Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Messing with the Bull

March 24th, 2011 · No Comments


I have mixed feelings about Ross Dunkley, the Australian who co-founded the Myanmar Times in 2000. It’s impossible not to admire his moxie; rare is the publishing soul brave enough to open a new information venture in a totalitarian state. But Dunkley obviously had to make some bargains to earn that opportunity, and that meant partnering with some rather unsavory characters—men with strong ties to Burma’s sinister ruling junta, who demanded a 51 percent stake in Dunkley’s media company. When one of his first partners ended up in prison after a 2005 political purge, Dunkley kept chugging along with the replacement offered up by the generals: Tin Tun Oo, a wealthy operative from the government’s information ministry. I have no doubt that such ties have occasionally affected the way in which the Times reports news.

But now Dunkley is learning just how easily he, too, can be squeezed out of the picture, thanks to Burma’s utter lack of transparent due process:

At the fifth hearing in the case against the Australian founder of the Myanmar Times, Ross Dunkley, a Burmese court on Wednesday again denied him bail and set a sixth hearing for Tuesday, March 29…

Dunkley has been charged with violating the Immigration Act, assaulting a woman, giving her drugs and holding her against her will. He was arrested on February 10 and taken to Insein Prison the next day. Dunkley’s business associates said in an earlier statement that the alleged female victim testified in a previous hearing that she wished to withdraw her complaint that alleged she had been drugged by Dunkley but the Burmese authorities would not allow the complaint to be withdrawn…

Rangoon media observers said that Dunkley and the Myanmar Times’ new CEO, Dr. Tin Tun Oo, were involved in a business dispute at the time of his arrest. Tin Tun Oo was named the new CEO four days after Dunkley’s arrest.

Perhaps Dunkely is, indeed, guilty of the charges levied against him. But my gut tells me otherwise; it instead whispers that this is all a part of the junta’s growing campaign to clamp down even tighter on the nation’s information flow—a campaign that has also included a ban on Skype and other VoIP services. The generals have no intention of getting ambushed by technology, like their dictatorial brethren in the Middle East.

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