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Access Now to Telenor’s Board: Stop the sale in Myanmar

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. Telenor responded on September 3.

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.

Read the full letter.