Foreign Secretary welcomes release of former British ambassador to Myanmar

Burmese artist Htein Lin with his wife Vicky Bowman and their baby Aurora

Vicky Bowman and her husband Htein Lin.
Former British Ambassador Vicky Bowman and her husband Htein Lin were among those freed. Credit: Getty Images

The Foreign Secretary has called for all those “unjustly imprisoned” in Myanmar to be set free from jail as he welcomed the release of former British ambassador to the country.

Vicky Bowman was arrested with her husband, who is a Myanmar national, in the city of Yangon in August.

She had been running a business consultancy and had reportedly been arrested on charges of violating immigration laws by failing to register her change of address.

She was given a one-year prison term in September for failing to register her residence.

She served as British ambassador to Myanmar from 2002 until 2006 and is listed by the Institute for Human Rights and Business as the director of the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business.

Myanmar’s military-controlled government announced on Thursday that it was releasing and deporting Ms Bowman as part of a wider prisoner amnesty to mark the country’s National Victory Day.

People look for their family members and relatives on a bus carrying prisoners who released from Insein Prison, Myanmar. Credit: AP

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted: “I welcome the release of Vicky Bowman and others from detention in Myanmar today.

“All those unjustly imprisoned in Myanmar should be released.”

Amnesty International UK said it was “enormously relieved” to hear of the prisoner amnesty but said it had happened at a “politically opportune” time.

The human rights organisation’s foreign policy director Polly Truscott said: “Myanmar has a history of announcing prisoner amnesties at politically opportune times, and today’s releases may have more to do with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting taking place in Thailand this week than any change of heart from the authorities.

“The UK should see today’s releases as another opportunity to press the Myanmar government to release all those who’ve been jailed arbitrarily, as well as calling on the authorities to allow proper independent investigations into the thousands of killings that have taken place in the wake of the coup.”

Australian Sean Turnell, Japan's Toru Kubota, and American Kyaw Htay Oo, as well as 11 local Myanmar celebrities, were among a total of 5,774 prisoners who were being released, Myanmar's state-run MRTV reported.

The imprisonment of the foreign nationals had been a source of friction between Myanmar's leaders and their home governments, which had been lobbying for their release.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organisation, 16,232 people have been detained on political charges in Myanmar since the army ousted the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February last year.

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