News World Australian family’s plea as Myanmar military leader defends coup amid nationwide protests
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Australian family’s plea as Myanmar military leader defends coup amid nationwide protests

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The family of an Australian academic detained in Myanmar has pleaded for his release as the military warned of a possible further crackdown on demonstrators who break the law.

Unlike the thousands who were arrested during protests against the coup that overthrew the democratic government, Australian Dr Sean Turnell was doing a media interview when Myanmar authorities came to his door.

An economics advisor to overthrown leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Dr Turnell was detained at the weekend by police after the army seized power.

A new statement from his family suggests they do not know where he is being held.

“He is a member of our family and a well-educated academic who did no wrong,” Dr Turnell’s wife Ha Vu said in a newly-released statement posted on his Facebook page.

“He worked for Myanmar by using his knowledge of economic from 20 years. He is someone who brings job opportunities and jobs to Myanmar people.”

She described her husband as “warm and kind-hearted”, adding that “even now, wherever he is confined, we know that his thoughts and concerns are with those worrying about him”.

Dr Sean Turnell with his wife Ha Vu. Photo: Facebook

The plea came as Myanmar’s military leader gave his first national address since the coup.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing announced his junta would hold a new election and hand power to the winner but he did not say when the election would be held.

Instead, he said a state of emergency will last one year and repeated claims that last November’s poll, won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, had been fraudulent.

Mr Hlaing said the junta would form a “true and disciplined democracy” different to previous eras of military rule.

The election committee must be reformed, he said. He accused it of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to prevent fair campaigning.

“We will have a multiparty election and we will hand the power to the one who wins in that election, according to the rules of democracy,” he said.

An announcer on state-run MRTV had earlier read a statement that said protesters have used the “excuse of democracy and human rights” to violate the law, adding that some groups have threatened to use force.

“Action must be taken according to the law with effective steps against offences which disturb, prevent and destroy the state’s stability, public safety and the rule of law,” the announcer said, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets for the third day.

The movement represents the biggest challenge to the military junta, also known as the Tadmadaw. Photo: Getty

Police turned a water cannon on protesters and warned that they might use live fire if the demonstrators did not disperse, but the protests ended without bloodshed.

In the capital Naypyitaw, crowds of protesters chanted anti-coup slogans and told police they should serve the people not the military.

Demonstrations also took place in the commercial capital Yangon and elsewhere.

Thousands also marched in the southeastern city of Dawei and in the Kachin state capital in the far north, the massive crowds reflecting a rejection of military rule by diverse ethnic groups.

In Yangon, a group of saffron-robed monks marched with workers and students, flying multicoloured Buddhist flags alongside red banners in the League’s colour.

“Release Our Leaders, Respect Our Votes, Reject Military Coup,” said one sign.

-with AAP