Myanmar army rulers' lobbyist in U.S. ceases efforts for lack of pay

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FILE PHOTO: Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing delivers his speech at the IX Moscow conference on international security in Moscow

By Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An Israeli-Canadian lobbyist hired by Myanmar's ruling military leaders to represent them in Washington and other capitals said on Wednesday he has stopped his work with the generals because sanctions prevented him from being paid.

Ari Ben-Menashe and his Montreal-based firm Dickens & Madson Canada in March signed a $2 million agreement with a top general and filed foreign lobbying documents with the U.S. Department of Justice, pledging to help the West understand the generals who seized power in the Southeast Asian nation on Feb. 1.

Ben-Menashe said at the time that he would receive payment once sanctions were lifted. By working with Myanmar's military, he risked violating U.S. sanctions imposed on top generals, legal experts said.

Sanctions on military leaders were already in place, but Washington has ramped up measures against them and military companies as Myanmar's security forces have responded to protests with a brutal crackdown.

On Wednesday, Ben-Menashe said by phone he remained on good terms with Myanmar's generals but his work was "on a break" because he was unable to receive payment due to the sanctions.

Ben-Menashe said he informed the military leaders of the stoppage last month. It was first reported by Foreign Lobby Report on Tuesday.

"We can't get paid. It’s getting very expensive," Ben-Menashe said.

During his time working for the generals, Ben-Menashe helped arrange a visit of a CNN reporter to Myanmar. He declined to go into detail about his other work for the generals, aside from describing it as "humanitarian."

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Howard Goller)

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