Sean Turnell, an Australian economic adviser to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, has said he has been detained, days after Ms Suu Kyi was overthrown in a coup.
“I’ve just been detained at the moment, and perhaps charged with something, I don’t know what that would be, could be anything at all of course,” he told the BBC.
“Everyone’s been very polite and all that, but obviously I’m not free to move or anything like that.”
In a message to Reuters, he said he was “fine and strong, and not guilty of anything”, along with a smile emoji.
It was not subsequently possible to contact him.
This is the first known arrest of a foreign national in Myanmar since the army generals seized power alleging fraud in a November 8 election that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide.
The military detained Sean Turnell, an Australian economic advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi days after the coup. https://t.co/wF8m5v5aW3
— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) February 6, 2021
Professor Turnell is the director of the Myanmar Development Institute in the capital, Naypyidaw, where he has been based since 2017.
He is also a professor of economics at Macquarie University and has previously worked as a senior analyst at the Reserve Bank of Australia.
In a statement, a Macquarie University spokesperson said Professor Turnell was a “long-standing and distinguished member” of the university’s economics department.
“We are aware of reports of his arrest and fully support both his work in Myanmar and the efforts of the Australian Government to secure his swift release,” the spokesperson said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Australian Government was “deeply concerned” about the reports of Australian and other foreign nationals being arbitrarily detained in Myanmar.
“We are providing consular assistance to a number of Australians in Myanmar,” Senator Payne said in a statement.
“In particular, we have serious concerns about an Australian who has been detained at a police station.
“We have called in the Myanmar ambassador and registered the Australian Government’s deep concern about these events.”
@MarisePayne Australia advisor has been detained by military government. The internet connection has been cut off today and I cannot contact with my family anymore. Please take action immediately. Please. NO MORE SILENCE #HearTheVoiceOfMyanmar #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar
— myanmar civilian (@myanmarcivilian) February 6, 2021
Professor Turnell had previously posted several times to his Twitter account in the wake of the coup, confirming his safety and expressing dismay at the situation.
“Internet comes and goes, but not the grief on the faces of my Myanmar friends,” Professor Turnell wrote on Twitter earlier this week.
“Gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. Utter catastrophe for the economy of course, but that for later,” he said.