Former British ambassador Vicky Bowman is one of the captives released in Myanmar



Six thousand inmates, including a former British ambassador, a Japanese filmmaker, and an Australian adviser to the country’s overthrown leader, will be freed by Myanmar’s military.

Vicky Bowman, an ex-diplomat, and Toru Kubota were imprisoned earlier this year, while Sean Turnell was taken into custody soon after the coup in 2021.

The pardons, according to the military regime, were given to honour Myanmar National Day.

Since gaining control, the military has detained more than 16,000 people.

In February 2021, it ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government, setting up a nationwide uprising and a sizable resistance movement.

Ms Bowman served as the UK’s envoy to Myanmar between 2002 and 2006, and was running the Yangon-based Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) at the time of her arrest.

A fluent Burmese speaker, she is a well-known member of Myanmar’s small international community. Her husband Htein Lin is a former political prisoner.

It’s reported that, the couple were detained when they returned to the city from a home they have in Shan State. Military authorities charged them both with failing to register her as living at a different address.

However the case was likely to have been about wider political concerns than immigration offences, for which foreigners are rarely prosecuted in Myanmar.


“Thousands of people jailed since the coup in Myanmar have done nothing wrong and should never have been imprisoned in the first place,” said Amnesty International’s Australia Impact Director Tim O’Connor, adding that the release should not “deter international focus from the brutality of the Myanmar military’s activities since the coup in February 2021.”


“Under military rule in Myanmar, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention and secretive, closed-door trials have become routine,” he said, calling for “anyone who cannot be charged with a recognisable” crime to be released.


Mr Turnell meanwhile was detained in Yangon in February 2021, days after the military launched its coup, and was jailed for three years under the Official Secrets Act.

He was a close adviser of ousted opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who since her overthrow has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison on a range of charges.

At the time, the Australian government said it rejected the court’s ruling in Mr Turnell’s case, noting their citizen had been tried in a closed military court.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong hailed reports of Mr Turnell’s release.


“We welcome reports in relation to Professor Sean Turnell,” she posted on Twitter. “Professor Turnell continues to be our first priority. As such, we will not be commenting further at this stage.”



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