Myanmar authorities have arrested the former UK ambassador to the country, where a military junta took power last year, three people familiar with the matter said.
Vicky Bowman, who currently heads the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business (MCRB), and her husband, Htein Lin, a local artist and former political prisoner, were arrested on Wednesday, sources said, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the problem.
A junta statement later Thursday said the couple were being investigated under immigration law for staying at an address other than that listed on Bowman’s official registration after moving to another city.
“It turns out that Vicky Bowman has violated the Immigration Act of 1/13,” the statement released to reporters said.
The law provides for a sentence of six months to five years of imprisonment.
“Htein Lin knew that his wife had moved to Kalaw and stayed there, facilitated the violations without informing the authorities. Therefore, he was charged under Article 13 (1). “
The junta did not say whether the couple were in custody, but a source said they were being held in Insein Prison.
The arrest comes as the UK announces it is imposing new sanctions to target military-related businesses in Myanmar and joins the case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice.
The UK is the fourth country after Maldives, the Netherlands and Canada to pledge to formally support Gambia’s cause against Myanmar to determine whether its military carried out genocidal operations against Rohingya Muslims in 2016 and 2017.
Three companies are facing sanctions “in an effort to limit military access to weapons and income,” the UK government said in a statement Wednesday.
A spokesman for the Burmese junta did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Myanmar has plunged into political and economic chaos since the military overthrew an elected government in early 2021.
A spokesman for the British Embassy in Yangon said: “We are concerned about the arrest of a British woman in Myanmar. We are in contact with local authorities and are providing consular assistance ”.
The spokesperson did not name the individual.
Bowman, 56, was ambassador to Myanmar from 2002 to 2006 and has more than three decades of experience in the country.
Her husband Htein Lin, 55, is one of Myanmar’s most famous artists and a veteran activist who spent six and a half years, between 1998 and 2004, in prison for opposing a previous junta.
The couple had been remanded to pre-trial detention and sent to Insein Prison, said a source, the infamous prison on the outskirts of the commercial capital of Yangon, where many political prisoners are held.
The source added that their young daughter was “healthy and healthy”.
Bowman is the last foreigner detained in Myanmar.
Sean Turnell, an Australian economist and longtime adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and Japanese independent director Toru Kubota are also in custody.
Their governments have demanded their release.