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Myanmar court jails Australian publisher for 13 years over drugs charges

Tim Newton

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Myanmar court jails Australian publisher for 13 years over drugs charges | The Thaiger
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PHOTO: Soe Zeya Tun

A Myanmar court yesterday sentenced 60 year old Australian media publisher Ross Dunkley to 13 years in jail after a police raid uncovered a stash of drugs at his home in Yangon in 2018.

Ross has extensive links with the media industry across Southeast Asia, co-founding the English language newspaper The Myanmar Times when Myanmar was still in the tight grip of a military dictatorship. Arguably, not a lot has changed despite the facade of a democratic make-over. Ross also used to be co-owner of Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Post.

Police arrested him, his business partner John McKenzie and seven Burmese nationals during a June 2018 raid on his home. Officers say they found a stash of crystal methamphetamine (ice), methamphetamine pills (yaba), three opium ‘cakes’, marijuana and a small amount of heroin, according to AFP.

Two people working as domestic helpers were later released.

Judge Myint Myint Maw announced the sentence at Yangon’s Western District court yesterday.

“Ross Dunkley and John McKenzie are sentenced to 13 years.”

Mr. Dunkley “appeared shaken and declined to speak to reporters” as he was led away.

Five Burmese women, also on trial broke down in tears as they were each sentenced to 11 years. All defendants had denied the charges and it is not yet clear if any will appeal.

The raid on Mr. Dunkley’s home was the second run-in with Burmese authorities. In 2011 he was sentenced to a month in prison for the assault of a woman at a Yangon nightclub.

Myanmar is now believed to be the largest producer of methamphetamine in the world in a shadowy, multi-billion-dollar industry, concentrated in the lawless Shan state that borders Thailand and Laos, aka. The Golden Triangle.

SOURCE: The ASEAN Post

Myanmar court jails Australian publisher for 13 years over drugs charges | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: AFP, via The ASEAN Post

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

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Crime

5 year old Burmese girl raped, murdered in Tak

Jack Burton

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5 year old Burmese girl raped, murdered in Tak | The Thaiger
PHOTO: matichon.com

Villagers in the north western Tak province were shocked yesterday by reports of the rape and murder of a 5 year old Burmese girl. Her body was discovered in a forest in Mae Sot district. Police went to Muhajireen community in Mae Sot after being notified of the crime. They found the girl’s body, her hands and legs bound with rope and her clothes torn.

It’s was assumed the girl was raped and murdered. 3 suspects have been arrested while authorities await forensic test results. Mae Sot Hospital has confirmed the girl suffered internal injuries and bleeding. Doctors also found a piece of cloth stuffed in her mouth.

The community of about 100 residents were horrified by the news. They say the girl went missing at around 7pm on Friday and was found the next morning.

Witnesses claimed that they saw a man take the girl away while she was playing alone in the yard. He reportedly returned alone. It was later revealed the man had previously been convicted for rape and imprisoned for 7 years when he lived across the border in Myanmar.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Myanmar

113 bodies recovered in Myanmar jade mine mudslide

Jack Burton

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113 bodies recovered in Myanmar jade mine mudslide | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Fire Services Department Handout

At least 113 are dead after a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar. The Myanmar Fire Services Department says that the incident took place early today in the jade-rich Hpakant district of the northern Kachin state after a heavy rainfall. Photos in the post showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide.

“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud. A total of 113 bodies have been found so far.”

“Now we recovered more than 100 bodies,” a local official with the information ministry told Reuters by phone, “Other bodies are in the mud. The numbers are going to rise.”

Fatal landslides are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant, the victims often from impoverished communities who risk their lives hunting the translucent green gemstone.

A 38 year old miner who witnessed the incident says he spotted a tall pile of waste that appeared to be on the verge of collapse and was about to take a picture when people began shouting “Run, run!”

“Within a minute, all the people at the bottom of the hill just disappeared. I feel empty in my heart. I still have goose bumps… There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help but no one could help them.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government promised to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.

Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth $750 million US dollars (23.3 billion baht) in 2016-2017, according to data published by the government. Experts say the true value of the industry, which mainly exports to China, is much larger.

Northern Myanmar’s abundant natural resources – including jade, timber, gold and amber – have also helped finance both sides of a decades long civil war between ethnic Kachin and the military. The fight to control the mines and the money they bring frequently traps locals in the middle.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera | Newsvoice

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Crime

Billions in illicit drugs burned in Thailand and Myanmar

Jack Burton

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Billions in illicit drugs burned in Thailand and Myanmar | The Thaiger
PHOTO: AP

In a joint operation, authorities in Thailand and Myanmar destroyed 25 tonnes of illicit drugs valued at more than 62 billion baht (US$2 billion) in Ayutthaya and Yangon. The move comes as drug cartels in the Golden Triangle boost supplies and seek new channels of distribution. The Golden Triangle, where Laos, northern Myanmar and Thailand meet, has been a hub of illicit drug traffic for decades. Authorities say production there is now taking place on an industrial scale.

In Ayutthaya, about 80 kilometres north of Bangkok, Thai authorities marked International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking with a mass burning of drugs. Police guarded boxes of drugs unloaded from trucks while bricks of heroin and bags stuffed with methamphetamine pills, known as “yaba,” were thrown into dumpsters for incineration. In Yangon, meanwhile, plumes of black smoke filled the sky as sacks full of drugs were set ablaze. Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames.

Thai authorities say Covid-19 travel restrictions and checkpoints helped reduce smuggling, but the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said last month that the trade continues to thrive. Thailand’s deputy national police chief says drug criminals are getting more creative, and the internet is becoming a growing outlet for the illicit drug trade.

“Our children are making the wrong decision to order narcotic drugs online. And the dealers send the drugs to them.”

Rising heroin use among young people is among several worrying trends. Though opium cultivation and heroin refining have dropped, methamphetamine production in Myanmar’s northern regions has increased dramatically, with armed ethnic groups collaborating with organised crime elements. Thailand is used mainly as a conduit and distribution point, with some drugs sold domestically, but most smuggled onward.

Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC regional representative, says online drug sales represent a worrying trend, with an oversupply of meth pushing prices down and adding to more drug abuse.

“Above all we are looking now at an increase in drug availability. Very dangerous. Frankly speaking, Myanmar has become the transit place of narcotic drug distribution to Europe and Asia.”

SOURCE: Reuters

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