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Plea to free Aussie professor in Myanmar

Cambodia’s premier has asked the head of Myanmar’s junta to release an Australian professor held since the coup which ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hun Sen, the prime minister of Cambodia, has asked Myanmar’s General Min Aung Hlaing on behalf of Australia to release Professor Sean Turnell, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn told a press conference.

“In response to a written request from Australian foreign minister Marise Payne addressed to premier Hun Sen, the latter has conveyed the message to Myanmar regarding the detention of an Australian professor in Myanmar,” said Prak Sokhonn, who is also ASEAN’s Special Envoy to Myanmar.

“In response, senior general Min Aung Hlaing accepted the premier’s request in a positive manner,” he said.

In a separate statement reported by the official Agence Kampuchea Press, Hlaing also told Hun Sen that Turnell’s case was still before the courts but pledged to provide a positive reply once the court process was finalised.

Turnell is an Australian professor and economist who was a senior adviser to Suu Kyi. He was detained by authorities four days after the February 1 coup and charged with violating Myanmar’s immigration and official secrets acts by trying to leave the country with sensitive financial information.

Hun Sen’s controversial two-day trip, the first by a foreign leader since the coup, was made in his capacity as ASEAN chair for 2022.

Myanmar has been shunned by other ASEAN states and banned from attending the usual round of annual summits because of the coup. Human rights groups have accused Hun Sen of legitimising the military regime by reopening negotiations.

However, Prak Sokhonn said he was optimistic about the negotiations, and that a solution could be found for the crisis which has so far claimed more than 1400 lives.

“What we have achieved from the negotiations with Myanmar’s leaders is a positive outcome and a step forward for the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus,” he said, referring to the ASEAN-approved consensus designed to end the violence.

“Those people who oppose the ceasefire and humanitarian aids are the people who favour war and do not want to bring Myanmar back to normalcy,” he said.

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