Aung San Suu Kyi’s former adviser freed in Myanmar amnesty lands in Melbourne

Dr Sean Turnell was among almost 6,000 prisoners released to mark Myanmar’s national day on Thursday. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY - Australian Sean Turnell, a former adviser to deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, landed in Melbourne on Friday, media reported, a day after being released from detention by the South-east Asian nation’s military junta in a mass amnesty.

The plane carrying Dr Turnell, an economist, touched down in Melbourne just before noon on Friday, according to state broadcaster ABC. Dr Turnell travelled from Myanmar to Bangkok before boarding an overnight flight to Australia.

He was among almost 6,000 prisoners released to mark Myanmar’s national day on Thursday.

Dr Turnell was arrested a few days after the army seized power from Ms Suu Kyi’s elected government in February last year, ending a decade of tentative democracy.

In September, he was sentenced to three years in prison for violating the official secrets act and immigration law, charges that he denied.

“His return will be an enormous relief to his family, friends and many supporters in Australia and across the region,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Friday.

“The Australian Government remains deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Myanmar, and we will continue to advocate for the release of the remaining political prisoners.”

In a post on social media, Dr Turnell’s wife Ha Vu said she was “over the moon and speechless”.

“When Sean was asked by a Myanmar official upon his departure, ‘do you hate Myanmar now?’, Sean said, ‘I never hate Myanmar, I love the people of Myanmar, and it’s always like that’,” Ms Ha Vu said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who is in Bangkok for the Apec summit, spoke with Dr Turnell on Thursday and said “he was in amazingly good spirits”.

Mr Albanese also thanked the prime ministers of Cambodia and Thailand for urging the military junta to release Dr Turnell. REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.