Dunkley Was Given Permission to Leave Burma: Lawyer

By Lawi Weng 22 April 2013

RANGOON — Australian newspaper publisher Ross Dunkley was blocked from leaving the country despite having the proper exit visa, the Myanmar Times director’s lawyer told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

Dunkley was barred from making a trip to Cambodia on April 11 at Rangoon’s international airport.

Win Htay, his lawyer and spokesman, said: “He has a visa already. But he was blocked by immigration authorities when he got to the airport even though he received a permission letter from the court, which allowed him to travel temporarily outside the country.”

The decision to stop Dunkley from leaving Burma comes as the controversial media magnate is facing a lawsuit brought by the wife of Dr.Tin Tun Oo, the main shareholder in The Myanmar Times. He allegedly hit Dr. Khin Moe Moe’s son-in-law during an argument in late January.

He declined to comment directly for this article.

Dunkley handed over the letter of permission issued to him by Kyauktada Township court on April 12, but according to his lawyer he has not had a response from the Burmese authorities as to why he was banned from traveling.

Dunkley was quoted by the Burmese-language version of the Myanmar Times as saying: “Even the lawyer from the prosecution did not oppose the court decision to offer me permission to travel.

“I cannot understand why they blocked me from traveling. I could lose my investment [in Cambodia] as I missed my appointment.”

Dunkley is a controversial figure in Burma. In June 2011, he spent 44 days in Insein Prison for allegedly assaulting a woman and on drug-related charges.

The Times employs about 300 staff, most of whom are Burmese, and is 49-percent owned by an Australian company affiliated with Dunkley, who also publishes Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Post.

The Myanmar Times was founded in 2000, when Burma was still under direct military rule. To avoid state censorship, Dunkley cut a deal with the former junta’s hated Military Intelligence (MI), bypassing the press censors in favor of direct censorship by the MI.

Sonny Swe, the son of former military intelligence officer Brig-Gen Thein Swe, held a majority share in the company.

Sonny Swe was arrested during a purge of the division by junta leader Than Shwe in 2004. Tin Tun Oo, a media magnate with close connections to the junta, took over Sonny’s shares in the Times.

Since 2005, the Times has gone through Burma’s censorship board as other newspapers had to. Other local publications remained subject to government censorship until early last year.