Myanmar | Wed, March 10, 2021 | 08:23 pm
A lobbyist recruited to represent the Myanmar junta internationally is set to pocket a US$2 million fee, according to documents filed to the US Justice Department seen Wednesday by AFP. Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military deposed and imprisoned civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this month, sparking regular demonstrations throughout the country calling for the restoration of democracy. As security forces seek to quell the resistance, nearly 2,000 people have been arrested and the death toll has risen to more than 60.
On March 4, more than a month after the putsch, Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe and his Montreal-based firm Dickens and Madson signed a deal with Myanmar’s military regime. According to a copy of the agreement, the firm agreed to lobby the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Russia, and other governments, as well as the United Nations, the African Union, and other international organizations, on behalf of Myanmar.
The contract, which can be found on the US Justice Department website, states that “the arrangement between the parties is for the payment of fees and expenditures in the amount of $2,000,000.00 US to be paid by the international principal to the Registrant as legally permitted by controlling jurisdictions.” The firm’s mandate involves “assisting in illustrating the true situation in the region” when lobbying for the lifting of international sanctions.
Despite mounting international pressure, including targeted sanctions by Western powers, Myanmar’s generals have shown no sign of heeding calls for restraint amid escalating abuse. Ben-Menashe, who appears to be a former Israeli intelligence officer, has previously been embroiled in controversy. In the late 1980s, he was arrested on US charges of selling military aircraft to Iran. He was cleared after the case went to trial.
He was a central player in a treason case brought against a Zimbabwean opposition leader in the early 2000s, and his company concluded a $1 million lobbying contract for an imprisoned Tunisian presidential candidate in 2019. He was also embroiled in a controversy in Canada, which culminated in the resignation of the head of a parliamentary committee in charge of overseeing the spy service.