Myanmar military hires 'infamous' Israeli lobbyist to promote junta after brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters

Myanmar military hires 'infamous' Israeli lobbyist to promote junta after brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters
Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe will also lobby the UAE and Saudi Arabia to help repatriate Rohingya Muslim refugees.
3 min read
08 March, 2021
Ari Ben-Menashe has previously worked on behalf of Sudan's military [Getty]
Myanmar's military junta has hired a "notorious" Israeli-Canadian businessman to lobby on its behalf in Washington as Burmese anti-coup protesters continue to be met with a violent crackdown.

Ari Ben-Menashe was hired last week by the Burmese military to "assist in explaining the real situation in the country", according to an agreement seen by Foreign Lobby.

A former Israeli military intelligence official and arms dealer, Ben-Menashe has a history of working with unsavoury clients including Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and the Sudanese military.

The lobbyist confirmed his firm, Dickens & Madson Canada, had been hired by the Burmese junta in an interview with Reuters.

Ben-Menashe said he had been paid a "big amount" by the military, with the promise of an unspecified bonus if he manages to convince Western nations to lift sanctions impose on the junta over the coup and the treatment of Rohingya Muslims.

The lobbyist has been tasked not only with promoting the Burmese military's claims about the coup - that it was defending the country against a rigged election - but also with lobbying Gulf nations to repatriate Rohingya refugees.

Ben-Menashe was recruited to get support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to repatriate the Muslim ethnic minority, he told Reuters.

The junta is "basically trying to get them some funding for the return of what they call the Bengalis", Ben-Menashe said. Myanmar denies the Rohingya citizenship and other rights, claiming they are illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
Read more: Canada lobbyists paid $6m to promote Sudan's ruling military

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar in recent years amid a military campaign that has been described as ethnic cleansing and genocide by UN officials, international prosecutors and rights groups.

Ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi played a larger role in the violent repression of the Rohingya than previously thought, Ben-Menashe claims.

Reports have previously staked responsibility largerly on the military, which the lobbyist called "misunderstood" by Western nations.

Ben-Menashe is also hoping to play on Western enmity with China with messaging stating that Suu Kyi was attempting to bring Myanmar further within Beijing's sphere of influence.

The military "don't want to be a Chinese puppet", he said.

Ben-Menashe claims the junta simply wishes to preserve democracy after a "rigged" election last year in which he says ethnic minorities were barred from voting. Election observers reject those claims.

"They want to get out of politics completely... but it's a process," he said.

The lobbying agreement comes as the Burmese military continues to crack down on anti-coup protesters.

More than 50 people have did in protest-related violence since the military seized power last month, according to the UN's envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener.

Dozens more including officials from Suu Kyi's party have been detained. One such official, Khin Maung Latt, died over the weekend in police custody, according to associates.

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