Update 1: Updated first two paragraphs; headline
Bangkok, Feb 7 (EFE).- Myanmar’s military junta denied releasing Australian economist Sean Turnell, adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained since the first days of the February 2021 coup.
Myanmar Foreign Affairs Ministry officials told EFE that Turnell remained detained. It comes as Cambodia’s prime minister had said hours earlier that the advisor had been released.
In a speech, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Turnell was released Sunday, just as he was serving a year under arrest, thanks to his own mediation with the military junta, with which he met in January in Naypyidaw, according to official newspaper Fresh News.
Turnell was arrested on charges of violating the Official Secrets Act, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
The expert, adviser to Suu Kyi for economic affairs, was since 2017 director of the Institute for the Development of Myanmar, based in the capital Naypyidaw.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne called for the professor’s “immediate release” Sunday, calling the process “unfair” and “rejecting” all 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 in July 2021. Official newspaper The Global New Light of Myanmar published a photo of prison health personnel vaccinating the Australian economist.
The military coup 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 fraud during the November 2020 elections, the results of which were 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 1,519 people have died as a result of the brutal repression carried out by police and soldiers since the coup, according to data from the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, which also estimates almost 12,000 detained opponents. EFE