Last week, Norway’s Telenor said in a press release that the telecom giant’s continued presence in Myanmar is not possible while giving more background for the company’s decision to sell its Myanmar business. The statement from Telenor reads:
Since Telenor announced the sale of Telenor Myanmar Ltd. to M1 Group, an increasing number of voices among stakeholders in Myanmar and abroad have been calling for Telenor to remain in Myanmar due to our demonstrated commitments to human rights, responsible business, and international best practices.
Telenor shares these concerns and has made all possible efforts to stay in Myanmar. We remain committed to complying with the OECD’s guidelines for multinational companies, as well as the UN’s guiding principles for business and human rights. This also corresponds well with our own values and standards.
We did however arrive at the sad conclusion that it is no longer possible to adhere to these principles, keep our employees safe and at the same time remain as an operator in Myanmar. This makes our continued presence in Myanmar untenable. As Telenor now has started the process for regulatory approval of the sale in Myanmar, it is the right time to give more background for our decision.
It has become clear to us that our continued presence would require Telenor Myanmar to activate intercept equipment (for the use of Myanmar authorities) which is subject to Norwegian and international sanctions. Activation of such equipment is therefore unacceptable for Telenor Group. Furthermore, as a legal and regulatory framework that safeguards our customers and adheres to fundamental human rights and international laws is not in place in Myanmar now, operating such equipment in this situation would constitute a breach of our values and standards as a company.
Ultimately, this conflict between local and international law and human rights principles makes a continued presence in Myanmar impossible for Telenor Group.
Having worked actively to avoid activation of intercept equipment, Telenor Myanmar Ltd. has until now not activated this equipment and will not do so voluntarily. Due to well-funded concern for the safety of our employees, we will unfortunately not be able to comment further on the government directive to implement intercept equipment beyond today’s update.
Telenor is deeply concerned and saddened by the deteriorating human rights and security situation caused by the military takeover, especially for the people of Myanmar. For Telenor, it is crucial to maintain our international commitments and legal obligations and act in accordance with our values and human rights, no matter where we operate.
Despite our efforts to remain, Telenor Group can no longer continue to operate in Myanmar. We believe a sale is the least detrimental solution for the Myanmar society, as it will maintain the connectivity of our 18 million subscribers as well as critical services such as banks and hospitals, and ensure continued employment for our staff and broader value chain in a difficult time. Our efforts are now focused on obtaining regulatory approvals for the sale of Telenor Myanmar Ltd.