Norway’s Telenor Group must not jeopardize the human rights of people across Myanmar through the “disposal” of its local
enterprise. For months, Telenor has ignored civil society’s ongoing pressure
to stop the sale of its Myanmar operations to M1 Group — a telecoms conglomerate notorious for extracting profits from
conflict zones and operating without appropriate human rights safeguards. Access Now is urgently calling on Telenor’s Board
to immediately reverse their decision, and stop the sale.
As Access Now’s letter
to the Board outlines in detail, M1 Group has demonstrated a complete disregard for human rights in other high-risk
markets and actively coordinates with oppressive regimes. The company’s owners face serious corruption allegations, and
there is strong evidence to suggest ties between M1 Group and the Myanmar military.
“No rights-respecting Norwegian company should operate with such disregard for the human rights of others,” said Brett Solomon, Executive Director at Access Now. “Leaving the people who depend on its services in the hands of a company with such a dubious history is an abandonment
of Telenor’s principles of transparency and respect for human rights. Telenor’s subscribers, particularly those most at
risk of persecution by the Myanmar military, deserve better.”
Telenor’s hasty decision in July 2021 to hand over its operations in Myanmar to M1 Group has alarmed human rights
activists, including a group of over 400 Myanmar-based civil society organizations who filed a complaint
with the OECD Norwegian National Contact Point, which has since accepted
it. In August, 2021, Access Now, along with 44 organizations, laid out the potential dangers
of this sale to the Telenor Board, calling for them to stop the sale and conduct human rights due diligence in line
with international standards.
Access Now’s latest letter
to the Telenor Board’s Chair and entire list of Directors reinforces that call, outlining how proceeding with the sale
to M1 Group would almost certainly lead to an increase in human rights abuses in Myanmar, along with serious
reputational harms for Telenor, its leadership, and its investors.
“Civil society is alarmed as we can foresee how this story will end,” said Dhevy Sivaprakasam, Asia-Pacific Policy Counsel at Access Now. “Telenor claims it can’t be in Myanmar without violating rights and international sanctions. Yet, by abandoning Myanmar
in this way, and entrusting people’s data to a company that has repeatedly shown no regard for human rights, Telenor is
instead potentially paving the way for other actors to facilitate abuses.”
Access Now is again pressing Telenor’s decision-makers to take immediate action to reverse the decision to sell to M1
Group in order to protect the human rights of Telenor’s subscribers in Myanmar, and to engage in dialogue with civil
society to understand and address the serious risks they have been repeatedly alerted to.