Myanmar Times Co-Founder Ross Dunkley Gets 13 Years in Prison On Drug Charges

The Australian co-founder of the Myanmar Times, Ross Dunkley, was handed a 13-year prison sentence by a court in Yangon on Wednesday, more than a year after police found drugs during a raid at his home. 

Officers seized just under 800 methamphetamine pills, known as yaba, and just over 300 grams of crystal meth at Dunkley’s home in Bahan township in June 2018. They also found smaller amounts of opium, marijuana and heroin.

 Nine people were arrested during the raid but two were later released. 

Dunkley, 60, was convicted alongside British national John McKenzie, who had been working with Dunkley on starting a new media company in Myanmar, as well as five Myanmar women.

The two men received the same sentence under section 19(a) of the 1993 Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Law, which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years. 

The women all received 11-year sentences. They are Hayman Lwin, who is the oldest at 29; Honey Soe; Hnin Ei Khaing; Ma Thuzar, and Win Win, who at 19 is the youngest. They were sentenced under section 21 of the same law, which punishes conspiring to commit or abetting a drug offence. 

All seven will get a year and two months taken off their sentences for time served, judge Mi Mi Maw told the court as she read out the final ruling.

As she spoke, some of the women broke down in tears. Outside the courtroom, police struggled to lead the women away as they clung to family members while screaming and crying.

Dunkley told Myanmar Now while being led from the court that the five women were innocent and he had hoped they would be acquitted. 

“I think it’s wrong. The girls had nothing to do with this and I can’t believe that the judge has convicted them,” he said.

He added that he now planned to appeal to the Myanmar government to be deported.  

Dunkley’s lawyer, L Khun Reng Pan, said he would speak to his client about whether or not to appeal the court’s ruling. 

Dunkley founded the Myanmar Times in 2000 along with partner Sonny Swe. He later fell out of favour with the military regime and faced several attempts to oust him from the paper before eventually selling his remaining interest in 2015. 

In 2011, he spent 47 days in Insein prison after being arrested on suspicion of assaulting a woman. His supporters say the arrest was politically motivated and aimed at forcing him to relinquish control of the newspaper.  

Court spokesperson Min Than told Myanmar Now that Dunkley was “lucky” not to have received a harsher sentence on Wednesday, considering the large quantity of drugs found at his home.

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