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29 Nov 2021

Jon Omund Revhaug, Telenor Myanmar

Telenor Myanmar's response

29 November 2021

Thank you for your email dated on 23 November and for the opportunity to provide further information on the challenging tower security situation in Myanmar.

In line with our commitment to keep the people of Myanmar connected, Telenor is focused on ensuring the safety, security and stability of essential telecommunications infrastructure. However, our top priority is, and will always be, people safety.

As reported by both local and international media, several telecommunications tower sites throughout the country have been fitted with anti-personnel landmines since September 2021. Landmines have been observed across sites of all mobile and tower operators. They occur both on sites hosting single operators, and those hosting multiple operators. We are concerned with the development and have raised the matter with the Myanmar telecoms regulator PTD, as well as with other mobile operators in the country to explore possible common actions to address the issue.

Landmines and other types of explosive devices put lives in peril. The mined tower sites pose serious safety threats – not just to our operations and maintenance staff, but to the thousands of people, including innocent civilians and children, who live around the affected areas. They also injure livestock and restrict access to farmlands that communities rely on for their livelihoods.

To mitigate the risks, Telenor Myanmar has developed a comprehensive multi-stakeholder tower security program in consultation with civil society mine specialists, UN organisations and security experts. We are also working closely with tower companies to help monitor emerging risks and promoting safety measures to protect local communities.

These measures include:

  • Requesting community leaders near mined sites to inform their communities to stay away from tower sites
  • Weekly SMS alerts to subscribers who live near unsafe telecom tower sites, advising them to stay away from tower sites
  • Free download of the mine risk education app “MRE Myanmar”, developed by UNICEF and DanChurchAid for the public to build awareness of land mines and how to spot them (link shared via SMS)
  • Engagement with civil society mine specialists to provide physical or online mine risk education to communities living near mined towers (where it is safe and feasible for them to do so)

Telenor Myanmar has suspended servicing on all suspected or confirmed mined sites to minimise safety risks for on-site network maintenance engineers and staff. This means that no refuelling or repair work will be done by any contractor on unsafe sites, which has already lead to some of these to stop operating. We have also provided mine awareness training through an external mine expert to relevant Telenor and vendor employees.

Telenor Myanmar is deeply concerned with the situation and have encouraged authorities to be transparent about which sites are mined as this poses unacceptable risk to operational staff and to communities living around tower sites. We are keeping PTD informed of our actions, which sites are deemed unsafe and which ones are out of production due to the ongoing situation. We will continue to engage with multiple stakeholders to work on reducing the human rights impact and promote safety measures.