BANGKOK (AP) — A former British ambassador to Myanmar, who now heads a business ethics advisory group in the Southeast Asian country, has been arrested, independent online media in the country said Thursday.
Vicky Bowman, who served as Britain’s envoy from 2002 to 2006, was arrested on Wednesday night and taken to Insein prison in Yangon, a report from Myanmar Now, an online news service, said. He added that her husband, Burmese artist Htein Lin, had also been arrested.
The report cites sources close to Bowman’s family as saying she should be charged with violating Myanmar immigration law. Myanmar Now, like most of the country’s independent media, is forced to operate underground due to tight controls imposed by the military government.
A friend of Htein Lin, who asked that her name not be used for fear of government reprisals, told The Associated Press they were taken away by security forces on Wednesday while temporarily staying in Yangon. . She said they had been living in Kalaw township in Shan state in eastern Myanmar for years.
The reason for their reported detention was not immediately known. Immigration law contains provisions that may provide an excuse to detain foreign visitors for violating the terms of their visas.
Since 2013, Bowman has headed the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, which says its goals include promoting human rights through responsible business in Myanmar. Phone calls to the organization for comment have been answered.
Bowman’s first stint as a diplomat in Myanmar was in 1990-93 as Second Secretary in the British Embassy.
Htein Lin is a veteran artist and political activist who was a student when he participated in Myanmar’s failed 1988 uprising against military rule. He was also a political prisoner under a former government.
Some reports, including from the BBC’s Burmese Language Service, said that only Bowman was arrested and her husband later went to his place of detention to help her. There were no immediate statements from the military government on the situation.
A British Embassy spokesman told The Associated Press in an email that “we are concerned about the arrest of a British woman in Myanmar. We are in contact with local authorities and provide consular assistance. As usual for reasons of confidentiality, the embassy did not provide any further details.
Myanmar has been under military rule since February 2021, when its army overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The takeover sparked widespread peaceful protests that quickly escalated into armed resistance, and the country slipped into what some UN experts are calling a civil war.
According to detailed lists from the Political Prisoners Assistance Association (Burma), an advocacy group, an estimated 2,239 civilians died in the military government’s crackdown on opponents and more than 15,216 people were arrested.