Former envoy Bowman and her husband, a Myanmar national, were each given one-year prison terms on Friday by the court in Insein Prison in Yangon, the country’s biggest city.
A court in military-ruled Myanmar has sentenced a former British ambassador to the Southeast Asian nation to a year in prison for failing to register her residence, a government spokesperson said Friday.
Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun confirmed earlier unofficial reports that former envoy Bowman and her husband, a Myanmar national, were each given one-year prison terms on Friday by the court in Insein Prison in Yangon, the country’s biggest city.
Since 2013, Bowman has been heading the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, a business ethics advisory group that says its goals include the promotion of human rights through responsible business in Myanmar.
The charge against Bowman has been widely seen as a pretext for cracking down on her for views the government may have considered critical, although her business was operated as a consultancy and did not play a notably vocal role in public affairs.
Responding to reports of the sentencing, Britain’s Foreign Office in London said, “We will continue to support Ms Bowman and her family until their case is resolved.”
The couple were arrested on Aug. 24, the military government announced last week. It said Bowman, who served as the British envoy in 2002-2006, was detained for failing to inform the authorities last year when she and her husband moved from their registered address in Yangon to Kalaw township in Shan state in east-central Myanmar. They were arrested during a trip back to Yangon.
It said she and her husband, Htein Lin, were charged under the Immigration Act and the Foreigners Registration Rules. Bowman, who has applied for a visa to do business in Myanmar, was charged with breaching visa rules because she did not comply with regulations governing foreigners, the statement said.
Bowman was liable to six months to five years’ imprisonment because of her failure to change the address on her official residence permit registration card, it said, It was not immediately clear which of the two charges the couple were sentenced under.
Failure to properly register her address automatically put her in violation of the Immigration Act, which has catch-all provisions saying that foreigners are guilty of violating the terms of their visas if they are found to have broken other laws.
High-profile convictions of foreigners are usually followed by their expulsion from Myanmar before they serve their complete sentences, though their detention period can sometimes last for months.
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