Cambodia apologizes for claiming Myanmar adviser’s release
Bangkok, Feb 8 (EFE).- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen apologized for having erroneously announced the release in Myanmar of Australian economist Sean Turnell, advisor to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
On his Facebook page, Hun Sen said it was an “unintentional” mistake to announce on Monday that Turnell, detained just days after the February 2021 coup in Myanmar, had been released.
The Myanmar military junta denied Monday the release of the Australian adviser and sources from the Australian Foreign Ministry also told Efe that Myanmar authorities told them Turner remained in detention.
In a speech, Hun Sen had said Turner had been released Sunday thanks to his mediation, news also disclosed by the prime minister’s office on Twitter.
Cambodia holds the annual presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is mediating the Myanmar crisis.
Turnell was arrested on charges of violating the Official Secrets Act, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
The adviser to Suu Kyi for economic affairs was director of the Institute for the Development of Myanmar since 2017 in the capital, Naypyidaw.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne urged the professor’s “immediate release” the day before, calling the process “unfair” and “rejecting” all the accusations against him.
One of the few occasions on which the Myanmar military has shown Turnell in public was during the vaccination campaign for prisoners against Covid-19. The official newspaper The Global New Light of Myanmar published a photo of prison health authorities vaccinating the Australian economist in July 2021.
The February 2021 military coup has plunged the country into a deep political, social and economic crisis, and opened a spiral of violence with new civilian militias that have exacerbated the guerrilla war that Myanmar has been experiencing for decades.
The army justifies the coup on alleged massive fraud during the November 2020 elections, the result of which has been annulled and in which Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory, as it did in 2015, with the endorsement of international observers.
At least 1,526 people have died due to violent repression from police and soldiers since the coup, according to data from the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, which also estimates more than 12,000 detained opponents. EFE