Telecoms tower sites mined by Myanmar military
5 November 2021
Since September, the Myanmar military has laid landmines at telecommunications towers owned by or leased to mobile operators including Telenor, Myanmar Now has learned.
Myanmar Now contacted multiple telecoms providers—MPT, Ooredoo and Telenor—with requests for comment on the allegations that the Myanmar military had laid landmines around their towers as well, or towers owned by third-party companies and leased to them. Only Telenor confirmed the presence of mines.
A Telenor spokesperson said the practice appeared to happen “indiscriminately across mobile and tower operators.”
“... several sites have been fitted with anti-personnel mines,” the individual told Myanmar Now in an email.
“Telenor Myanmar is gravely concerned with these practices, as they represent a severe people safety challenge for operations and maintenance staff, and for the communities living around tower sites,” the spokesperson explained.
Telenor has put in place a tower security program, which involves sending text message notifications to Telenor subscribers who live near dangerous towers, warning them to stay away from telecoms infrastructure. The company has also stopped servicing unsafe sites.
Japanese companies KDDI and the Sumitomo Corporation, who jointly operate state-owned mobile operator MPT, both responded that they had not heard of any mines being laid at MPT towers.
“We will continue our efforts to maintain the social infrastructure giving top priority to the safety of all concerned,” Sachiko Oda of KDDI said.
However, Myanmar Now has learned that MPT and Ooredoo towers have also been mined.
Ooredoo, a Myanmar telecoms provider majority-owned by the Qatari government, was among the companies who did not respond to a request for comment. A Nokia spokesperson confirmed that the company provides radio equipment that is fitted on Ooredoo towers and referred to Ooredoo for further questions.
Tower companies Irrawaddy Green Towers, Apollo, OCK and edotco also did not respond to requests for comment on the mining of tower sites.
At the time of publication, Myanmar Now could not find any published warnings or details of mined sites on the websites of mobile operators or tower companies.