Sean Turnell arrives in Melbourne

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Released Australian economist Sean Turnell has landed in Melbourne after nearly two years in a Myanmar prison.

Professor Turnell’s plane landed at Melbourne Airport on Friday morning, where he was reunited with his wife Ha Vu.

He left Bangkok late Thursday night before getting an overnight flight following his surprise release.

Prof Turnell was arrested in early 2021 after Myanmar’s military junta seized power and was sentenced to three years in prison in September for “violating the country’s official state secrets law”.

Ha Vu said on Friday she was grateful to all who advocated for his release, including Foreign Secretary Penny Wong and others in the Australian government.

“I am overwhelmed with the news that my beloved husband, Sean, is coming home,” she said in a statement.

“After being apart for almost 22 months, our priority now is to spend time together as a family.”

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Foreign Secretary Penny Wong said she spoke to Professor Turnell after he landed in Bangkok and described him as very cheerful.

“His return will be a huge relief to his wife Ha Vu and to all his friends and supporters here in Australia and beyond,” she told reporters in Adelaide.

“Ha Vu has been a rock during this ordeal and I wish both she and Sean the best for this reunion and time together.”

Prof Turnell was released earlier on Thursday under an amnesty for nearly 6,000 prisoners to celebrate Myanmar’s National Victory Day.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, in Bangkok for the APEC summit, spoke to the 58-year-old by phone and said he was in “amazing good spirits”.

Professor Turnell, who lives in Mr Albanese’s electorate, even joked and apologized for not voting in the election.

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Mr. Albanese assured him that he would not be fined.

Prof Turnell also told Mr Albanese “people have been great” and wanted to thank the Australians for their support.

“He is a remarkable man and he did (in Myanmar) his job as an economic policy advisor – nothing more, nothing less,” Albanese told reporters.

Prof Turnell told Mr Albanese that the Australian embassy in Myanmar had dropped food packages in carrier bags bearing the Australian coat of arms during his captivity.

“He placed the carrier bags where the bars were on the cell… so that both he and the guards holding him could see the Australian emblem and he could maintain that optimism,” Albanese said.

“The Australian coat of arms, of course, with the kangaroo and emu not backing down.”

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The Prime Minister thanked the leaders of the ASEAN countries for their plea and asked that Prof. Turnell’s privacy be respected when he returns home.

Prof Turnell was working as an adviser to Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi when he was arrested in 2021 after the military seized power in a coup.

He has consistently denied committing any crime and Australian officials and media have been barred from his trial.

Amnesty International Australia director Tim O’Connor said Myanmar’s military regime has repeatedly imprisoned innocent people.

Prof Turnell was one of four international prisoners released on Thursday, including Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota, ex-British diplomat Vicky Bowman and American Kyaw Htay Oo.

ASEAN parliamentarians for human rights said it was important to remember that thousands of political prisoners remained in the country’s prisons.

– MONKEY

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