Former British ambassador Vicky Bowman sentenced to prison in Myanmar for mistaken address

SINGAPORE — A junta-controlled court in Myanmar has sentenced a former British ambassador and her husband to one year in prison each for breaking immigration law, as the military regime continues to defy international pressure since it took over. seized power in a coup last year.

According to the junta, Vicky Bowman, a British citizen who lives in the Southeast Asian country, was found guilty of having resided at an address – of a property belonging to her husband – different from that registered on her official documents. Her husband, Htein Lin, a Myanmar national, was found guilty of complicity with her. The couple were arrested on August 24.

Thousands of people have been detained since last year’s February 1 coup that ended the country’s decade-long transition to democracy. In July, four men, including a former lawmaker and a prominent pro-democracy activist, were executed after being convicted of terrorism-related charges, prompting widespread international condemnation. Western governments, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have imposed sanctions on the junta and military-linked companies since the coup, but the military has shown no sign of changing tack. cap.

The most high-profile prisoner is the country’s deposed civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested on the day of the coup and later charged with at least 18 crimes. Ms Suu Kyi, 77, was sentenced in months of closed hearings on several of those charges, including bribery, inciting commotion and illegally importing walkie-talkies. On Friday, she was convicted of election fraud, adding another three years to her sentence and bringing it to a total of 20 years, according to a person familiar with her case.

One of his advisers, Australian economist Sean Turnell, has been detained for more than a year as he stands trial for breaching a colonial-era official secrets law.

Ms Bowman was UK Ambassador to Myanmar from 2002 to 2006. Since 2013 she has been Director of the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, a non-profit initiative which advises investors on human rights issues in the country. She is fluent in Burmese.

Her husband, Mr. Htein, is an artist who rose to international fame for works he produced in secret while a political prisoner under a former military regime.

Vicky Bowman’s husband, Htein Lin, also convicted in the case, in Yangon, Myanmar, in 2015.


Photo:

Roméo Gacad/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office said the UK would continue to support Ms Bowman and her family until their case was resolved.

More than 15,000 people have been detained since the coup and more than 12,000 of them are still imprisoned, according to the nonprofit Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners. The group says more than 2,200 people were killed, some tortured in custody and others shot by authorities who sought to crush pro-democracy protests in the months following the coup.

Write to Feliz Solomon at [email protected]

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