Archived Stories

Myanmar Junta Arrests Artist Htein Lin

September 7, 2022

Htein Lin

As many of our readers here may know, last week, the Myanmar military arrested the renowned Burmese artist and dissident, Htein Lin, and his wife Vicky Bowman, a former British ambassador and human rights activist, at their home in Yangon.  The two have been sentenced to a full year in prison.

In the fall of 2018, Artists Beyond Boundaries brought new artwork by Htein Lin and eight other Burmese artists to Northern California for an exhibition at Gallery Route One, entitled “Speaking Out.”  The exhibition put a spotlight on the Burmese artists and their struggle to call attention to human rights issues in Myanmar.  The drawings and paintings from “Speaking Out” are still here, under our care, and may become the centerpiece of a fundraising event for the artists.

Previously, Htein Lin had spent more than six years in the infamous Insein prison for his activism until his release in 2004.  During that time, he smuggled out hundreds of paintings and sculptures that he secretly created in his prison cell.  Htein Lin’s wife heads the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, an organization she founded in 2013 to encourage companies to adhere to international human rights standards.

For more information about Htein Lin and Vicky Bowman and other detained activists visit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma):


1949 – 2021

I first met Sonny Nyein after a lecture at the American Cultural Center in Yangon in the winter of 2006.  At the time, Myanmar’s military government was cracking down on activists, including artists.  Media officer and former movie star, Grace Swe Zin Htaik, was there and introduced me to Sonny and other prominent Burmese artists—among them, Aung Myint, San Minn and Tin Win.

In 2007, Sonny’s work was featured in an exhibition at Beikthano Gallery. In the accompanying brochure, curator and gallery owner, Tin Win wrote: “ Sonny Nyein, the only sculptor represented here, is the only modern sculptor of his time. His earlier works are based on found objects but his works in this exhibit are of steel, constructed not only as a form but to display space as well as negative space.”  As Sonny put it at the time:  “One needs absolute purity and absolute freedom in art,“ words consistently reflected in his own oeuvre.

In 2017, my colleague Mie Preckler and I returned to Myanmar to curate a show tracing the changes in art over the last decade. Sonny was a big part of that exhibition and workshop series, sharing – as always – his knowledge, ideas and aesthetic, and heart. Sonny Nyein was an exceptional artist and colleague, and a dear friend.

Pamela Blotner and Mie Preckler