An Australian academic being detained in Myanmar was forced to hang up from a live radio interview as authorities entered his room after the government was overthrown in a military coup.
Sean Turnell, an economic adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said he could not leave his hotel after Myanmar army generals seized power of the country on February 1.
The military alleges fraud in the November 8 election that Suu Kyi, 75, and her National League For Democracy party won in a landslide.
‘I’ve just been detained at the moment, and perhaps charged with something, I don’t know what that would be… could be anything at all of course,’ he told BBC radio on Sunday as authorities stormed his room.
Sean Turnell said he could not leave his hotel after Myanmar army generals seized power of the country on February 1
Tens of thousands of people rallied across Myanmar on Sunday to denounce last week’s coup and demand the release of Suu Kyi
Mr Turnell is the first foreign national known to be arrested following the military coup
‘But everyone has been very polite and all that, but obviously I’m not free to move or anything like that.
‘Some people have just arrived actually, so I better hang up,’ Mr Turnell said before abruptly hanging up.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she had ‘serious concerns’ about the welfare of Mr Turnell.
‘We have called in the Myanmar Ambassador and registered the Australian government’s deep concern about these events,’ she said.
‘The Australian Embassy in Yangon continues to contact Australians in Myanmar to ascertain their safety, to the extent that communications allow.
‘We are providing consular assistance to a number of Australians in Myanmar. In particular, we have serious concerns about an Australian who has been detained at a police station.’
Ms Payne’s statement did not mention Sean Turnell specifically.
Mr Turnell is director of the Myanmar Development Institute in Naypyitaw, Myanmar and has served as special consultant to Suu Kyi since December 17. He is also a professor of economics at Macquarie University.
He is the first foreign national known to be arrested following the military coup.
Mr Turnell posted on his Twitter account earlier this week about the volatile situation, including a photo featuring him sitting beside Ms Suu Kyi.
‘Thanks everyone for your concern yesterday,’ he wrote on February 2.
‘Safe for now but heartbroken for what all this means for the people of Myanmar. The bravest, kindest people I know. They deserve so much better.’
Protesters give roses to riot police on February 6 in Yangon. Myanmar’s military junta on Saturday placed heavy restrictions on internet connections and suspended more social media services
Myanmar army generals seized power of the country from Aung San Suu Kyi (pictured, greeting supporters in 2015) on February 1
A day earlier he wrote: ‘Internet comes and goes, but not the grief on the faces of my Myanmar friends.’
Tens of thousands of people rallied across Myanmar on Sunday to denounce last week’s coup and demand the release of Suu Kyi, in the biggest protests since the 2007 Saffron Revolution that helped lead to democratic reforms.
In a second day of widespread protests, crowds in the biggest city, Yangon, sported red shirts, red flags and red balloons, the colour of Suu Kyi´s National League for Democracy Party (NLD).
‘We don’t want military dictatorship! We want democracy!’ they chanted.
On Sunday afternoon, the junta ended a day-long blockade of the internet that had further inflamed anger since the coup last Monday that has halted the Southeast Asian nation’s troubled transition to democracy and drawn international outrage.
Huge crowds from all corners of Yangon gathered in townships, filling streets as they headed towards the Sule Pagoda at the heart of the city, also a rallying point during the Buddhist monk-led 2007 protests and others in 1988.
A line of armed police with riot shields set up barricades, but did not try to stop the demonstration
Protesters gestured with the three-finger salute that has become a symbol of protest against the coup
Protesters hold a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi and a crossed-out portrait of Myanmar’s army chief, Min Aung Hlaing as the other makes the three finger salute during the demonstration
A line of armed police with riot shields set up barricades, but did not try to stop the demonstration.
Some marchers presented police with flowers. One officer was photographed giving a surreptitious three-finger salute.
Protesters gestured with the three-finger salute that has become a symbol of protest against the coup. Drivers honked their horns and passengers held up photos of Suu Kyi.
‘We don’t want a dictatorship for the next generation,’ said 21-year-old Thaw Zin. ‘We will not finish this revolution until we make history. We will fight to the end.’
Suu Kyi faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkies and is being held in police detention for investigation until Feb. 15. Her lawyer said he has not been allowed to see her.
She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for campaigning for democracy, and spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during decades of struggling to end almost half a century of army rule before the start of a troubled transition to democracy in 2011.