Myanmar military junta on Friday sentenced the former British Ambassador Vicki Bowman And her husband was jailed for a year, a British Foreign Office source familiar with the matter told CNN.
The couple were detained in Yangon last month after authorities accused them of violating immigration laws. Myanmar military authorities claimed that the address Boman registered on her visa did not match her place of residence. Violations of Myanmar’s immigration law carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The ruling against Bowman comes after the British government announced last month a new round of sanctions targeting companies linked to Myanmar’s military junta, which took power in a bloody coup in February 2021.
She was sentenced on the same day as the ousted former leader of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi He was convicted of electoral fraud and sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor.
Bowman served as Britain’s top diplomat in the Southeast Asian country from 2002 to 2006. After completing her position as ambassador, Bowman remained in the country as founder of the non-governmental organization Myanmar Center for Responsible Business.
Authorities detained Bauman and her husband Htin Lin, a Myanmar national, last month.
Hittin Lin is a prominent artist and former political prisoner who spent six and a half years behind bars for his role in the student-led uprisings against the old military junta in 1998. He was released in 2004.
A British Foreign Office spokesman told CNN that the government “will continue to support Ms Bowman and her family until their case is resolved”.
Ming Yu-Ha, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East and Southeast Asia campaigns, condemned the news in a statement, calling the ruling “extremely concerning”.
“The latest reports on the indictment of the former British ambassador and her husband, the Burmese artist, are deeply disturbing. Yoo Hah said the Myanmar military has a notorious record of arresting and imprisoning people on political or trumped-up charges.
Meanwhile, Friday’s ruling against Suu Kyi is the latest in a series of penalties imposed on the 77-year-old and means she now faces 20 years in prison.
However, this is the first time that Suu Kyi – the leader of the opposition to decades of military rule in the country – has been sentenced to hard labor since the coup last year.
Friday’s trial concerns the November 2020 general election in which the National League for Democracy (NLD) overwhelmingly won, defeating a party created by the military. Three months after that election, the military seized power to prevent the Suu Kyi Party from forming a government, alleging electoral fraud.
Suu Kyi and her party denied the allegations and said they won the election fairly.
Rights groups have repeatedly expressed concerns about the punishment of pro-democracy activists in the country since the coup. In July, the Military Council Two prominent pro-democracy activists were executed and two other men accused of terrorism after a trial condemned by the United Nations and rights groups.
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