Two more Australians have been detained by the Myanmar junta while trying to leave country. Business consultants Matthew O’Kane and Christa Avery, a dual Canadian-Australian citizen, are believed to be under house arrest after trying to flee on a relief flight on Friday.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed it is providing assistance with Canada’s global affairs department said it was aware of a case involving a Canadian citizen and was “providing consular services”.
The couple reportedly run a small consultancy business in Myanmar’s largest city of Yangon.
A third Australian, Sean Turnell, an economic adviser to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was detained last month. “We have called for the immediate release of Australian citizen Prof. Sean Turnell from detention,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.
The Australian Embassy in Myanmar had been providing Turnell with “extensive support during this ordeal,” she said.
Turnell’s friend and fellow Myanmar expert Monique Skidmore said she believed the Macquarie University economics professor had been detained because of his close relationships with ousted leader Suu Kyi and other senior members of her National League for Democracy party.
“I think it’s just his closeness that’s got him detained,” Skidmore said.
Skidmore expected Turnell would be deported and remained “terribly worried” for his safety while he remained in the country.
Australian diplomats had planned to get Turnell out of the country and he had been waiting for a car to take him to the Yangon airport when the military arrived to collect him from the city’s Chatrium Hotel, his friend and fellow Australian economist Tim Harcourt said.
Fierce protests continue in Myanmar in opposition to military rule despite the death toll at the hands of security forces rising to more than 200.
The violence since the 1 February coup comes after a decade of tentative steps towards democracy in Myanmar.
Western countries have condemned the bloodshed and Australia has suspended military cooperation with Myanmar and redirected aid to non-government organisations in response