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- Very ugly scratch in the paint - E24

– Very ugly scratch in the paint – E24

Buyers of Telenor’s Myanmar operations must have financial ties to the junta, as the official letter of complaint shows. Several hundred civil law organizations support the complaint against the Norwegian telecom giant.

Fail: Telenor has failed local people in Myanmar, according to 474 volunteer organizations. The company’s new owner, L1 Group, will have close ties to the military council.

Heiko Jong/NTP Scanpix


Telenor was recently sold from Myanmar due to the situation in the conflict-ridden country. Shortly thereafter, hundreds of civil law organizations took a hard line against the Norwegian company, calling the Lebanese buyer M1 Group “corrupt”.

The M1 group must have “financed the atrocities”, and the family behind the group must have been “mired in corruption”. Moreover, it was emphasized that the group should have close relations with various dictators, according to Post by Justice for Myanmar. The message at the time was supported by 462 civil law organizations, but the number has now increased.

It now appears that as many as 474 civil law organizations have complained to Telenor to the Norwegian Contact Point (NCP) in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), displays a list that E24 has accessed.

The point of contact has no legal authority, but it can determine if a company has violated OECD guidelines.

He described himself as democratization

Diego Alexander Voss, expert advisor at the Forum for Development and Environment, interacts and believes that Telenor “provided a glimpse into its contribution to the process of democratization that has occurred in Myanmar”.

– We believe it is extremely dangerous for a Norwegian state-owned company to violate OECD guidelines and undermine Telenor’s reputation in Myanmar that they now exist Two cases where they were accused of violating the guidelines. Voss tells E24 that it would be a very ugly scratch in the paint if they were now found to be breaking the OECD accountability framework.

He also adds that “the sale could also contribute to the weakening of Norway’s reputation in the country.”

Telenor is aware of the complaint and has been presented with data from Foss.

– We can confirm that Telenor ASA has received information from the OECD National Contact Point in Norway that it has received a complaint. Telenor will respond to the National Focal Point in accordance with NCP procedures and accordingly maintain the confidentiality of case processing, Telenor’s Director of Information Tormod Sandstø tells E24.

Reply: Diego Alexander Voss, expert advisor at the Development and Environment Forum, believes that Telenor has now dented its reputation in Myanmar.

Development and Environment Forum


The complaint specifically points out the following three factors that merit Telenor’s criticism:

  • A satisfactory risk-based company review of the M1 should not be undertaken prior to the sale, which could have ripple effects on the local population already suffering from human rights abuses.
  • Telenor has not entered into a “meaningful dialogue” with relevant interest groups regarding the sale of M1, which includes Myanmar civil law organizations that support this complaint.
  • Telenor was not open enough about the process before the sale from Myanmar.

The complaint notes that Telenor risks contributing to further human rights abuses in the conflict-ridden country by selling to an army-friendly company, at the same time that the privacy of the country’s residents may be at risk.

“Unfortunately, I’m not surprised that Telenor has now complained about this issue, surprisingly how quickly Telenor sold out,” Voss says.

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All options have been considered

Telenor claimed in a statement that it was “extremely concerned about the situation in Myanmar” and emphasized that the sale was a difficult decision.

Since before entering Myanmar, we have maintained contact and dialogue with a wide range of local and international civil society organisations. This connection has always been central to how Telenor operates in Myanmar, especially after February 1, says Sandstø at Telenor.

Furthermore, Telenor is said to have faced dilemmas as employee safety and local legal provisions were “challenging the premises on how to do business”.

The decision to leave Myanmar does not depend on business or financial results. Our commitment to operating in accordance with our values ​​and principles of responsible business operations is the reason why we believe this sale is the best possible solution in this situation, the company says.

The telecom giant asserts that it is “obligated to follow OECD guidelines,” and notes that because this type of transaction for listed companies is considered confidential, the sale could not have been reported before the July 8 announcement.

The M1 group did not respond to E24’s inquiries, but commented financial timesA representative referred to the accusations as “racist and discriminatory.”

CEO Sigve Brekke called it a “sad day” when Telenor announced the sale from Myanmar on July 8.

Müller line / VG

unknown organizations

It’s SOMO, a think tank focused on multinational companies, which Telenor is complaining to the OECD on behalf of the various organizations. The complaint states that the organizations must remain anonymous due to “extremism.” Human rights violations committed by the Myanmar Military Council. E24 has seen the list of organizations behind the complaint.

SOMO is an independent voluntary organization registered in the Netherlands and focuses on the impact of multinational companies on people and the environment, while M1 Group is a Lebanese investment company controlled by the Mikati family.

The complaint asserts that Investcom Holdings, a telecommunications company formerly owned by the Mikati family, operates as a mobile operator in Yemen, Syria, and Libya as well as Sudan under «Genocide in Darfur». It sold M1 Investcom to Johannesburg-listed MTN Group in 2006, but last year one of the group’s subsidiaries was the company’s second largest shareholder with an ownership stake of 6.44 percent, according to the official complaint letter.

– It may seem that you sold for the first and best offer, and more dangerous than that is that the sale took place without dialogue with civil society, and without transparency about due diligence assessments, as Voss believes.

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Takes a hard stand against Telenor sales: – mired in corruption

The buyer is on the worst list

M1 Group will have financial ties to Myanmar and has previously invested in the country, Justice for Myanmar writes on its website. According to one UN report As of 2019, the group is one of the companies with which the Myanmar military has financial interests via Mytel. British Burma Committee It also put the M1 group on the “dirty list” of companies collaborating with the military.

“It’s a very sad day, not only for Telenor now that we’re leaving the country, but also sad to see what’s going on in Myanmar,” he said. CEO E24 Aftermarket.

According to Brick, the increasingly difficult conditions in the country made selling inevitable. Among other things, the military council must have ordered Telenor to hand over user data, as well as install software to customers following instructions from the military regime, according to the online newspaper. new Arabic.

Justice for Myanmar noted in its memo shortly after the sale that the problem was not the sale itself, but that the buyer’s choice represented “another nail in the coffin of freedom of expression and privacy in Myanmar”.

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