According to the military junta’s statement, Myanmar authorities alleged that Vicky Bowman’s address registered on her visa did not match her residence. Violating Myanmar’s immigration laws carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
On Wednesday night, Bowman, who served as the UK’s top diplomat in Myanmar from 2002 to 2006, was arrested along with her husband, Hettin Lin, a Myanmar national, according to local media and a person in Yangon.
Myanmar’s military government did not initially announce the detentions. However, local news outlets The Irrawaddy and Myanmar Now and international news agency Reuters all reported that Bowman could be charged under the country’s immigration laws.
The Irrawaddy reported that Bowman and Hetteen Lin were being held in Yangon Insignia Prison.
A spokesman for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said on Thursday that the British government was “concerned” by the arrest of a “British woman” in Myanmar.
“We are in contact with local authorities and are providing consular assistance,” the spokesman said.
After serving as an ambassador, Bowman was in the country as the founder of the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, a non-governmental organization.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said on Thursday that the measures were being taken “to target access to the military’s weapons and revenue”.
Companies on the sanctions list include Star Sapphire Group, International Gateways Group and Sky One Construction Company.
The UK government highlighted the lifting of the sanctions exactly five years after the brutal attacks by Myanmar’s military on the Rohingya community in the country’s Rakhine state.
The Rohingya, a majority Muslim group in Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist state, have been persecuted for decades.
The UK government also announced its intention to intervene in a legal case to determine whether Myanmar is in breach of its obligations under the United Nations Genocide Convention related to the military’s actions against the Rohingya in 2016 and 2017.
“A further round of intervention and sanctions in the Gambia v. Myanmar case sends a strong signal of our continued support for seeking accountability for the atrocities that took place in 2017, and curbing the military junta’s funding and arms supply.” UK Asia Minister Amanda Milling said.
Five years after the campaign was launched, Milling reiterated the UK’s condemnation of the “brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar Armed Forces”.