Telenor’s Exit from Myanmar - A Cautionary Tale for the Just Transition
26 September 2021
Telenor’s justifications for its exit from Myanmar included the deteriorating situation in the country and the increasingly challenging security, regulatory and compliance context. The military junta has forced telecommunications providers – including Telenor Myanmar – to install intercept spyware, giving them the power to listen in on calls, view text messages and emails, as well as track the location of users without the assistance of telecommunications and internet companies. However, Telenor selling its telecoms business to M1 Group has given rise to serious concerns that Telenor’s former telecommunications infrastructure will now be used to support violations of the right to privacy, with no effort to protect customers. Underscoring its lack of respect for international standards for human rights and meaningful engagement with stakeholders, M1 Group’s Executive Director has called civil society’s concerns about potential negative human rights violations “completely irrelevant”.
[...] Telenor should urgently seek to find a more responsible buyer. If this is not possible, Telenor should at the very least not profit from the sale, and should donate any proceeds to the Myanmar strike fund. Telenor should seek to protect its employees and user data, even if this means losing money. In line with its responsibility to prevent and remediate adverse human rights impacts from its disengagement, Telenor should also establish a fund to assist (former) customers who may be targeted by the regime using Telenor’s user data.