According to the military junta, the Myanmar authorities said that the address Vicki Bowman registered on her visa did not match her place of residence. Violation of the Myanmar Immigration Law is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
On Wednesday evening, Bowman, who served as Britain’s top diplomat to Myanmar from 2002 to 2006, was detained along with her husband, Myanmar citizen Htein Lin, according to local media and a person in Yangon with knowledge of the situation.
Initially, Myanmar’s military government did not announce the detentions. However, local news outlets The Irrawaddy and Myanmar Now, as well as international news agency Reuters, reported that Bowman could face charges under the country’s Immigration Law.
The Irrawaddy newspaper reported that Bowman and Htein Lin were being held at Insein Prison in Yangon.
A spokesman for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said on Thursday that the British government was “concerned” about the arrest of a “British” woman in Myanmar.
“We are in contact with local authorities and provide consular assistance,” the spokesman said.
After serving as an ambassador, Bowman remained in the country as the founder of the non-governmental organization Myanmar Center for Responsible Business.
On Thursday, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Department said the measures were being taken “to limit the military’s access to arms and income.”
Among the firms on the sanctions list are the Star Sapphire group of companies, the International Gateways group of companies and the construction company Sky One.
The UK government stressed that the sanctions came exactly five years after a series of brutal attacks carried out by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya communities living in Rakhine State.
The Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim group in the Buddhist state of Myanmar, have been persecuted for decades.
The UK government has also announced its intention to intervene in a court case that will determine whether Myanmar has violated its obligations under the UN Genocide Convention regarding military action against the Rohingya in 2016 and 2017.
“Our decision to intervene in the Gambia v. Myanmar case and the new package of sanctions sends a strong message of our continued support for accountability for the 2017 atrocities, and also restricts the military junta’s access to finance and arms supplies.” British Secretary of State for Asia Amanda Milling
Milling confirmed that the UK had condemned the “terrible campaign of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Myanmar military” five years after the campaign began.