Burkina Faso internet

Halt the sale! Telenor exiting Myanmar risks human rights

Telenor must halt the sale — or “disposal” — of its Myanmar outfit to shady M1 Group, and immediately conduct human rights due diligence in line with international law and standards. 

Today, August 12, Access Now, along with 44 organizations, contacted Telenor Group’s Board, expressing shock and dismay at the telecommunications company’s sudden decision to sell its operations to an investor with a dubious human rights record. The coalition called on the company to immediately rescind the deal. 

“M1 Group’s reputation alone should have been enough to stop this unethical ‘disposal’ in its tracks,” said Dhevy Sivaprakasam, Asia Pacific Policy Counsel at Access Now. “Telenor is handing over the last communication and information lifeline of one authoritarian nation, to a company reportedly connected to another. The telco was one of the few businesses in the country that was striving to respect rights in the middle of a crisis. The people of Myanmar deserve better. ” 

The joint letter calls on Telenor’s Board to:

  • Cancel or pause the sale of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Global, and conduct human rights due diligence in line with the U.N. Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. The assessment should:
    • Obtain the views of a variety of stakeholders, particularly civil society organizations, who will be affected if Telenor departs;
    • Detail rights impacts of potential buyers, and the option and impact of Telenor remaining in the country if satisfactory buyers cannot be identified; and
    • Detail how Telenor will redress any rights harms which may arise from the exit, whether linked to its past activities or newly imposed by its departure.
  • Establish direct communications with civil society representatives. Myanmar human rights defenders, activists, and civil society groups should be directly consulted by decision-making members at the highest levels at Telenor.
  • Continue to engage with the Norwegian National Contact Point (NCP), which is investigating complaints to which Telenor Myanmar is subject, regardless of whether the company continues to have an in-country presence.

“Telenor has dumped its Myanmar outfit at a discounted rate, failed to provide any kind of risk assessment,  and given concerned stakeholders no indication of how it will deal with the repercussions of such a risky and irresponsible sale,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Asia Pacific Director at Access Now. “This is a total absolution of Telenor’s duties and responsibilities.” 

The Norwegian telco announced it was selling off its Myanmar operations to Lebanon’s M1 Group on July 8, to exit the country.

Access Now’s Forgotten Pillar: The Telco Remedy Plan highlights how “disposals” risk both rights violations and reputational damage for companies. When companies cut and run, they fail to facilitate remedies for victims, limit corporate accountability, and enable continuing or increased transgressions as spin-off companies can be removed from public oversight. Telenor knows better, and the people of Myanmar deserve better.