Sydney – Myanmar’s military government said Thursday it will release Australian economist Sean Turnell from prison, more than 21 months after he was arrested after the army ousted an elected government last year.
A Myanmar military statement said Turnell and three other foreigners were being released as an act of ‘goodwill between countries’ and as part of a broader amnesty for prisoners.
Former British Ambassador Vicky Bowman and her husband, Ko Htein Lin, as well as Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota, are also expected to be freed.
Reports in Myanmar have suggested the pardons were granted to mark Myanmar National Day.
Myanmar Releasing Nearly 6,000 Prisoners
Turnell was jailed for three years in September for ‘violating the country’s official state secrets act.” The Australian, who was an economic adviser to Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had always denied the allegations.
Human Rights Watch Asia Director Elaine Pearson told VOA she welcomed his release, but she urged the world not to forget other political prisoners.
‘Sean Turnell should never have spent one second in prison,’ Pearson said. ‘The news of this amnesty is obviously a huge relief for his family but it is also a reminder that there are thousands more Myanmar citizens who are detained in horrific conditions and they do not have such strong international advocacy support.’
She added that she hoped, ‘the Australian government, the U.K., the U.S. and other governments really demand that the Myanmar military release all political prisoners who have been detained since the coup.’
The prisoner release announcements come on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong had called for Turnell to be set free. Australia’s former center-right government had previously said his incarceration was ‘unjust’ and ‘arbitrary’.
Turnell is expected to be deported to Australia, where he will be reunited with his wife, Ha Vu, who is also an economics academic.