After being accused of human rights violations, annihilating the country's democracy, illegal government takeover, besides gun barrel politics, the image and public relations is what Myanmar's new military government seems to be worried about.
As corporates have found themselves under increasing pressure to keep aloof from the last month's coup, two PR firms chose to not work for military-linked clients in Myanmar. Now the new government is now looking at 'fixing' its image.
Last month, ERA Myanmar, one of the biggest PR players in the country announced on its social media handles that it had, "made the decision in the interest of its shareholders and employees, that it will no longer be representing any military owned companies." Military owned companies are an important source of revenue for the Myanmar's military.
Myanmar military hires new PR agent
In an attempt to rebrand itself, the military is recruiting a former Israeli military official turned lobbyist whose past history of representing controversial clients makes him fit for the current job.
Ari Ben Menashe, Tehran-born, Israeli-Canadian lobbyist has been roped in to fix the serious dents in the image of Myanmar's military government. As per reports that have emerged, Menashe's firm Dickens and Madson Canada, has been paid $2 million fee. This amount is as per the documents filed with the US Justice Department.
Menashe was hired by the Tatmadaw (the official name for the armed forced of Myanmar) to assist in explaining the real situation of the country. Those who are aware of US politics during the era of Ronald Reagan will recall how Ben Menashe first hit the headlines for allegedly helping the campaign of Ronald Reagan. It's been alleged that he helped ensure that the hostages were not released during incumbent President Jimmy Carter's time. Had that happened, he'd have won.
What the PR entails?
Apart from downplaying the coup, and saying that generals will leave politics in a short time, Menashe has been pushing messages that include that the country's arrested leader Aung San Suu Kyi played a larger role in the violent campaign against Rohingya people and that the coup was to prevent civilian government from becoming a Chinese puppet. "There's a real push to move towards the west and the United States as opposed to trying to get closer to the Chinese," he told Reuters adding, "They don't want to be a Chinese puppet."
The agreement with the lobbyist emerged against the backdrop of widespread protests against the Army's coup in half a dozen Myanmar cities. And also raids and arrests of dissidents and leaders (which include nation's top diplomats and civil servants) of civil disobedience movement. A copy of the agreement says that the firm agreed to lobby with half a dozen nations, which include The United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Russia, United Arab Emirates, as well as the United Nations and other international organisations.
However, those against the coup doubt if genocide and 'ethnic cleansing' can be used to whitewash sins by paying money.