Myanmar Times boss denies power struggle

The detained former editor of Burma’s only overseas-funded newspaper was again refused bail yesterday as judges await a testimony from a drugs expert.

Ross Dunkley, who co-founded the Myanmar Times in 2000, will now have to wait until 17 March for further news on a case in which he is accused of immigration violations and assaulting a female sex worker, whom some reports claim he drugged.

The man who has taken his position at the newspaper, Tin Tun Oo, told DVB yesterday that another hearing has been scheduled for 23 March where forensic experts will present evidence.

“I met Ross in the morning – he was in good health. I also visited him in Insein prison [on Monday] and assisted him with his needs. He said he was doing okay when I asked.”

Speculation about the real motives behind Dunkley’s arrest last month have centred on a power struggle at the Myanmar Times and attempts by the ruling junta to eliminate foreign-funded groups.

David Armstrong, a business partner in Cambodia, where Dunkley is a key shareholder in the Phnom Penh Post daily, said in a statement last months that his arrest “coincides with tense and protracted discussions” between the foreign and the domestic investors in the paper

Tin Tun Oo, who in 2005 took a 51 percent stake in the paper’s publisher Myanmar Consolidated Media (MCM) after the jailing of his predecessor, Sonny Swe, is believed to be close to the regime’s information minister, Kyaw Hsan.

He told DVB however that “there is no politics behind [Dunkley’s arrest] and there is no personal issue” between him and the Australian national.

“I didn’t even know it was happening until later. I’m not that kind of person who would put someone else’s life in danger to take his position.” He continued that he is “100 percent innocent” and is “doing what I can, in the boundaries of the law, to get Ross released with as light a [punishment] as possible”.

The woman in question, Khine Zar Win, had earlier this month asked for her complaint against Dunkley to be withdrawn, saying she was pregnant and unable to travel to court, but her request was rejected.

Alongside the Myanmar Times, MCM, which employs 350 staff, also publishes the Burmese-language Crime Journal and Now! weekly magazine.

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