Australian economist Sean Turnell has been jailed in Myanmar after a secret trial

Australian economist Sean Turnell remains in detention in Myanmar as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen apologized for proposing the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s former adviser.

Prof Turnell was jailed for a year following his arrest following the February 1st coup last year.

He has been accused of violating Myanmar’s immigration and official secrecy laws by attempting to leave the country with sensitive financial information and faces a 14-year prison sentence.

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Hun Sen was quoted as saying by Cambodia’s official news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse on Monday that he welcomed the release of Prof Turnell by Myanmar junta leader Aung Min Hlaing, who had followed his request on behalf of Australia.

The Fresh News service reported that Hun Sen also said, “The release is indeed thanks to the senior general, but at least I also contributed as ASEAN’s rotating chairman.”

Australian academic Sean Turnel has been sentenced to three years in prison for violating Myanmar’s secrecy law, a judicial official says. Recognition: Twitter / Sean Turnell
Aung San Suu Kyi and Australian Sean Turnell (right) have been sentenced to prison in Myanmar. (PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO) Recognition: AAP

But the Cambodian PM issued a statement later in the day saying he was wrong.

“In reality, the Australian citizen was not released,” Hun Sen said in a Facebook post late Monday.

“The confusion is because I’m getting wrong information, please forgive me for the unintentional error.”

Professor remains incarcerated

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told AAP in a statement Monday evening that Myanmar authorities had informed DFAT that “Professor Sean Turnell remains in detention”.

The statement added: “The Australian Government reiterates its call for Professor Turnell’s immediate release and for his rights and welfare to be safeguarded.”

Pressure on the junta to release Prof Turnell has mounted since Hun Sen became the first leader since the coup to visit Myanmar to try to advance an ASEAN-backed five-point consensus.

“The detention of Professor Turnell is unjust and we reject the allegations against him,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Sunday.

Myanmar military spokesman Zaw Min Tun previously told BBC Burmese there were no plans to release Turnell, and officials at Myanmar’s foreign ministry told EFE news agency that he remained in detention.

Turnell’s trial has yet to begin.

According to activists, he is one of about 11,000 people who have been arrested since the coup.

– with AAP, Reuters, EFE Australian economist Sean Turnell has been jailed in Myanmar after a secret trial

James Brien

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