Two more Australians have been detained by the junta after being prevented from boarding a relief flight out of Yangon last Friday, according to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The husband and wife, both agriculture development consultants, have reportedly been placed under house arrest.
Matthew O’Kane and Christa Avery, who run business consultancy firm AOK Co. Ltd in Yangon, are friends with fellow Australian Professor Sean Turnell, who was detained by the military regime a week after their Feb.1 coup. Turnell was one of the top economic advisors to ousted State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. He was subsequently accused by the junta of trying to flee Myanmar with secret financial information.
With the military regime continuing their deadly crackdown on anti-coup protesters across the country, the Australian government on Friday advised its citizens in Myanmar to return home if they don’t need to be in the country.
O’Kane and Avery have run AOK Co. Ltd for over ten years, according to the Myanmar Investment Agency’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration registration records. The company offers bespoke client services such as project development and commercial consulting.
Avery, who is a dual Canadian-Australian citizen, has over a decade of on-the-ground management experience in Myanmar, according to her LinkedIn profile. She has helped companies from a range of sectors establish successful operations in emerging markets and is also the founder of the www.myanmarnaturally.com blog for social enterprise investing.
The couple are receiving help from the Australian Embassy in Yangon, according to the Australian media.
Polish journalist Robert Bociaga, who works for the German Press Agency dpa, is also being detained by the junta after being arrested while covering anti-regime protests in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State.
Over 250 civilians have been killed by security forces during the crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators. A total of 2,290 people have been being detained by the military, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
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