned from Wednesday “on humanitarian grounds”, state television announced, without saying whether political prisoners would be among them.

It said freeing detenus would allow them “to become nationals who can help to build a new nation”.

“I cried when I heard the announcement. I'm now praying for the release not only of my brother but everyone,” Ma Nyein, sister-in-law of comedian Zarganar, one of Myanmar's best known political detenus, told AFP.

The news came hours after a government-appointed rights panel called for a pardon for what it described as the “prisoners of conscience”, in a rare official acknowledgement of their existence.

On Monday a government official, told AFP that political prisoners were expected to be freed within days.

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