Myanmar: Jail sentence of former UK ambassador is ‘extremely concerning’

Myanmar has arrested more than 15,000 people since the military seized power in a coup on 1 February 2021 © AFP via Getty Images

Vicky Bowman and husband Htein Lin each sentenced to one year in prison

Myanmar has arrested more than 15,000 people since the military seized power

‘Myanmar’s military has a notorious track record of arresting and jailing people on politically motivated or trumped-up charges’ - Ming Yu Hah

Responding to reports that former UK ambassador Vicky Bowman and her Burmese husband Htein Lin have been sentenced to one year in prison on immigration charges, Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Campaign Director, said:

“Since the coup, we have seen activists, artists, journalists, students, business owners, and medical professionals arbitrarily detained and jailed by the military on the slightest pretext.

“The latest reports on the conviction of the former UK ambassador and her Burmese artist husband are extremely concerning. Myanmar’s military has a notorious track record of arresting and jailing people on politically motivated or trumped-up charges.

“More than 15,000 people have been arrested since the military seized power in a coup last year, and many are languishing in a vast network of detention and interrogation facilities where they have faced torture or other ill-treatment.”  

Vicky Bowman and Htein Lin sentencing

The military authorities previously said in a statement that Vicky Bowman and her husband Htein Lin were accused of violating immigration laws with regard to their registered address.

Bowman is the head of the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, which advises companies on human rights issues in the country. She was the UK ambassador to Myanmar from 2002-2006. Her husband, Htein Lin, is a former political prisoner and prominent artist.

Thousands arrested since 2021 coup

Myanmar has arrested more than 15,000 people since the military seized power in a coup on 1 February 2021, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. It has also carried out four executions, the first in the country for decades.

Those detained include peaceful protesters, former civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and several of her top allies such as ousted President Win Myint. Both are facing numerous trumped-up or politically motivated charges.

Conditions in Myanmar detention facilities are dire, as Amnesty documented the recent report 15 Days Felt like 15 Years, which showed how torture and other ill-treatment is used to crush resistance to the coup.

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