Myanmar court sentences ex-UK envoy, husband to year in prison | News

Yangon / Taipei – Former British Ambassador to Myanmar, Vicky Bowman and her husband, Htein Linwas sentenced to a year in prison for immigration charges after a trial in Yangon, a diplomat with knowledge of the matter said.

Bowman and her husband Htein Lin, a famous Myanmar painter and former political prisoner, were sentenced Friday after they were arrested in Yangon last week on immigration charges.

A memo from Myanmar military rulers Allegations Bowman violated the country’s immigration law and foreigner registration rules for failing to notify authorities last year when the couple moved temporarily from their registered address in Yangon to Kalaw in the state. Shan.

Htein Lin has been charged with abetting the “crime”.

Local news site Myanmar Now reported that the couple appeared at a court inside the notorious Insein prison on Thursday for a hearing and were sentenced on Friday.

The arrest and now imprisonment of Bowman, the most famous responsible investment advocate in Myanmar and who has many years of experience living in this country, and Htein Lin, caused a shockwave in the community. business and diplomacy.

Speculation about the reasons for their arrest varied, with some suggesting that Bowman’s independent advocacy work caught the eye of the military regime.

However, some diplomats and analysts see the couple’s detention as a hostage situation that could be exchanged in future negotiations.

“This is ‘hostage’ diplomacy,” former EU ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt wrote on social media after news of the couple’s arrest.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from Bangkok, said the concern now is that Bowman and her husband will be used by Myanmar’s military rulers as a form of leverage.

“The concern is for many who know her, her friends and relatives inside and outside Yangon, that she will become a pawn for the military because they have used foreigners,” said Cheng. that they have detained since the military coup,” Cheng said.

“It may be in part because the UK government introduced more sanctions on Myanmar military-related businesses last week, and that could become part of the equation for freedom for Myanmar. she. But for now, as far as we understand, she will be held at Insein Prison for another year.”

Friends also worry that Htein Lin, 55, is at greater risk of serving time in prison under the military’s command, which is known for torturing prisoners. Htein Lin was a student protester during the 1988 uprising against the then-military junta, and he served more than six years in prison from 1998 to 2004.

The pair’s imprisonment also potentially represents a major test for the UK government.

Britain has come under domestic criticism for not acting quickly in Iran’s jailing of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Anglo-Iranian national, who spent six years in prison in Iran before being released earlier this year.

“This goes beyond a private consular case,” a former European diplomat based in Yangon told Al Jazeera.

The diplomat said Bowman is one of the main interfaces between Myanmar and foreign investors, advocating responsible business and playing a key role in driving economic development.

“All eyes are on the UK government to do all it can to free her and Htein Lin as soon as possible,” he added.

“It certainly shows the possibility of ‘hostage diplomacy’. It also highlights the extreme paranoia of military personnel and utter insensitivity – or indifference – to the impact of their actions on the economy,” said Scot Marciel, former US ambassador to Burma Electricity, said. “They seem to see enemies everywhere.”

Serving as the UK ambassador to Myanmar from 2002 to 2006, Bowman, 56, returned to Yangon and spent nearly a decade reforming the private sector and related government regulations in a respectful manner. human rights and international standards in the country’s decade of economic openness. 2010s. She speaks fluent Burmese.

An Asian diplomat in Yangon said that there were several possible reasons for the arrest and timing, such as the UK’s refusal to accept the appointment of a new military ambassador to London, orders latest sanctions against the regime and London’s decision to support the crimes of the Rohingya. the human case in International Criminal Court.

On August 25, the fifth anniversary of the military offensive on the Rohingya community in Myanmar, United Kingdom put sanctions on three entities linked to the military leadership.

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