Canberra Calls for 'Immediate Release' of Australian Adviser Detained in Wake of Myanmar Coup

© REUTERS / STRINGERPolice fire a water cannon at protesters demonstrating against the coup and demanding the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, February 8, 2021
Police fire a water cannon at protesters demonstrating against the coup and demanding the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, February 8, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.02.2021
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Myanmar was rocked by a political upheaval last week when the country’s military seized power from the democratically elected government and detained key officials, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne has demanded Myanmar urgently release Australian Sean Turnell, who was apparently detained in the wake of last week’s military coup.

“We have called for the immediate release of Australian citizen Prof. Sean Turnell from detention," Payne urged in a statement.

Turnell, who teaches at Macquarie University, arrived in Myanmar less than a month ago – he was working as an economic policy adviser for the government of now-arrested leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to AP, Turnell contacted his friends via social media following the coup to say that he had been arrested, but he's been out of contact over the last 48 hours.

Foreign Minister Payne said that Turnell has been receiving “extensive support” from the Australian Embassy in Myanmar during “this ordeal.”

One of the professor’s friend Monique Skidmore told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Turnell was probably arrested because of the “closeness” he had developed to the country’s overthrown leader Suu Kyi. He has since been held at a police station and hotel, says Skidmore, who expects the advisor to be sent back to Australia. 

Canberra’s diplomats were actually preparing to help Turnell escape the country when he was taken by the military from Yangon’s Chatrium Hotel where he was staying, his pal Tim Harcourt told The Australian newspaper.

Myanmar’s key leaders, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other top officials were ousted by Myanmar's military on 1 February and arrested over claims that the November 2020 elections were rigged.

© REUTERS / STRINGERPeople hold placards depicting elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally to demand her release and protest against the military coup, in Yangon, Myanmar, February 8, 2021
Canberra Calls for 'Immediate Release' of Australian Adviser Detained in Wake of Myanmar Coup - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.02.2021
People hold placards depicting elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally to demand her release and protest against the military coup, in Yangon, Myanmar, February 8, 2021

The Army declared a one-year state of emergency in the country and has blocked the most popular social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, amid concerns about the spread of "fake news." The internet connection was also severely disrupted in the country over the weekend as protests broke opposing the military coup.

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