AUSTRALIAN publisher Ross Dunkley, facing assault and immigration charges in Burma, may soon be freed from further legal procedures after a Burmese woman petitioned to have the charges dropped, a senior corporate associate said.
Dunkley, 55, is facing charges of assault and administering drugs to a Burmese woman, Ma Khine Zar Lin, at his residence in Rangoon.
He was arrested on February 10 in Rangoon and spent several weeks detained at Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison before being released on $11,800 bail on March 29.
Ms Zar Lin had earlier sought to have the charges withdrawn but this was rejected by police prosecutors. Dunkley also faces charges under Burma’s immigration laws.
Dunkley, a long-time publisher in Asia, together with Australian mining magnate Bill Clough, and Bangkok-based Post Media, holds 49 per cent of Myanmar Consolidated Media, publisher of English and Burmese language versions of The Myanmar Times and Burmese language magazines.
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David Armstrong, chairman of Post Media, says the outlook was optimistic in the case after an application by Zar Lin for the charges to be dropped was accepted by the prosecution and presiding judge.
“It’s getting close, its getting close,” Armstrong told AAP after today’s hearing.
The hearing was delayed a week after Zar Lin, seven months’ pregnant, collapsed last week as proceedings were to get underway.
The prosecutor in the court this time agreed but it still must be endorsed by the attorney general before being sent back to the court for a final judgment, Armstrong said.
We’ve always said that he’s innocent of these charges and it looks like its turning out that will be the finding,” he said.
He said if the assault charges are dropped the immigration charges Dunkley faced for breaching Burma’s visa laws may not go ahead, although it may require a separate hearing to finalise the case.
Dunkley’s case highlights a darker side of doing business in largely military controlled Burma, despite elections last year and setting up of a new parliament.
Initially Dunkley was reported to have been facing a battle for control over the Rangoon-based media company. The remaining 51 per cent of shares are held by a Burmese businessman, Dr Tin Htun Oo.
Dr Oo was appointed chief executive officer and editor of the Burmese language the Myanmar Times soon after Dunkley’s arrest.
But it was Dr Oo and a fellow businessman, Wai Lin, who acted as bail guarantors that enabled Dunkley’s release from jail on March 29.
Besides the The Myanmar Times, Myanmar Consolidated Media also publishes two Burmese language magazines and employs over 350 people.
Dunkley is also the publisher of the Cambodia-based Phnom Penh Post after buying the paper in 2008.