Vicky Bowman: Former UK envoy and her husband jailed for a year in Myanmar, reports say

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A military-controlled court in Myanmar has sentenced former British ambassador Vicky Bowman and her Burmese activist husband Htein Lin to one year in jail for violating immigration laws, according to reports.

Bowman was arrested and charged under the Immigration Act and the Foreigners Registration Rules last week for failing to register her change of address.

Bowman, 56, served as the British envoy in the country between 2002 and 2006 and heads the business ethics advisory group Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business since 2013. The news outlet Myanmar Now reported that Bowman was arrested from their home in Yangon’s Sanchaung Township and later taken to the notorious Insein Prison.

Lin, 55, an artist and former political prisoner, was found guilty under Article 13(5) of Immigration Act and the Foreigners Registration Rules for abetting Bowman’s violation.

Various foreigners, including US, British, Japanese and Australian citizens, have been held since the military seized power last year, arrests that human rights groups say are designed to discourage dissent and create a climate of fear.

The sentences were confirmed to Reuters by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group and a source with knowledge of the ruling, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to media.

A spokesperson for Britain’s foreign office said: “We will continue to support Ms. Bowman and her family until their case is resolved.” Myanmar’s military government did not immediately respond to Reuters on requests for comment.

The junta insists the courts are independent and those jailed are lawbreakers.

News of their sentencing came on a day when deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi was given a further three years in prison after being found guilty of election fraud.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the United Nations rights office in Geneva, said the sentencing of Bowman and Htein Lin added to concerns about miscarriages of justice in Myanmar.

“We are deeply shocked that the de facto authorities sought to punish people committed to the development of the country,” she said.

They were recovering from a recent Covid-19 infection at the time of their arrest, said Myanmar Now.

(Additional reporting by Reuters)