The generals in Myanmar have hired an Israeli intelligence veteran to run a global lobbying campaign amid the deadly mass protests which have engulfed the country in the aftermath of the February 1 coup d’etat.
Ari Ben-Menashe and his Montreal-based Dickens & Madson Canada certainly have the right experience in dealing with difficult countries, but his mission – to “assist in explaining the real situation in the country” – is as naive as it is mercenary.
Other public relations firms in Southeast Asia have refused to have anything to do with the junta and its five top generals, who were touted for a genocide trial even before ousting an elected government and slaughtering at least 50 supporters to date.
Coup leader Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Brigadier General Than Oo, and Brigadier General Aung Aung head the “most wanted” list compiled by U.N.-backed investigators for the ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims.
They deserve comparisons with Pol Pot, his Khmer Rouge, and the U.N.-backed trial that eventually jailed surviving leaders for genocide. And it will be Ben-Menashe’s job to defend the indefensible in the court of public opinion and stop the junta leaders from facing a similar trial.
Ben-Menashe has already said he will be paid a “big amount” – reportedly $2 million.
How he defends the release of 23,000 prisoners, used to bully and beat people who watched their struggling democracy snuffed out by the barrel of a gun, also deserves comparisons with the PR specialists who went before him including that master of the Big Lie – Joseph Goebbels.
The arrests of hundreds perhaps thousands on piddling charges and the delusional, disingenuous claims by the generals that they have somehow done their country a favor by thumping more than 50 million people under military rule simply stinks.
That includes senior officials from the elected National League for Democracy, whose bashed, dead bodies were found in the streets the morning after being taken into custody.
But it was the killing of Kyal Sin that touched raw nerves everywhere. Known as Angel, the teenager was wearing a T-shirt with the phrase “Everything will be OK” when she was shot dead. Kyal Sin’s short life deserves to be remembered.
The appointment of Ben-Manashe was broken by Julian Pecquet of Foreign Lobby Report.
Ben-Menashe says ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was moving her country towards China and the military, who he described as “these guys,” didn’t like that. He also insists Aung San Suu Kyi was responsible for the plight of Rohingya, rather than the army she defended at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in late 2019.
According to Politico, Ben-Menashe has called the global fury over the coup “misunderstood” and said he will lobby U.S. officials, and legislative branch officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Russia, the United Nations, and the African Union, among others as needed.
He also intends to advocate for “support and humanitarian aid for the benefit” of Myanmar’s citizens and the “removal or modification” of sanctions against the military junta.
His style, however, might be better suited to organizations like the United Nations and the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN), whose lame calls for peaceful reconciliation – and not much else – have been music to the ears of the hunting squads dispatched to suppress protests.
Their catch and bash efforts are being undertaken with absolute impunity. Talk is cheap and only one side is carrying guns but people in Myanmar do have a right to defend themselves, by whatever means at hand.
Right now the best protestors can do is record. The bashings, shootings, and cat and mouse games between soldiers and their own people have been captured on thousands upon thousands of smartphones and relayed to every corner of the planet.
Those videos will be added to the overwhelming evidence already gathered and perhaps one day be used against the military in further tribunals to be heard by the ICJ, or perhaps another international court.
Until then the generals, alongside Ben-Menashe, have written a script that Monty Python would be proud of – if only it wasn’t such a tragedy.