Wednesday, October 20

Telenor sold Myanmar. Now the plans can be scrapped.


Customers queue up outside a Telenor store in Yangon, Myanmar in 2014. Their data is in danger of ending up in the clutches of the military junta, accused by the UN of crimes against humanity.

Norwegian companies believe that the sale should be suspended while the OECD complaint is processed.

After six years as Myanmar’s leading mobile phone operator, Telenor threw in the towel.

It was unveiled in July after several months of speculation. And after more months with press of the main military junta of the country. He took power in the country after a bloody coup in February.

It created a ruckus. Mass arrests, demonstrations and political chaos have plagued Myanmar ever since.

The military junta has not been enthusiastic about the resistance of the people. Thousands of opposition figures have been assassinated and imprisoned. Telenor was asked to arrange for the military junta to monitor the population.

The company refused. Telenor considered that the best thing would be to sell the business in the country.

Now the plans can be suspended.

Fear of data being sold

The reason is a letter sent in July. The letter was signed by 474 civil society organizations in Myanmar.

Organizations expressed great dissatisfaction with Telenor’s sales. The reason is who they sold to.

The company that won the bidding round was M1 Group. The founders and owners of the Lebanese company are Najib and Taha Mikati. The brothers have long topped the list of the richest in Lebanon. Both are worth more than $ 23 billion, according to Forbes.

Later, MTN Group acquired M1 Group. The brothers currently own 10 percent of the business.

MTN Group is known for settling into dictatorships. Among other things, the company accused to pay bribes to the Taliban. And to indirectly support terrorism in Iraq.

Telenor defended the sale to M1 Group. The company said it had not found any direct relationship between M1 and the leadership of the military junta. However, civil society organizations in Myanmar are concerned.

They fear that the M1 Group will give the military junta access to their data. This was told by one of those who signed the letter to Aftenposten.

The letter was addressed to outgoing Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke.

But they weren’t the only ones who received letters.

Must attend mediation

Civil society organizations also contacted the Dutch research institute SOMO.

They believe that Telenor has shown “lack of care” during the sale.

For this reason, they complained to Telenor before the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Among other things, they believe that Telenor:

  • It has not investigated the risk of selling to M1 Group. Then especially how it will affect human rights.
  • You have not been able to communicate with the people who may be affected by the sale.

Monday September 27 became known that the complaint has been approved for processing. The OECD contact point in Norway will take care of this.

Its task is to promote the OECD guidelines for multinational companies. As well as helping to handle individual cases of compliance with the guidelines.

Therefore, the point of contact will mediate between Telenor and the 474 civil society organizations.

The plan is for this to happen in Oslo, Aftenposten reports.

Believe that the sale should be suspended

Forum for Development and the Environment (ForUM) has criticized Telenor’s sales. Given the fact that the complaint has already been approved, they ask the government to suspend the sale. At least until the complaint is processed. The Norwegian state owns 53 percent of Telenor.

– The fact that the OECD Contact Point processes the complaint means that there is a real possibility that Telenor has violated the guidelines for responsible corporate operations.

This is what Diego Foss, ForUM’s professional advisor, says in a press release.

– We believe that the sale should be suspended until it is clear whether Telenor has acted within recognized standards of responsible business.

So far, Telenor and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry have not commented on the complaint.


www.aftenposten.no

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