Jailed Australia economist quarantined for COVID-19 in Myanmar

General

Sean Turnell, an Australian citizen who served as an economic advisor to deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and was given a three-year jail sentence this week, have been infected with COVID-19 in prison, sources familiar with their case told RFA.

Turnell, Aung San Suu Kyi, and three ministers from the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government were given three year sentences Thursday under the Myanmar Government Secrets Act.

Turnell, 58, and former Deputy Minister of Planning, Finance and Industry Set Aung were quarantined for COVID-19 infections their transfer Friday from Naypyidaw Prison in the capital to Yamethin prison, court sources told RFA.

The other two former ministers prosecuted Thursday, Myanmar Government Planning and Finance Minister Soe Win, and Minister of Planning and Finance Kyaw Win, were also transferred to Yamethin, in the central Mandalay region.

Turnell was also sentenced to a further three years under the Immigration Law but the two charges will be served concurrently.

Suu Kyi, who has now been sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison for 12 cases, is still being held in Naypyidaw Prison because there are still other pending cases.

The junta has yet to release a statement regarding the transfer of Turnell to Yamethin Prison and the circumstances of his COVID-19 infection.

The Australian government issued a statement Thursday saying that Turnell had been unjustly arrested and that Canberra has objected to the military court's sentence against him and demanded his immediate release. The statement also said Australian diplomats were barred from attending the trial.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong told the Australian newspaper The Canberra Times that she will continue to do everything she can so that he can return to his family in Australia.

Turnell had worked as an economic advisor to Suu Kyi since 2017 under the NLD-led government that was ousted in last year's military coup. He is the first foreigner close to the NLD to be detained since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup.

Turnell had worked at the Myanmar Development Institute of the Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and is an honorary professor of that university. He had also worked at the Reserve Bank of Australia as an economics expert.

Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written by Paul Eckert.