Australian academic Sean Turnell detained in Myanmar days after military coup
Australian academic Sean Turnell has been detained in Myanmar.
The economic adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the first known foreign arrest since the military coup on Monday, February 1.
Mr Turnell, a Professor of Economics/Economic Adviser at Macquarie University, told BBC Radio how the events unfolded.
“I’m just being detained at the moment, and perhaps charged with something,” Mr Turnell said.
“I don’t know what that would be — could be anything at all, of course.
“Everyone is being very polite, but obviously I’m not free to move or anything like that.”
Mr Turnell revealed that he was trying to leave his hotel when he was stopped.
“Just told that I wouldn’t be allowed to leave, and to have a seat, and so on. Everyone was being, as I say, very polite, but it was clear that I couldn’t go anywhere.”
The Australian academic then hangs up on the radio interview abruptly as others enter the room.
In a statement tonight The Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The Australian Government is deeply concerned about reports of Australian and other foreign nationals being detained arbitrarily in Myanmar.
“We are providing consular assistance to a number of Australians in Myanmar. In particular, we have serious concerns about an Australian who has been detained at a police station.”
The statement also says they’ve called the Myanmar Ambassador and “registered the Australian Government’s deep concern about these events”.
The Australian Embassy in Yangon is contacting Australians in Myanmar to ascertain their safety as communications allow.
In a post on Twitter the day of the coup, Mr Turnell wrote: “Internet comes and goes, but not the grief on the faces of my Myanmar friends. Gut wrenching and heartbreaking. Utter catastrophe for the economy of course, but that for later.”
And a day later, he thanked people for their messages of concern.
“Safe for now but heartbroken for what all this means for the people of Myanmar. The bravest, kindest people I know. They deserve so much better.”
Ms Suu Kyi, 75, has not been seen publicly since her arrest and now faces charges including breaching import and export laws, as well as possession of unlawful communication devices.
According to police documents, the overthrown leader has been remanded in custody until February 15.
It’s understood Ms Suu Kyi and Mr Turnell first met in 2010 following her release from house arrest.
Mr Turnell is believed to have been living in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw since December 2017 while serving as a special adviser to leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD).
The army general seized power earlier this week, alleging fraud in the country’s November 8 elections.
The coup has led to thousands taking to the streets in protest, holding up a three finger salute from movie The Hunger Games as a sign of resistance.
In an attempt to silence dissent, Myanmar’s junta have temporarily blocked Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.