Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment condemns the sale of Telenor Myanmar

Former Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland visiting Myanmar in 2014. Photo: Trond Viken, Ministry of Trade and Industry

Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment condemns the sale of Telenor Myanmar

This is a dark day for Telenor, and for Norway as a human rights nation, says executive director Kathrine Sund-Henriksen.

Friday morning, Telenor announced the transfer of operational activities of Telenor Myanmar to the M1 Group. This includes the sale of sensitive data on the 18 million Telenor customers in the country, which constitutes a great risk of the data falling in the hands of Myanmar’s brutal military regime. Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM) is outraged by the news that the sale has been completed.

- We have been working to stop this sale since it was announced last summer, because of the grave risk that the sale could lead to the junta getting access to sensitive information that can be used to persecute, torture and ultimately kill critics of the regime. It is unfathomable that Telenor have gone through with this sale, despite heavy criticism from human rights experts, civil society, Myanmar’s exile government and even their own employees in Myanmar, says Sund-Henriksen.

Close ties to the military junta

Telenor recently confirmed that they have known since October 2021 that the junta would use the M1 Group as middlemen, and that the majority of the company will be sold on to the local Shwe Byain Phyu Group, a conglomerate with close ties to the junta. Sund-Henriksen believes it is only a matter of time before the sale of Telenor Myanmar leads to tragic consequences for human rights activists in the country.

- When metadata are transferred, the junta will be able to know who a user has called, when and where the conversation was made and for how long. This information can be used by the junta to uncover activist groups which now operate in secrecy from the government, due to the risk to their lives. The UN has reported that the junta has killed more than 1 600 and arrested more than 12 000 people since the coup last year. These numbers will only increase, and Telenor has given the junta all the information they need to find and arrest human rights defenders, says Sund-Henriksen.

Demands that Parliament gets involved

Earlier this week, the Socialist Left Party requested that Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Jan Christian Vestre of the Labour Party, meet in the Norwegian Parliament to inform on the sale. ForUM is now calling for more parties to support the request, and believes it is important that all information regarding the sale is made public as soon as possible.

- It is vital that the Parliament now gets to know all details about this sale, and what the Ministry has done to prevent the sale. As the majority owner in Telenor, the Norwegian state will be responsible if the sale leads to human rights violations, and that is something the Parliament needs to consider with the utmost importance. This must have consequences, both for Telenor and for how the Norwegian state operates its ownership in companies, says Sund-Henriksen.

For more information, contact:

Bilde av Kathrine Sund-Henriksen

Kathrine Sund-Henriksen

Secretary General
Contact for: all ForUM policy, organization, press statements
+47 411 05 167