YANGON— The family of detained Australian economic adviser Sean Turnell has called for his immediate release by Myanmar’s military regime.
Turnell, an adviser to ousted Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was arrested by the military regime days after the coup.
His arrest was believed to be the first of a foreign national in Myanmar since the country’s military seized power on Feb. 1 claiming fraud in the Nov. 8 election.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in that election, which outside observers had judged to be free and fair.
“We are distraught that Dr. Sean Turnell, our beloved family member and an internationally respected academic, has been detained in Myanmar,” Turnell’s family said in a statement released on Monday.
The family said that Turnell had fallen in love with Myanmar, working on its behalf for more than two decades.
The family added that Turnell has brought jobs, investments and hope to many of the poorest people in Myanmar without thought of reward or concern for his own advantage.
“He is warm and kind-hearted, generous, and always thinks about others before himself. Even now, wherever he is confined, we know that his thoughts and concerns are with those worrying about him,” the family said.
Turnell has served as one of the top economic policy advisers of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for several years. He also serves as a director of research at the Myanmar Development Institute (MDI), a leading economic think‐tank group focused on building the capacity of the government.
The Australian Foreign Ministry also demanded Myanmar authorities release Turnell after summoning Myanmar’s ambassador over the detention. The foreign ministry did not say whether it has information on Turnell’s whereabouts.
Just after the coup, Turnell seemed to know that he might not be safe in the country. At that time, he wrote on Facebook that he was safe for now but heartbroken for what all this means for the people for Myanmar, calling them, “The bravest kindest people I know. They deserve so much better.”
In a separate post hours after the coup he said: “Myanmar will shine again! But for now, I’m heartbroken.”
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