The Minister says that what is happening in Myanmar is very appalling.
Parliamentary representatives Himanshu Gulati (Frp) and Sivert Bjørnstad (Frp) presented this week Every question is written to Trade and Industry Minister Iselin Nybø (V) and asked her to come to the field. The case concerns the controversial sale of Telenor’s Myanmar operations to the notorious M1 Group.
Trade and Industry Minister Islin Nybo confirmed to Nettavisen that the ministry has held several meetings with Telenor about the situation in Myanmar.
– What is happening in Myanmar is very terrible. The situation is a stark example of the dilemmas that can arise from operating in markets such as Myanmar. The optimism brought by Telenor’s entry into Myanmar has now been replaced by a very difficult situation for Telenor customers and subcontractors in Myanmar, local employees and Telenor, Nybø writes in an email to Nettavisen.
Telenor received heavy criticism from several quarters after the company decided to sell its Myanmar business this summer. Telenor Myanmar was sold for NOK 900 million to the controversial blacklisted company M1 Group, which is allegedly collaborating with Myanmar’s military junta.
– A challenge to the public debate
Activists fear sensitive user data about Telenor customers in Myanmar will be handed over to the junta once the sale gets regulatory approval from Myanmar authorities. Only then will Telenor user data in Myanmar be made available to the new disputed owners. Critical voices claim that Telenor has already handed over user data about its customers to the military council, but Telenor cannot confirm or deny this.
In extreme situations necessitated by a military coup, it may be difficult to use normal business considerations. Telenor also stresses that it is difficult for public discussion that the company is still unable to share all the information for the safety of its employees, says Nybø.
As the owner, we have clear expectations for companies to work with responsible business, which also applies to human rights. Since February, we’ve had several meetings with Telenor’s chairman and management about the situation in Myanmar, and we’ve been concerned that the company is making comprehensive assessments of very difficult issues, says the minister.
– Telenor states that the company cannot operate under a system of governance that violates the company’s values and this means that the company will violate the Norwegian and European sanctions rules. These are assessments that are the responsibility of Telenor’s board and management, and it is also the company that can explain the considerations made in this very difficult situation, she says.
The Norwegian state is the main shareholder in Telenor with an ownership stake of 53.97 percent, according to Telenors. Annual Report 2020. The Ministry of Trade and Industry together with Responsible Minister Iselin Nybø (V) manage this property.
– Sensitive teledata data has been shared
Htin Lin Aung previously served as Minister of Communications, Information and Technology in Myanmar’s elected unity government before the military coup on 1 February this year. He’s the one making the latest accusations against Telenor.
Unfortunately, we have indications that sensitive information has been shared with the corrupt extremists behind the coup in Myanmar. We also have reason to believe that arrests were made as a result. Htin Lin Aung said in a statement that 7,000 people have been arrested so far.
About a thousand people have been killed since the army seized power just six months ago.
I am now urging Telenor to disclose to the public whether this type of data has been shared with extremists. It concludes that people and their clients should have a right to know and be able to take precautions.
Telenor will neither refuse nor confirm it
The online newspaper Telenor has confronted with the latest allegations, but the company will not deny or confirm whether user data has actually fallen into the hands of the junta.
At Telenor, we want to be as open as possible in any situation and share information about government orders in Myanmar until February 14 this year. After that, we can no longer share such information for the safety of our employees, Telenor’s Director of Information, Tormod Sandstø, wrote in an email to Nettavisen.
The Myanmar military is known to demand that Telenor operate surveillance equipment that is subject to sanctions in Norway and the European Union. It would be a violation of our values and unacceptable to us. So the situation makes it impossible for us to stay in the country, which is why we decided to sell the company. Sandstowe writes that the sale is now awaiting regulatory approval.
It is currently unknown when regulatory approval will be available. Until then, Telenor runs the company and relies on user data for its 18 million subscribers in Myanmar.
Experts who spoke to Nettavisen before say the junta could misuse Telenor Myanmar’s mobile data in a small way Network and movement map to critics of the regime, thus unleashing the entire opposition and endangering human lives.
Handles complaints against Telenor
On Monday this week, it was also announced that the OECD Contact Point in Norway will address a complaint about the sale of Telenor in Myanmar.
It was SOMO (The Research Center for Multinational Corporations) who, on behalf of 474 civil society organizations in Myanmar, filed a complaint against Telenor to the Contact Point for Responsible Business in July.
– 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 potential mediation to find a solution to the issues raised. The head of the Norwegian OECD’s contact point for responsible business, Frode Elgesem, said it was unclear what he would provide to Internet newspaper on Monday.
The Norwegian OECD Contact for Responsible Business writes that “complainants claim that Telenor did not act in accordance with OECD guidelines for multinational corporations regarding risk-based due diligence assessments, dialogue with stakeholders and transparency regarding relating to Telenor’s withdrawal from Myanmar.”
Claims have been made in the media that the sale is on hold while the complaint is being processed, but depending on what Nettavisen is facing, the company will be transferred to the new owner as soon as regulatory approval is available.
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