YANGON – Yangon police arrested Australian national Ross Dunkley, the co-founder and former chief editor of the Yangon-based Myanmar Times newspaper, in possession of a large quantity of methamphetamine pills and crystal methamphetamine at his apartment in Bahan Township early Thursday morning.
The township’s police chief, Police Major Thein Win, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that Dunkley was apprehended with 797 yaba pills and 303 grams of crystal methamphetamine, or “ice”, at his rented residence in San Yay Twin Street.
Maj Thein Win said police had opened a case against Dunkley under the Sections 19 (a), 20 (a) and 21 (a) of the Anti-Narcotics Law. The multiple charges are punishable by an unlimited jail term or the death penalty.
Some Burmese-language publications reported that one foreigner and six local people, including some women, appeared handcuffed at the Bahan police station. It was unclear what the other detainees are accused of.
According to police, the suspects were remanded for detention on Thursday. Further investigation will be conducted before they are sent to court.
The arrest of Dunkley caused a stir among local netizens, coming as anti-narcotics police hunt suspects linked to a record drug bust in Malaysia’s Port Kelang last month and a day after they arrested one of the chief suspects, Haj Yassin, aka Maung Maung, in Mandalay Division. Netizens were speculating whether the Dunkley case was somehow linked with the Malaysian drug haul, as Haj Yassin was believed to have links with foreign drug groups.
Maj Thein Win denied there was any connection, saying: “This case has nothing to do with Maung Maung. In fact, he [Dunkley] is a drug user rather than a drug dealer.”
Australian Ambassador to Myanmar Nicholas Coppel told The Irrawaddy, “I have no information on this at this stage.”
Dunkley established the Myanmar Times in 2000 in a partnership with Sonny Swe, the son of a notorious senior Myanmar military intelligence (MI) officer, Brigadier-General Thein Swe, with the permission of then spy chief Khin Nyunt. At the time, investing in Myanmar was extremely difficult for foreigners.
However, the entire MI was disbanded by then junta leader Senior-General Than Shwe in 2004. Khin Nyunt and many senior MI officers were imprisoned, including Thein Swe, who was sentenced to more than 100 years while Sonny Swe — now CEO of Black Knight Media and founder of Frontier Myanmar media house — was jailed for 14 years for failing to provide the publications’ reports to the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division.
The Myanmar Times is currently owned by Pepsi U Thein Tun and publishes both Burmese and English language versions.
In 2011, Dunkley was sentenced to prison for about one month for assaulting and drugging a 29-year-old woman he met at a nightclub after bringing her to his Inya Road home. He was released after sentencing as his time in detention during the trial was taken into account.