Sanctions shut down Israeli lobbyist shilling for junta: Watchdog Justice

A 2019 photo of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing. Photo: Vadim Savitsky / Russian Ministry of Defense
A 2019 photo of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing. Photo: Vadim Savitsky / Russian Ministry of Defense

A Myanmar rights group said today it was “positive’ that international sanctions prevented an infamous Israeli-Canadian lobbyist, one-time arms dealer, spy and mouthpiece for despots the world over (See: Sudan, Zimbabwe, Libya) from getting paid by the ruling junta.

A day after Ari Ben Menashe told reporters that his services for Myanmar’s Tatmadaw were “on a break,” Watchdog Justice for Myanmar told Coconuts Yangon that U.S. and Canadian sanctions definitely prevented Ben Menashe and his firm, Dickens and Madson Canada, from getting paid to burnish the junta’s image. 

“The deplorable contract to defend the criminal Myanmar military junta should never have been signed. This should be a warning to others against business with the junta,” Yadanar Maung, Justice For Myanmar spokesperson said.

Ben Menashe yesterday said he’d told the junta he was halting lobbying last month, though he clarified that he “remained on good terms with the generals.”

“We can’t get paid. It’s getting very expensive,” Ben-Menashe told Reuters.

It was in March that Ben-Menashe and Dickens & Madson Canada signed a USD$2 million contract to lobby international governments such as the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Russia and other countries, as well as the United Nations and African Union and other international organizations, on behalf of the junta, which stands accused of international crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

International legal experts at the time raised concerns that Ben-Menashe would run afoul of existing U.S. sanctions. In a Washington Monthly report, national security reporter Elaine Shannon wrote how Ben-Menashe’s activities would likely raise red flags in Washington.

“If he tried and were detected, the Justice Department would likely order his arrest as a sanctions violator and freeze any funds transferred to him in the U.S. from Myanmar,” Shannon wrote.

Ben-Menashe organized a controversial, military-guided press tour for CNN and Southeast Asia Globe that raised concerns of “parachute journalism” from international and local observers.

Opinion over the CNN trip was split with some Myanmar netizens praising the trip for spotlighting the atrocities committed by the military and others who feared it legitimized the regime and endangered those who spoke to the press. 

👏🏽👏🏽#Canada lobby firm Dickens & Madson ended despicable contract w/ #Myanmar military junta.

Founder Ari Ben-Menashe told Foreign Lobby: “I have no prob. w/ the Burmese but the fact is we can’t get paid because of sanctions… We’re not a non-profit.” 👉🏽https://t.co/yO1GsaMCGA pic.twitter.com/t1UBl6wuIB

— Justice For Myanmar (@JusticeMyanmar) July 14, 2021

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