Norwegian OECD contact point will process complaint over Telenor’s sale in Myanmar

A new chapter in the Telenor Myanmar saga emerge

The Norwegian company Telenor’s decision to sell its Myanmar branch to the blacklisted M1 Group company has been under heavy fire since it was announced. The sale is believed to endanger the people of Myanmar’s access to communication without being surveyed by the Junta. This led critical voices to say that Telenor didn’t consider how the sale would be a step back for human rights in the country.

Now it seems the stakes are being raised as The Research Center on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) recently, on behalf of 474 civil society organizations in Myanmar, filed a complaint against Telenor to the Contact Point for Responsible Business in Norway, which promotes OECD guidelines for multinational companies, ModularPhonesForum writes. The complaint alleges that Telenor did not act under the OECD guidelines for multinational corporations regarding risk-based due diligence assessments, stakeholder dialogue, and transparency regarding Telenor’s withdrawal from Myanmar.

The Norwegian Contact Point for Responsible Business has now chosen to process the complaint.

“It just means that we will process the complaint provided by SOMO. This is not a legal process. This is a process related to the OECD Guidelines for Responsible Business, in which the two parties initially meet for dialogue or possible mediation to find a solution to the issues raised. We will deal with this issue throughout the fall. That all we say now,” Head of OECD’s Norwegian Contact Point for Responsible Business, Frode Elgesem, explains to Nettavisen.

SOMO’s chief researcher, Joseph Wild Ramsingh, says that its representatives will meet with both Telenor and Norwegian OECD’s contact point on Monday. He believes that the OECD process can increase pressure on Telenor and weaken its reputation.

“I think the immediate consequences will be increased pressure from the Norwegian government and other shareholders against Telenor, and that Telenor will reconsider its approach to selling. I also think this could have consequences for Telenor’s reputation,” Joseph Wild Ramsingh, tells Nettavisen.

Joseph hopes that the meetings will ultimately lead to a stop of the sale of Telenor’s Myanmar business.

An important point in the critique is the fact that the majority of Telenor’s ownership is with the Norwegian state. Norway should be more committed to its responsibility of supporting human rights, according to the critical voices. 

“Norway has historically been a major supporter of human rights, and I expect the government to actively use its larger share of the stock to ensure that Telenor Group operates ethically and in line with international principles of responsible business,” Joseph Wild Ramsingh says.

Telenor begs to differ.

Telenor has previously said that the company does not agree with the criticism made in the complaint however they do acknowledge that the situation in Myanmar is very serious.

“We share the organizations’ concerns about the grave situation the country is in and support the OECD point of contact with facts and clarifications,” Telenor’s Director of Information, Tormod Sandstø, says.

About Lasse Sandholdt

ScandAsia Journalist • Scandinavian Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Lasse Sandholdt

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