I just came across a news clip that said that Myanmar government had hired the Podesta Group, a powerful US lobbying firm, to represent its interests in Washington. It is worth recalling that Podesta Group is a firm founded by Tony and John Podesta. John served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, and is now campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run. The Public Relations (PR) firm will be paid $840,000 a year. The ‘activities’ the firm will perform are described in the disclosure as providing “strategic counsel to the principal on strengthening the principal’s ties to the United States government and institutions,” as well as to “assist in communicating priority issues in the United States-Myanmar bilateral relationship to relevant U.S audiences, including the U.S. Congress, executive branch, media, and policy community.”
Myanmar has been using PR firms to boost its image outside for quite some time so that foreign firms would be enticed to invest in the country. Remember Derek Tonkin, the former British Ambassador to Thailand? He is Advisor to Bagan Capital Limited, which is in the business of promoting the agenda of the Burmese government. Many such greedy persons are more interested in making money and serving the mammon. So, I am not surprised that John Podesta is going to play devil's advocate.
As everyone knows by now, after the economic sanctions were lifted from Myanmar, human rights of the vulnerable minorities like the Rohingya have taken a back seat. And now with the hiring of the PR firms like the Podesta group one can only imagine the situation to simply become worse. “Rather than really reforming, Burma will pay Washington lobbyist $840K/year to pretend it is,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted on April 15. He is right.
Most of the transactions inside Myanmar, of course, require blessings from the powerful members of the armed forces, which benefit them enormously. Such investments, sadly, strengthen the grips of the criminal regime and its fascist bodies within the country. I am opposed to such foreign investments inside Myanmar until citizenship rights of minorities like the Rohingya are restored fully and they are treated with dignity on an equal footing as Burmans and others recognized ethnic groups.