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18 Oct 2021

46 CSOs & 18 individuals

Myanmar: 46 CSOs & 18 individuals urge KDDI & Sumitomo not to facilitate human rights abuses by military junta

"KDDI Group and Sumitomo Corporation: Do not facilitate human rights abuses by Burma’s illegitimate regime" 18 October 2021


We are writing to express alarm at reportsthat your business partner, State-owned telecommunications firm Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), has complied with orders from Burma’s illegitimate junta to install intercept technology at its data centres. We are deeply concerned that, given the total absence of legal safeguards, nothing prevents the regime from using MPT’s infrastructure to violate the right to privacy of its more than 27 million customers and subject them to further human rights abuses.

Since 2014, MPT has been running its telecommunications business under a joint operation agreement with KDDI Summit Global Myanmar Co., Ltd. (KSGM), a subsidiary of a Singapore-based joint venture of your two companies. Both KDDI and Sumitomo pledged a USD 2 billion investment over ten years. KSGM now leases telecommunication equipment and provides technical and project operation support to MPT, as well as training for MPT staff.

Given KDDI's and Sumitomo's stake in and power over the joint operation, you carry responsibility for the human rights impacts caused by MPT’s activities. We are deeply concerned by your seemingly weak response to and overall lack of transparency regarding reports that MPT had made preparations to collaborate with the regime’s surveillance efforts. Even more worrisome is the fact that Sumitomo and KDDI continue to do business with a company that is now fully controlled by the junta, thus enabling the regime to generate sizable profits to fund its nationwide campaign of terror against the people of Burma.


On 29 September 2021, KDDI and Sumitomo expressed deep concern about the situation in Burma regarding “lawful interception”, noting however that KSGM was “not subject to direct instructions from the regulatory authority with regard to interception.” Your companies stated that they had requested MPT “to ensure that proper process is secured for each individual case so that the basic human rights of the people of Myanmar are not negatively affected and that tangible and intangible assets provided by KSGM are not used in situations that violate” KDDI’s and Sumitomo’s human rights policy.

Such a half measure will do little to protect the rights of MPT’s customers. The regime has made it clear that it will use every means at its disposal to crack down on dissent; and it is now in full control of both MPT and the country’s judiciary. Under these circumstances, mere requests for “proper process” are not even a bare minimum, and certainly cannot be qualified as an appropriate response.


We also strongly condemn both your firms for signaling that you had no plans to stop your business relationship with junta-controlled MPT, under the pretense that your “actions are exerting positive effects from the perspective of providing technical and marketing support for the country’s communication service, which is an essential element of its people’s lives and economic activities, as well as of respecting human rights.” Such a position is inconsistent with the principles you claim to abide by and could amount to complicity in the junta's atrocity crimes.

We therefore urge KDDI Group and Sumitomo Corporation to withdraw from the joint operation agreement with MPT and cease all business activities with junta-controlled or any State-owned companies. Should your firms fail to take these steps, you should, at the very least:

1. Disclose the steps you have taken to heighten your due diligence mechanisms in light of the increased risk of gross human rights violations since the coup;

2. Engage in heightened human rights due diligence, incorporating tools from atrocity prevention, to assess whether MPT’s infrastructure, KSGM assets or profits from the joint operation are being used to crack down on dissent and commit gross human rights violations;

3. Make the findings of your investigation public and take the appropriate measures to protect the rights of MPT’s customers