A former Australian economic adviser to Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is calling on Canberra to impose sanctions on the Southeast Asian country’s state-owned banks. Sean Turnell was imprisoned by Myanmar’s military authorities for 650 days before being released last year. Australia has also announced new sanctions against Iranians “who oppress women and girls.”
Sean Turnell, an Australian economics professor, was an adviser to Myanmar’s former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was overthrown by the military in 2021.
He had been sentenced to three years in prison for violating Myanmar’s state secrets act in September 2022, charges he denied. Turnell was released by Myanmar authorities as an act of “goodwill between countries” and as part of a broader amnesty for prisoners. He returned to Australia last November.
Turnell is now calling on the Canberra government to take punitive action against Myanmar’s state-owned banks.
That action would align Australia with the United States, which has imposed sanctions on the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and the Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank.
Turnell told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Australia should follow the lead of U.S. authorities.
“They have recognized, I think, that sanctions now on this Myanmar regime are not really just about, you know, showing our displeasure and disgust, and all that, but it is actually about limiting the capability of this regime to do all the things they are doing to the Myanmar people,” he said. “In recognizing that we have got the banks right in the cross hairs, if you like, because this regime they need the foreign currency, they need these particular state-owned banks.”
There has been no comment so far from officials in Canberra on Turnell’s call for additional sanctions on Myanmar’s banks.
Since the military take-over, Myanmar has descended into a civil war, in which thousands of people have died. Aung San Suu Kyi is serving a long custodial sentence for electoral fraud, corruption and other offences.
Earlier this year, Australia said it was imposing targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on “individuals responsible for egregious human rights abuses in Myanmar, as well as sanctions on entities enabling the repression of its people.”
Australia has also announced new sanctions against Iranians “who oppress women and girls”, including senior police officers, censors and state media. It is almost one year since the death of Mahsa Amini sparked mass global protests against the government in Tehran.
Canberra has already targeted Iran’s government with three packages of sanctions since December 2022, but Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Tuesday the latest round of sanctions and travel bans would target “those who oppress women and girls in Iran.”