A total of 474 civil society organisations have submitted a complaint to the OECD against Norway’s Telenor after the telecom giant earlier this month sold its Myanmar business to M1 Group, Financial Times reports.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization that works to build better policies for better lives and the Myanmar-based rights groups that endorsed the complaint have remained anonymous because of what they called “extreme rights abuses” by Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s junta since it took over power of the country in February.
The complaint to OECD has been submitted by the Amsterdam-based Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, a non-profit group, on behalf of the civil rights organizations. In the complaint, the groups alleged that Telenor “irresponsibly disengaged from its Myanmar operations” and failed to act by OECD and UN principles on business and human rights when the Norwegian state-owned telecoms company sold its business to M1 Group, which was funded by Lebanon’s new prime minister-designate.
In the complaint to Norway’s national contact point under the OECD’s guidelines for multinational enterprises, the groups state that “Telenor has failed to conduct appropriate risk-based due diligence and has failed to seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts to its customers potentially arising from the sale of its Myanmar operations. Telenor failed to engage with relevant stakeholders in relation to the sale of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group.”
Since Telenor announced the sale of its local business in Myanmar, human rights groups, journalists, and others have voiced concerns that M1 Group might be less vigilant in resisting censorship and protecting customers’ data, and according to Vicky Bowman, director of the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, Telenor’s decision to exit is a big disappointment to those in Myanmar who care about digital rights and responsible business practices. “Before it took the decision, it did not engage with its Myanmar users to find out their views.” Vicky Bowman said.
Financial Times writes that Telenor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.