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Senin, 08 Maret 2021

Detained Australian economist Sean Turnell revealed financial secrets, Myanmar junta leader claims - Sydney Morning Herald

Australian economist Sean Turnell has been accused by Myanmar’s military ruler of trying to flee the country with secret financial information.

The Australian government has been urging the new junta to release the Sydney academic and advisor to the nation’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi since he was detained on February 6, five days after General Min Aung Hlaing’s armed forces seized power in a coup.

Sean Turnell, left, has long provided advice to Myanmar’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right.

Sean Turnell, left, has long provided advice to Myanmar’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right.

The prospect of that happening quickly appears to have diminished with a statement by the military leader on the state-run television network MRTV on Tuesday morning (AEDT).

“An attempt to flee the country by the former government’s foreign economic adviser, Sean Turnell, was stopped in time and secret state financial information was found through him. Union-level ministers are taking legal actions in relation to that issue,” Gen Min Aung Hlaing was quoted as saying.

The claims against Turnell were made a day after the Australian government suspended its cooperation program with Myanmar’s military, on which Australia has spent $1.48 million over the past five years, and announced it would redirect foreign aid through non-government organisations.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne had repeatedly called for the release of Turnell, whose whereabouts have been unknown since he was arrested in the days after the military re-assumed control.

“We do not accept the conditions of his detention and the reasons for his detention,” Payne said on Monday.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported last week that Turnell had been permitted for the first time since being arrested to speak directly on the phone to his wife, Sydney economics lecturer Ha Vu. He had told her he was being treated well but until now the grounds Turnell was being held on had not been revealed.

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Australian officials had tried to assist the academic leave the country following the coup and the detention of state counsellor Suu Kyi, president Win Myint and other figures from the governing party, the National League of Democracy.

However, Turnell’s friend Tim Harcourt disputed the notion that he had tried to flee.

“He had the chance to leave and he didn’t,” said Harcourt on Tuesday. “His British counterpart did get out. I would say this is evidence that he’s got a lot of integrity and honesty and was trying to do the right thing. I don’t think a man who stayed would have anything to hide.”

Payne said on Monday Australia’s ambassador to Myanmar, Andrea Faulkner, and other diplomats were attempting to have Turnell released via talks at “at the most senior levels”.

Suu Kyi’s own lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, has also offered to assist the Australian government on the Turnell matter on a pro bono basis.

The overthrown civilian leader is herself facing four charges levelled at her by the new authoritarian regime including the illegal importation of six walkie-talkies, the incitement of public unrest and the breaching of coronavirus protocols.

While she remains under house arrest, more than 60 protesters have been killed in nationwide demonstrations and strikes that are continuing despite the bloodshed.

The latest two casualties were in Myitkhina, the capital of Kachin state, reportedly shot in the head as police used lethal force as well as tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

Reuters reported security forces also cornered hundreds of young protesters in a district of Yangon on Monday night and threatened to hunt for them door to door as the United States and United Nations appealed for them to be allowed to leave.

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2021-03-08 21:43:48Z
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