the main points
- Australian economist Sean Turnell was arrested in Myanmar in 2021.
- He was working as an advisor to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
- Nearly 6,000 other prisoners in Myanmar have also been released.
Myanmar’s army has released Australian economist Sean Turnell and three other foreigners under an amnesty that included 5,774 prisoners on the occasion of the country’s National Victory Day.
Government spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told Voice of Myanmar and Yangon Media Group on Thursday that Professor Turnell, Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota, former British diplomat Vicky Bowman and American Kyaw Htay O have all been released and deported.
Myanmar’s state-run channel MRTV confirmed the reports on Thursday.
Who is Sean Turnell?
58, who holds an honorary position in the Department of Economics at Macquarie University in Sydney, was working in Myanmar as a consultant for When caught in 2021 after .
In September, he was sentenced to three years in prison for violating the country’s Official Secrets Act and immigration law.
Sean Turnell was an advisor to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) when he was arrested in 2021. source: Facebook
His friend, Sydney-based economist Tim Harcourt, said Professor Tornell had dedicated himself to helping improve the lives of people in Myanmar, but had been caught up in the coup.
“His heart was in the right place. He was trying to improve the lives of ordinary people in Myanmar,” Professor Harcourt told Sky News.
Thank God he is now released.
“The priority for Shaun is to get back and be with his wife. Let’s hope he can go home and recover.”
Who else was released?
MRTV reported that Mr. Turnell, Mr. Kubota, Ms. Bowman and Kyaw Htay O, as well as 11 local Myanmar celebrities, were among a total of 5,774 prisoners released.
The imprisonment of foreign nationals has been a source of contention between Myanmar’s leaders and the prisoners’ home governments, which have been pressing for their release.
Kubota was arrested on July 30 by plainclothes policemen in Yangon after taking pictures and video clips of a small flashpoint anti-military demonstration. Last month, a prison court convicted him of incitement to participate in the protest and other charges and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
Kubota was the fifth foreign journalist to be arrested in Myanmar after the military took power. US citizens Nathan Maung and Danny Finster, who worked for local publications, and freelance journalists Robert Bukiaga from Poland and Yuki Kitazumi from Japan were eventually deported before serving full prison sentences.
Bowman, 56, the former British ambassador to Myanmar, was arrested along with her husband, a Myanmar national, in Yangon in August. She was sentenced to a year in prison in September due to prison statistics for failing to register her residence.
Kyaw Htay O, a naturalized American, moved back to Myanmar, the country of his birth, in 2017, according to media reports. He was arrested in September 2021 on terrorism charges and has been in custody ever since.
How did Australian politicians react?
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Australia welcomed the reports.
She wrote on Twitter: “Professor Tornell remains our top priority…and as such, we will not be commenting further at this point.”
Independent federal lawmaker and former ABC foreign correspondent Zoe Daniel said she had received firm information about the release.
She wrote on Twitter: “Holding her breath with relief and hope for his health and safety.”
Mrs. Daniel has been a consistent advocate for Professor Turnell’s release.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently raised the issue with his Vietnamese counterpart, Pham Minh Chinh, on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit on Saturday.
“I want to thank Vietnam for your advocacy for Professor Sean Turnell, who is being held in Myanmar,” he said at the time.
Pro-democracy protesters march in Myanmar on December 4, 2021. attributed to him: Soup Pictures / USA Girl
What is happening in Myanmar?
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the seizure of power, leading to nationwide protests that the military government has crushed with deadly force, sparking armed resistance that some United Nations experts are now describing as civil war.
According to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), a rights-watching organisation, 16,232 people have been arrested on political charges in Myanmar since the military overthrew Ms. Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government last February.
The agency stated that 13,015 of the detainees were still in detention as of Wednesday. In addition, at least 2,465 civilians were killed by security forces in the same period, the group says, though the number is believed to be much higher.