August 07, 2019
Australian Ross Dunkley has been sentenced to 13 years’ jail by a court in Yangon, Myanmar for possession of drugs after police raided his home
In this file photo taken on March 23, 2011, Australia’s Ross Dunkley, co-founder of the Myanmar Times newspaper, is escorted by Myanmar policeman as he arrives for a hearing at the Kamaryut township court in Yangon. Picture: Soe Than WIN/AFP | Source: AFP
By Alan Parkhouse | Australian Associated Press
Australian Ross Dunkley, a pioneer in the media industry in Southeast Asia over the past 20 years, has been sentenced to 13 years’ jail by a court in Yangon, Myanmar for possession of drugs.
The sentence was handed down on Wednesday after the Perth-born Dunkley and his co-defendants had spent more than one year languishing in the hospital wing of Myanmar’s notorious Insein prison, a massive colonial-era jail built by the British in colonial times, as the case slowly proceeded through the court.
Dunkley was arrested on June 6 last year when police raided the home he rented and shared with co-defendant and British national John McKenzie in Bahan township, a suburb of Yangon. A number of local women present in the house were also arrested and were sentenced to 11 years.
Local media reports at the time varied on the amount of drugs police seized during the raid, but photos taken in the house and published after the raid showed a variety of illegal substances and paraphernalia laid out on a table by the arresting officers.
Local media reported police found 797 methamphetamine, pills, 303 grams of crystal methamphetamine (ice), 16.5 grams of marijuana, two grams of heroin and six grams of opium concentrate. Drug-taking paraphernalia including pipes and tin foil were also shown in photos after the arrests.
This case was not Dunkley’s first run-in with the law in Myanmar. He was arrested in 2011 and charged with drugging and assaulting a woman reported to have been a sex worker at a Yangon nightclub.
He spent 47 days in Insein jail – his first stay in the prison’s hospital wing where conditions are not as tough as a normal cell and the section of the complex where most foreigners are housed. He was eventually sentenced to one month’s jail, but was released when sentenced because of time already served. Dunkley is a well-known figure in media circles in Southeast Asia. In 1991 he became a partner in The Vietnam Investment Review, a business newspaper that was sold to James Packer in 1994.
In 2000, he moved to Myanmar and helped found the Myanmar Times, with financial backing from Western Australian mining magnate Bill Clough.
Clough and Dunkley later expanded their media business when they bought The Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia in 2007 and turned it from a weekly to a daily paper in 2008. Dunkley held the position of publisher and Clough was the major shareholder.
Dunkley, part of a Walkley Award-winning team of journalists in the rural press in Western Australia before heading to Southeast Asia, has often been described as a “wild colonial boy” or a “larrikin” by those who worked or partied with him in Asia.