Mon, 04 Dec 2023

Myanmar junta frees Australian economist, former UK envoy

Robert Besser
20 Nov 2022, 14:57 GMT+10

YANGON, Myanmar: Myanmar's ruling military freed nearly 6,000 prisoners in a mass amnesty this week, including an Australian economist and a former UK envoy.

Australia said Australian economic adviser to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, economist Sean Turnell, was among those released and has arrived in neighboring Thailand, while a diplomatic source confirmed that former British envoy Vicky Bowman had also left Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Myanmar's state-run MRTV showed footage of the pair, as well as Japan's Toru Kubota, a filmmaker, signing exit documents with officials. The United States said its citizen, Kyaw Htay Oo, was also released.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese thanked the leaders of Thailand and Cambodia for pressuring the military to free Turnell, who was found guilty of a state secrets violation and sentenced in September to three years in jail.

"I've just spoken to Sean Turnell, who has been released from 650 days of unfair, unjust imprisonment in Myanmar," Albanese told reporters in Bangkok, where he is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

State-controlled media said the amnesty included 5,774 prisoners and foreigners, who were released "for the relationship with other countries and also for humanitarian purposes."

Speaking in Bangkok, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the release was "one bright spot in what is otherwise an incredibly dark time."

"Whether this signals anything more broadly about the intentions of the regime, I can't tell you - too soon to say."

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