An Australian economist detained by Myanmar’s military junta for almost two years returned home on Friday, with his wife saying that she was “overwhelmed by joy” to be reunited with him.
Economist Sean Turnell, a former adviser to Myanmar’s deposed leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was arrested by the military regime shortly after it seized control of the country in a February 1, 2021 coup.
He had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for breaching Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act — charges he denied — but was released on Thursday alongside almost 6,000 prisoners as part of a sweeping amnesty announced by the junta.
Former British ambassador Vicky Bowman and Japanese journalist Toru Kubita were also freed.
Turnell’s wife Ha Vu, an economist at Australia’s Macquarie University, announced his arrival on social media.
“He is here,” she posted with a smiling photo of the pair taken after his plane landed in Melbourne.
Vu said that, as her husband left Myanmar, an official asked him if he now “hated” the country.
“Sean said: ‘I never hate Myanmar, I love the people of Myanmar and it’s always like that.”
In a separate statement released through Australia’s foreign ministry, Vu said she was elated.
“I’m overwhelmed by joy at the news my beloved husband Sean is coming home. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have strongly advocated for his release,” she said.
“After nearly 22 months apart, our priority right now is to spend time together as a family.”
Turnell had a scruffy grey beard and had clearly lost weight in a photo released by the Australian government Thursday night, shortly after he arrived in Bangkok from Myanmar.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Turnell was in “good spirits” when the pair spoke briefly on Thursday.
“He’s a remarkable man,” Albanese told reporters.
“And he was there doing his job as an economic policy adviser. He was doing his job, nothing more, nothing less.”