Australia Demands Immediate Release of Detained Myanmar Government Adviser

By Nyein Nyein 24 February 2021

The Australian government continues to call for the immediate release of Professor Sean Turnell, the only foreigner detained following the Feb. 1 coup, as he is an economic adviser to detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

His family called for his release two weeks ago, saying his whereabouts are unknown.

The Australian Embassy in Yangon had a Zoom call with Turnell on Feb. 11.

But his family said since Feb.11, “we haven’t heard anything, his whereabouts are still a mystery”.

“Nonetheless, the fact that he was treated well, and I hope that he is even now treated well, gives me comfort to get through each day in the best possible way I can,” said Ha Vu, his wife.

The family hired lawyer U Than Zaw Aung to represent the detained adviser but the lawyer said he has no information about Turnell’s location nor about any charges he might face.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Canberra “continues to press the Myanmar authorities for regular consular access to Professor Sean Turnell, and remains in close touch with his family [and] for his rights and welfare to be upheld”.

During a video-conference with Myanmar’s military deputy, Vice-Senior General Soe Win, on Monday the Australian Defence Force’s Vice-Admiral David Johnston repeated calls for Turnell’s release.

Johnston also “expressed Australia’s deep concern at the situation in Myanmar”, according to a Canberra representative, adding that Johnston “stated that the use of lethal force or violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable”. He urged Myanmar’s authorities to refrain from violence against civilians, restore democracy and release all civilian leaders.

The National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the November election, which observers judged to be free and fair.

Millions of citizens have taken to the streets for three weeks, opposing the military regime, despite a crackdown by the security forces which has killed at least four people.

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