On 25 March, Telenor announced that the telecom giant had transferred the operational activities of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group. In a release following the announcement, the Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM) condemns the sale, and Kathrine Sund-Henriksen, ForUM’s general manager calls it a dark day for Telenor and for Norway as a human rights nation.
ForUM is a network of 50 Norwegian organizations within the development, environment, peace, and human rights with a vision of a democratic and peaceful world based on fair distribution, solidarity, human rights, and sustainability. ForUM writes that together with transferring the operational activities of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group, Telenor also sells sensitive personal data of 18 million former Telenor customers, and there is an imminent danger that this information will soon be in the hands of the country’s brutal military dictatorship. ForUM is furious at the news that the sale has been completed.
“Ever since the sale was announced last summer, we have worked to prevent it because there is a big risk that the military junta will have access to sensitive personal information and use it to persecute, torture, and kill regime critics. Incredibly, Telenor is going through with a sale that has been criticized by human rights experts, civil society, Myanmar’s government in exile, and even their own employees in the country,” says Kathrine Sund-Henriksen.
Telenor has admitted that since October last year they have known that the junta uses the M1 Group as an intermediary and that the data will soon end up in the hands of Shwe Byain Phy Group, a local conglomerate with close ties to the junta. Kathrine Sund-Henriksen believes it is only a matter of time before the sale has tragic consequences for human rights activists in the country.
“When metadata is transferred, the junta will be able to know who a user has called, how long the call has lasted, and where the call was made. All of this can be used to expose activist groups operating in secret for the junta. According to the UN, the junta has killed more than 1,600 people and more than 12,000 have been arrested since last year’s coup. Those numbers will continue to increase, and Telenor has given the junta all the information they need to expose human rights defenders,” Kathrine Sund-Henriksen says.