In light of Norway’s state-owned Telenor’s planned fire-sale of all operations in Burma, Rohingya refugees who pressured Norway to investigate Telenor’s involvement in atrocities at their village, say Telenor should now come clean about their role.
In 2020, the Norwegian government’s OECD contact point announced a formal investigation into whether Telenor had violated OECD guidelines by failing to perform due diligence before setting up a cellular network tower in the village of Alethankyaw in Northern Arakan. This would lay them open to complicity in the genocidal “clearance operations” which took place there.
The “Committee Seeking Justice for Alethankyaw” (CSJA), made up of local Rohingya villagers, have accused Burma government security forces of using the Telenor tower to shoot at Rohingya men, women and children fleeing from the village during the last week of August 2017. The high tower platform provided the Burmese forces with a unique strategic location to shoot at and terrorize Rohingya villagers over a wide radius in the sprawling village. It is also alleged that some of the over one hundred Alethankyaw residents killed during the operation were disposed of under the Telenor telecom tower.
With the announcement of Telenor’s planned sale of its subsidiary in Burma, the spokesperson for CSJA is concerned that Norway will now abandon the investigation as part of its efforts to cut its losses and flee justice in Burma.
“Rather than attempt to run and hide from its actions, Telenor should come clean and share all the details and evidence about their relations with the Burma Army and what happened at their Alethankyaw tower.” said Ramat Ullah, CSJA spokesperson.
The complaint under investigation alleges that Telenor was actively working together with the Burma Army for security and local intelligence for their telephone tower site. The complaint further details how Telenor was already aware of the Burma Army’s atrocities in Arakan State in 2016 and should have withdrawn its investments from the region instead of continuing the tower construction in 2017.
Since CSJA launched the complaint in 2019, Telenor has provided almost no internal information on the events at Alethankyaw other than the previously undisclosed name of the company they were leasing the tower from. This was revealed to be the Irrawaddy Green Towers company, the same company who Telenor has now said will purchase its entire Burmese telephone operations at a fraction of their original cost.
“Norway’s Telenor has a duty to divulge all the evidence they have before selling. By cooperating with us to seek justice, they can begin to repay their debt to our people for their collaboration in the genocide,” said Ramat Ullah.
At the time of writing, Norway has not yet made any public announcement about whether it will abandon the OECD Telenor investigation.