Suu Kyi advisor Sean Turnell being held at Insein Prison, released activist says

Aung San Suu Kyi’s economic advisor Sean Turnell is being detained at Insein Prison in Yangon and seems to be in good health, a recently freed student activist told Myanmar Now.

The Australian was detained days after the February 1 coup and the junta did not reveal his whereabouts. He was initially kept at a hotel in Yangon and then taken into police custody.

It was previously unclear if he was in prison, at an interrogation center, or somewhere else. But Zayar Lwin, a student activist who was released in an amnesty on April 17, said he met with Turnell multiple times at Insein. 

“We mostly talked about the economy,” said the activist, who is a former chairman of the Yangon University of Economics Students’ Union. Turnell told the activist he had not expected the coup to happen.

The economist was transferred to Insein after being interrogated for about two weeks by the coup regime’s officials in Yangon, he added. 

Turnell, Suu Kyi, and three of her cabinet members were charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act in late March, Reuters reported. The law carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

ABC News reported in early March that Turnell had spoken by phone to his wife, Ha Vu, and the Australian embassy in Yangon shortly after he was detained.

The report said he had been fed well and had his own room with bedding, a mosquito net, and his belongings, including his medication.

Zayar Lwin was sentenced to six and a half years in prison in 2019 for performing as part of a satirical troupe that made fun of the military.  

Although Turnell was staying in a different part of the prison, Zayar Lwin was able to go and speak with him every day for about a month until his release. 

Turnell’s daily routine in the prison includes morning exercise, watching TV news in English, and reading, Zayar Lwin said. 

The activist met with nine others who were detained on or shortly after February 1. 

They included ousted cabinet members Aung Ko, Kyaw Win, Soe Win, and Set Aung.

He also met with Mya Aye, a veteran of the 1988 uprising, as well as activist Min Thway Thit, writer Maung Tha Cho, the actor Lu Min, and Nathan Maung, the editor-in-chief of Kamayut Media.

Unlike others, those detainees were not allowed to watch television or to have a fan in their cells, Zayar Lwin added.

They may be suffering from distress due to their ordeals at an interrogation centre before being transferred to the prison, he said. 

He also saw Nilar Kyaw, the Yangon regional transport minister; Moe Moe Suu Kyi, the regional immigration minister, and Than Myint Aung, a Yangon municipal committee member, who were kept at the building for female inmates.

“We were able to wave our hands at each other and shouted greetings,” he said.

The day before he and other activists were released, other political prisoners told them not to get arrested again and to fight against the military until the people win, he added. 

“They told us to win the battle because they can no longer join the fight.” 


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