Telenor’s sale of its Myanmar business has received a lot of criticism from all over the world and critics are mostly concerned about the military junta getting hold of Telenor Myanmar’s user data and using that to pursue opposition figures in the country.
Nettavisen writes that earlier this week, Trond Blindheim, lecturer and reputation expert at Kristiania University College in Norway accused Telenor of having “a different moral code than most people” and further suggested that the company seemed to have “lost its moral vision”.
Responding to the criticism, Communications director of Telenor Group, Gry Rohde Nordhus writes in an email to Nettavisen that Telenor understands that many are concerned about this sale, and they share the concerns about the extraordinary situation in Myanmar.
“The military has taken over power and there are war conditions in the country. No telecom company in the country, regardless of owner, can over time maintain international standards under these circumstances. This is serious for all mobile customers in Myanmar and the responsibility for this lies with the authorities,” Gry Rohde Nordhus says.
Telenor is undoubtedly in bad weather and criticism comes from all sides. Amongst others, International law expert Hanne Sofie Greve has said that Telenor may risk contributing to crimes against humanity. Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has suggested that Telenor should reconsider the sale while he also believes that the Norwegian authorities, as the majority owner, also bear responsibility for the consequences of the sale.
Human Rights Watch has also previously stated that Norway’s Storting should initiate an investigation of the entire sales process. And more than 400 civil law organizations in Myanmar have also complained to Telenor at the OECD’s contact point in Norway.
Telenor, however, stands by previous statements that sales are the least disadvantageous solution and that there is no solution without negative consequences.
“For Telenor, the military takeover has put us in a position where we have no choice but to leave the country. After thorough assessments, we concluded that the safest way to do this is to sell the business. There is currently no solution without negative consequences. Some players have said they understand that we have to leave the country, but have asked us to close the operation and delete data. We can not do this without exposing our employees to significant danger – it can have unacceptable consequences if we do not respond to direct orders or local law,” Gry Rohde Nordhus says.