We are extremely concerned to learn that NIAS author Sean Turnell, an economist at Macquarie University and an advisor to the Myanmar government, has been detained in the country. Professor Turnell is the first foreign national known to be arrested since the February 1st military coup that overthrew the elected NLD government.
The Australian government has called for his immediate release. We support that call. Further, we urge the military, and all other parties in the country, to adhere to democratic norms, including the academic freedom of researchers.
Quite possibly his role as personal economic advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi has caused Sean Turnell’s detention. But he is also widely known and respected for his writing and commentary on the Myanmar economy. If claims are true that the coup was motivated by personal economic considerations, then there could be additional reasons for this detention. Certainly, his NIAS monograph, Fiery Dragons, was a brilliant deconstruction of money and power in Burma-Myanmar’s recent history and documented the intimate role the military has played in the country’s economy, especially since the first coup in 1962.
Sean has long been a friend of NIAS and to me personally a cheery voice and special mate from Down Under. In recent years we have discussed an update to Fiery Dragons and a new, more focused study of the Myanmar economy. Working day and night in his advisory role, Sean hasn’t had the time.
In the meantime, for anyone yet to read Fiery Dragons, we have made a copy free to download from DiVA, the Nordic Open Access portal. This is an important work we wish to share, one rightly described by the respected Bertil Lintner as “a must-read”.
Finally, a personal message: Sean, if you are reading this, take care, stay safe, we love you.
Editor in Chief, NIAS Press