News World Australian professor ‘treated well’ in Myanmar prison
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Australian professor ‘treated well’ in Myanmar prison

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The wife of an Australian professor locked up in Myanmar says the ordeal has been “terrifying” but she was comforted to learn guards are treating him well.

Ha Vu confirmed her husband Sean Turnell, a Sydney academic and economic advisor to deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had spoken to her and the Australian embassy.

Professor Turnell was taken away by security forces on February 6, five days after Ms Suu Kyi was overthrown and detained.

“As many of you might have been aware, my husband, Sean Turnell, has been detained in Myanmar for just over 4 weeks,” Ha Vu wrote.

“During this time, Sean was allowed, first, to talk to the Australian Embassy in Yangon via a zoom call, and, two weeks after that, to me over the phone.

“Both times, he said he has been treated very well. The officers and policemen he was engaging with were very polite and respectful to him.”

She said Professor Turnell was being provided daily with rice, vegetables and water. He has his own bed with a mosquito net and access to medication.

“As a wife I care a lot about his diet, thus I am thankful he has been fed well,” Ha Vu said.

“He had not needed to ask for medical care but believed if he needed to, he would be able to ask for it.”

She said that “being without regular communication with my husband is terrifying” but “knowing that he has been treated with respect and dignity gives me a great level of comforting during this distressful time”.

“I do wish I could talk to him regularly though so I would worry less and also get some books to him as he has nothing to read,” Ha Vu said.

The army has not announced any charges against Professor Turnell, a Macquarie University Sydney staffer who had been advising Ms Suu Kyi on economic policy for several years.

He is among nearly 2000 people the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group says have been detained since the coup.

Protesters surrender in Yangon at the point of a gun. Photo: Getty

More than 60 people have been killed by security forces in anti-coup protests, according to AAPP.

State television said on Monday that Professor Turnell’s detention had led to the discovery of important financial information.

The station referred to “secret” documents and claimed the Australian had attempted to flee Myanmar but was “stopped in time”.

Professor Turnell’s friends refuted those claims.

Economist Tim Harcourt told ABC News Radio the allegation was patently ridiculous.

“Honestly, it’s just a trumped-up charge to justify keeping him,” Professor Harcourt said.

“Sean is a man of incredible integrity and reliability.

“They are trying to justify their outrageous behaviour.”

Ha Vu said her husband was innocent.
“I believe the Myanmar military knows that my husband is a good man, a committed economist who always wanted to use his knowledge and expertise for the good of others,” she wrote.

“I understand the Generals have their own reasons for holding Sean, even though he has done nothing wrong.

“And I trust that the Generals will let my husband come home to Australia very soon.”