Email This Story :
A Burmese court on Thursday convicted an Australian newspaper boss of assault and sentenced him to one month in jail but allowed him to walk free after taking into account time already served.
Ross Dunkley, co-founder of the Myanmar Times, the country’s only newspaper with foreign investment, was found guilty of assaulting a 29-year-old woman and of breaching immigration laws but acquitted on other charges.
In a case that some observers say highlighted the risks of doing business in the military-dominated country, Dunkley was arrested in February and held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison until he was granted bail in late March.
He was cleared of giving illegal drugs to the woman, who had previously asked for her complaint to be withdrawn, saying she was pregnant and unable to travel to court. Her request was rejected.
The judge said Dunkley’s assault conviction was an automatic breach of immigration rules and he therefore would have to pay a fine of 100,000 kyats ($US120) or face six months’ imprisonment. Dunkley said he would pay the fine.
One of Dunkley’s lawyers, Aung Win Naing, said they would appeal the verdict.
“We don’t like the judgment. We will appeal for a revision,” he told AFP.
His business partner in Cambodia, David Armstrong, had suggested the newspaper editor was the victim of a dispute at his Burma company.
Dunkley co-founded the Myanmar Times in 2000 with local partner Sonny Swe, the son of an influential member of the junta’s military intelligence service.
But Sonny Swe was jailed in 2005 and his 51 percent stake in the paper’s publisher Myanmar Consolidated Media (MCM) handed to Tin Tun Oo, who is thought to be close to the regime’s information minister.
Some observers believe that outspoken Dunkley — who as a foreigner blazed a trail in Burma’s tightly controlled media industry — fell out of favour with the ruling elite.
If convicted on all counts he could have faced up to 14 years in prison.