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Myanmar jails former UK envoy for 1 year

September 2, 2022

Myanmar's ruling military junta has sentenced a former UK ambassador to the country and her husband to one year in jail for allegedly breaching immigration rules.

A middle-aged woman with short hair and glasses
Vicky Bowman, a former British ambassador to Myanmar, has been sentenced to one year in prisonImage: ihrb.org

Myanmar sentenced Vicky Bowman, the former UK ambassador to the country, and her husband, Burmese artist Htein Lin, to one year in jail on Friday. Sources confirmed to the AFP and dpa news agencies that the pair had been convicted of breaching immigration rules.

The couple was initially arrested one day before London declared it would enforce further sanctions on companies linked to the military junta. 

What is the Vicky Bowman case about? 

Last month, Bowman was detained after failing to declare she had moved from an address listed on her foreigner's registration certificate. Her husband was arrested for allegedly helping his wife reside at a different address than their registered home in Yangon, the country's commercial hub.

The sentence could have lasted up to five years.

The ruling comes on the same day that Myanmar's former democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to three more years in jail on charges of election fraud. She is already serving 17 years for other offenses, including corruption and incitement.

There has been no official comment from the side of Myanmar's government on the case until now. The British Foreign Office has vowed to "support Ms Bowman and her family until their case is resolved." 

Who are Vicky Bowman and Htein Lin? 

Bowman's husband, Htein Lin, was arrested and imprisoned for six years in 1998 for criticizing the governing junta at the time. He is among the country's most famous artists, with works including a series of paintings he made while imprisoned, using smuggled materials.

Before Bowman served as ambassador to Myanmar from 2002 to 2006, she worked as the second secretary in the UK Embassy from 1990 to 1993. Bowman is currently working as the director of the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, and has worked in the country for more than 30 years. 

The couple married in 2006. 

What is happening between Myanmar and the UK?

Myanmar has been ruled by a military junta since a coup on February 1, 2021.

Since then, the relationship between the country and the United Kingdom, its former colonial ruler, has been tense. London has imposed several sanctions on both businesses and individuals that are linked to the junta.

Following the coup, a number of foreign nationals have been caught up in a crackdown as the junta looks to consolidate its power.  

los/rt (AFP, dpa)