Australian Economic Adviser Held in Myanmar Faces Two Charges

By The Irrawaddy 24 March 2021

Sean Turnell, the detained Australian economic adviser to ousted Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is being investigated and faces two possible charges by the military regime in connection with its accusation that he tried to flee the country with secret financial information following the Feb. 1 military takeover.

On Tuesday, the military revealed for the first time the possible charges against Turnell, who was detained on Feb. 6.

During a press conference, junta spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said the Australian professor is under investigation on two counts of violating the country’s immigration and official secrets acts.

The offenses carry imprisonment terms of five and seven years respectively.

The military spokesman said Turnell had been allowed to speak with family and diplomats from the Australian Embassy in Yangon on two occasions.

“We will continue to allow him to speak [with family and the embassy],” the spokesman said.

Turnell’s family and the Australian government have repeatedly called for Turnell’s release. He served as one of the top economic advisers to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for several years. He is also director of research at the Myanmar Development Institute (MDI), a leading economic think‐tank focused on building the capacity of the government.

The Australian government suspended its defense cooperation program with Myanmar in early March due to concerns over the escalating violence and rising death toll as regime forces cracked down on protesters.

The junta has also detained the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar and a number of ministers and their deputies who served in key economic ministries under the National League for Democracy-led government.

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