Myanmar rights groups complain to OECD over Telenor sale

Myanmar updates

Myanmar-based rights teams have submitted a criticism to the OECD in opposition to Telenor after the Norwegian state-owned telecoms firm offered its enterprise within the conflict-torn south-east Asian nation to a Lebanese funding agency.

The teams alleged that Telenor “irresponsibly disengaged from its Myanmar operations” and did not act in accordance with OECD and UN rules on enterprise and human rights when it offered its native enterprise to M1 Group, which was based by Lebanon’s new prime minister-designate, for $105m this month. The transaction got here amid widespread dysfunction within the nation following a navy coup in February.

“Telenor has did not conduct acceptable risk-based due diligence and has failed to hunt to forestall or mitigate adversarial human rights impacts to its prospects probably arising from the sale of its Myanmar operations,” the teams stated in a criticism to Norway’s nationwide contact level beneath the OECD’s pointers for multinational enterprises. “Telenor [also] failed to have interaction with related stakeholders in relation to the sale of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group.”

The 474 civil society organisations that endorsed the criticism have remained nameless due to what they known as “excessive rights abuses” by Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s junta because it toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s authorities. The Amsterdam-based Centre for Analysis on Multinational Firms, a non-profit group, submitted it on their behalf. 

Of the telecoms firms working in Myanmar, Telenor was typically thought to be probably the most dedicated to transparency and human rights within the run-up to the coup and afterwards. Telenor revealed junta calls for to interrupt companies or block entry to content material earlier than being ordered by the regime to cease doing so. 

As violence in opposition to protesters escalated and Telenor’s staff got here beneath menace, the Norwegian group felt its place was not tenable. Sigve Brekke, chief govt, acknowledged that the scenario within the nation had change into “more and more difficult for Telenor for folks safety, regulatory and compliance causes” when it introduced the sale this month. 

Telenor wrote off the complete $782m worth of its funding in Could.

Human rights teams, journalists, and others have voiced issues that the enterprise’s new house owners is perhaps much less vigilant in resisting censorship and defending prospects’ information.

“Telenor’s resolution to exit is a giant disappointment to these in Myanmar who care about digital rights and accountable enterprise practises,” stated Vicky Bowman, director of the Myanmar Centre for Accountable Enterprise. “Earlier than it took the choice, it didn’t interact with its Myanmar customers to search out out their views.” 

In Myanmar, junta forces have arrested nearly 7,000 folks and killed greater than 900 for the reason that coup, in response to the Help Affiliation for Political Prisoners, a number one human rights group.

M1, a sprawling conglomerate based by billionaire Najib Mikati and his brother Taha, has “a file of conducting enterprise in nations working beneath authoritarian regimes”, in response to the rights teams that submitted the criticism to the OECD. M1 has operated cell networks in Yemen, Syria, Liberia, and Sudan. 

Mikati was Lebanon’s prime minister in 2005 and once more from 2011-14. He’s set to carry Lebanon’s high workplace as soon as extra after members of parliament voted on Monday to nominate him prime minister-designate.

Joe Issa-el-Khoury, an adviser to M1, stated the issues in regards to the Lebanese firm had been “racist and discriminatory”, and that it had by no means “jeopardise[d] its ethics with regards to human rights points”. Requested how M1 would cope with any calls for from Myanmar’s junta, Issa-el-Khoury stated: “Let’s not get anguished by anticipation and let’s wait to see what the authorities may require.”

“The folks of Myanmar could be left with two choices” following Telenor’s withdrawal, he added. “Both there’s a bunch coming from the Center East that’s ready to take dangers . . . or it’s the federal government who’s going to take over.”

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