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Book Talk: An Unlikely Prisoner: How an eternal optimist found hope in Myanmar’s most notorious jail

November 16, 2023 • 3:30 – 4:30 pm EST

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For 650 days Sean Turnell was held in Myanmar’s terrifying Insein Prison on the trumped-up charge of being a spy. In his recently released book, An Unlikely Prisoner, he recounts how an impossibly cheerful professor of economics, whose idea of an uncomfortable confrontation was having to tell a student that their essay was ‘not really that good’, ended up in one of the most notorious prisons in Southeast Asia. And how he not only survived his lengthy incarceration, but left with his sense of humor intact, his spirit unbroken and love in his heart.

Erin Murphy, senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Program, will speak with Sean about his new book, his work on Myanmar, and where he sees the country going.

Sean Turnell is Honorary Professor of Economics at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He has had a distinguished career in government, banking and academia. Professor Sean Turnell is a devoted economist, and he has interest in areas of public policy, economic transition, economic development, and financial reform. Since the early 2000s, he has worked tirelessly on Myanmar economic and banking issues to bring to the table the best possible practices to help Myanmar with economic reforms and growth. He received his PhD in Economic and a Bachelor of Economics with Honors from Macquarie University.

Erin Murphy is a senior fellow for the Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). She has spent her career in several public and private sector roles, including as an analyst on Asian political and foreign policy issues at the Central Intelligence Agency, director for the Indo-Pacific at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, founder and principal of her boutique advisory firm focused on Myanmar, and an English teacher with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program in Saga, Japan. Murphy received her master’s degree in Japan studies and international economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and her bachelor’s degree in international relations and Spanish from Tufts University. She was also a 2017–2018 Hitachi international affairs fellow in Japan with the Council on Foreign Relations. Murphy is also the author of Burmese Haze: US Policy and Myanmar's Opening-and Closing (Association for Asian Studies, 2022).

This event is made possible through general support to CSIS.

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