Myanmar Junta Revokes Pardon for Freed Australian Economist Sean Turnell

By The Irrawaddy 10 January 2023

The Myanmar military regime has revoked its pardon for recently released Australian economist Sean Turnell for criticizing it in his media interviews and social media posts, according to a leaked internal junta announcement.

Turnell formerly served as an economic adviser to now detained Myanmar democracy figure Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government. The junta arrested the economist following the coup in February 2021, accusing him of possessing “state secret” information. Turnell pleaded not guilty but a regime court in Naypyitaw sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment in September last year. He was released in November amid the junta’s amnesty “in consideration of bilateral relations and on humanitarian grounds”, the regime said at the time.

Upon arriving in Australia, the economist said in a thank you message on Facebook that despite his joy at being reunited with his family, he was acutely aware that “the 53 million people in Myanmar continue to suffer under a regime that is about as unrepresentative of them as is possible to imagine.”

He added, “It is a tragic and terrible thing that the nicest people I have encountered anywhere are ruled over by such knaves and fools.”

In media interviews he warned that the coup has severely damaged Myanmar’s economy and that the regime wouldn’t give up power easily. He also revealed the inhumane treatment he experienced in prison along with other political detainees such as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he met during their trial proceedings and who urged him to tell everyone the truth about Myanmar.

For the regime, it was all too much.

On Dec. 6, in an unpublicized announcement leaked on social media, the junta said its pardon for the economist had been revoked as he had violated the condition that “he would have to serve the remainder plus the new prison sentence should he commit an offense again” by making false statements about Myanmar via his social media accounts and in interviews with the media while he was still on probation.

Turnell confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the statement was real and official.

“I received the notice of it a week or so  ago,” he said.

He declined to comment further on the revocation “for fear of repercussions to friends and colleagues in Myanmar.”

“When time is right I will respond very fully. It’s a real dilemma this one!!” he added.