MYANMAR – Ross Dunkley, managing director of Myanmar Consolidated Media (MCM), was banned from leaving Myanmar for which his court case was claimed as reason despite court’s permission in his hand according to The Myanmar Times journal published yesterday.
Dunkley, the Australian media magnate in Myanmar, co-founded MCM with Sonny Swe (Myat Swe) in 2000, and the company is publishing The Myanmar Times, a well-known weekly journal in the country.
Dunkley and Khin Moe Moe, managing director of Swe Sone Media Group and wife of Dr Tin Tun Oo who is the chief executive officer of MCM, have filed reciprocal lawsuit on personal conflicts last January, as the latter took five strangers into the MCM office and the former argued over it.
Dunkley was stopped at the airport by the immigration officers when he arrived there for his business trip to Cambodia and Thailand. This was despite the court’s permission Dunkley received on April 8 as he promised to appear at court on trial.
The immigration officers stopped him at the airport on April 11 failing to give proper reasons. On the following day, Dunkley went to the airport and showed the airport officers the court’s permission and the appeal letter to the respective minister. He did not receive any reply for green light until April 17 yet, even though he sent the original certificates to the Ministry of Immigration and Population in capital Nay Pyi Taw on April 16.
There were public criticisms over the incident as Dunkley was banned from leaving the country despite the court’s permission and some people questioned the country’s reforms towards democracy.
The Myanmar Times quoted a foreign investor’s comment that he was very surprised at the incident. He said that the reason why investors brought their hard-earned money here is because they believe they can come here freely and will be treated fairly in accordance with the country’s laws.
Similar events were common during previous military regime. However, this is the first time such incident has occurred since the civil administration ruled the country, although some journalists from time to time find unnecessary delays at passport application process before their overseas trips.
In fact, Ross Dunkley, a long-time investor in Myanmar’s media industry, and co-founder Sonny Swe encountered similar ordeals at other times.
In 2005, Sonny Swe and his wife were forced by then Information Minister Kyaw San to sell their stakes with reasons linked political. Ross Dunkley bought some stakes and continued his leading role of MCM as chief executive officer.
On February 11, 2011, Ross Dunkley was arrested for breaching immigration laws and assaulting a sex worker. Three day after his arrest, Dr Tin Tun Oo, a close associate of Myanmar authorities, took the position of chief executive officer. Dunkley was made to pay fines for his offence, and released later.
Dr Tin Tun Oo, chairman of Swe Sone Media Group and holder of 51 per cent stake in MCM, is close to the Ministry of Information and has close relationship with former and present Information Minister. He usually accompanies President’s trips, too.
He supported the controversial Printing and Publishing Bill devised by the Information Ministry apparently to control media in the country but postponed later by the parliament for necessary review. He once tried to become a member of parliament from Puzundaung township, Yangon region, but failed in his attempt.