Buses pulled out, with former detainees inside giving the thumbs up gesture through the windows to the cheering crowd, some of whom flashed the three-fingered salute – a sign adopted by the democracy movement.
Than Toe Aung Was – imprisoned for around six months – was greeted by his jubilant sister outside.
“I would not say why I was arrested,” he said, urging people to “move forward for the future”.
“I’m happy for my release. But I will have to try for those who are not released,” he added, flashing the crowd a three-fingered salute.
Meanwhile, Nwet Nwet San said he was hoping his son, a soldier who had run away from the army, would be freed.
“He’s been in prison for eight months,” he told AFP, adding that although he had heard it was mostly protesters being released, others would be set free too.
“That’s why I’m waiting.”
The amnesty was “a tactical response to a pretty hostile domestic and international environment,” Richard Horsey of the International Crisis Group told AFP.
“These kinds of cynical moves may have worked 20 years ago… but it will do nothing to improve the standing of this regime.”