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Myanmar authorities detain the U.K.'s former ambassador to the country

Myanmar authorities have detained a British former ambassador and her Burmese husband, a senior military officer in the capital, Naypyidaw, confirmed.

In a statement released late Thursday, Myanmar's military said Vickie Bowman and her husband, former political prisoner and artist Htein Lin, are being detained for immigration offenses. Earlier in the day, a senior military source said Bowman had been detained for sending information to the group Justice for Myanmar and others opposed to military rule.

Representatives from Justice for Myanmar emphatically denied the allegation as "false" and said the group has never had contact with Bowman. It called for the couple's release and for the release of all those detained by the "illegal junta."

Bowman served as ambassador to Myanmar from 2002-2006 and currently is the director at the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business. Her husband Htein Lin is one of Myanmar's most famous artists and is a veteran activist. He has previously spent time in prison for his opposition to an earlier junta.

The military leadership in Myanmar overthrew the elected civilian government in early 2021, jailing many senior members of the government, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Australian economist Sean Turnell, an adviser to Suu Kyi, was arrested days after last year's coup and is being tried along with her on several charges.

The military junta has also clamped down on press freedoms. American journalist Danny Fenster was sentenced to 11 years in November for incitement and other offenses but was released days later and allowed to leave the country. In August of this year, a Japanese journalist was detained in the country and charged with violating immigration law and encouraging dissent against the army.

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Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.