Directives from authorities in Myanmar – February-September 2021

On Monday 1 February, a state of emergency was declared under military leadership in Myanmar. The situation in Myanmar is irregular and uncertain, and the authorities are establishing procedures for issuing directives towards operators. Telenor handles these according to its defined processes for authority directives. At Telenor we remain committed to our principle of transparency and we will publish information regarding authority directives on this page.

Update 15.09.21: On 15 September, Telenor Group provided an update about the situation in Myanmar related to sanctions and surveillance.
As Telenor now has started the process for regulatory approval of the sale in Myanmar, it is a right time to give more background for our decision. It has become clear to us that our continued presence would require Telenor Myanmar to activate intercept equipment (for the use of Myanmar authorities) which is subject to Norwegian and international sanctions. Activation of such equipment is therefore unacceptable for Telenor Group. The full statement can be found on this link.

Update 28.07.21: On July 8, Telenor announced the sale of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Group. Due to heightened public interest in data privacy issues related to the sale of Telenor Myanmar and the wish for transparency and openness, Telenor provides the following update:

Telenor Myanmar has since its inception operated its telecommunication services in accordance with the relevant regulatory and licence obligations. The regulatory compliance also pertains to storing what is known as call data records. Call data records are the metadata generated as a result of communications using the telecom network, such as parties to the communications, time of and duration of the communication and from which tower or base station it is transmitted.

This data generated through the use of telecommunications services is a prerequisite for all mobile operators and is used for service provisioning, billing of customers and other telecom operators, product offering, quality monitoring and for operators to provide customer care services to its customers. Therefore, this data is required to provide any form of connectivity services. In all markets where Telenor Group has operations, these records are to be stored in accordance with local regulations, including in Myanmar.

Telenor Myanmar stores this data in accordance with local laws and licence obligations. This historical data does not contain any information on content of the communication, and neither Telenor Myanmar nor Telenor Group have any records of what has been said in a call or written or received in messages or emails.

Human rights impacts including data privacy have been key considerations leading up to the decision to sell Telenor Myanmar, alongside employee safety. We have thoroughly evaluated all options and believe a sale of the company is the best possible solution in this situation.

As part of the sales process, once the regulatory approval is received, ownership of Telenor Myanmar as an operating company will be transferred to M1 Group. The company will continue to keep its call data records to allow continued operations and avoid disruption of services for customers.

Update 08.07.21: On 8 July, Telenor Group announced an agreement to sell 100 percent of its mobile operations in Myanmar to M1 Group for a total consideration of 105 million USD (approximately 900 million NOK), of which 55 million USD (approximately 470 million NOK) is a deferred payment over five years. The transaction corresponds to an implied enterprise value of approximately 600 million USD (approximately 5.2 billion NOK). M1 Group will acquire all the shares in Telenor Myanmar and continue the current operation. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals in Myanmar. The full announcement can be found on this link.

Challenges and dilemmas in Myanmar

Under the current circumstances, Telenor faces several dilemmas in Myanmar. We entered Myanmar in 2013 with a clear ambition to support the country in its progress towards democracy and economic development. The recent events represent a set-back for the country’s path to reform. Access to telecom services is essential for people to exercise their basic right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to gain information. These services are also critical in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and for economic opportunities. When following authority orders in these irregular times, we know it has negative impact on human rights in Myanmar. We are working to minimise this impact, and Telenor continues to emphasise to the authorities that access to telecom services should be maintained at all times.

Keeping the network open and adhering to our established process continues to be important

Keeping open communication lines for the people in Myanmar is important, and Telenor continues to follow its established global process for handling authority directives. Each directive is assessed for legal basis, human rights impact, necessity and proportionality and our ability to be transparent.

As a local employer, Telenor Myanmar needs to handle a difficult situation and ensure the safety and security of employees on the ground during this state of emergency. Our ambition is to continue to take action, and to keep the local and global community informed. Telenor is deeply concerned with events in Myanmar and continues to assess the situation on ground.

Nationwide network status* in Myanmar:

Fixed Wireless and Mobile internet unavailable. Fixed and Enterprise services running as normal.

Voice and SMS services are available.

*Selected services are available via fixed and mobile internet. Technical issues might still occur and will not be reported here.

 

Orders and directives received in the period after 1 February 2021:

Update 15.04.21: It is now a month since the Myanmar authorities ordered a nationwide mobile internet shutdown. The continued internet restrictions have severely impacted the people of Myanmar who rely on the internet for staying connected and informed, and is a lifeline to much needed services such as healthcare and banking for millions of people. The prolonged mobile internet shutdown is also detrimental to the country’s economy and businesses. Telenor Group welcomes and supports the Nordic Embassies in Myanmar’s call for the authorities to immediately reinstate access to the internet, as well as halting all violence and respecting people’s human rights of freedom of assembly and expression.

Update 17.03.21: On 15 March, the mobile data network became unavailable in Myanmar. Telenor has protested this development to the telecom regulator in Myanmar, and maintains that the network should be kept open at all times so that people can stay connected, and to ensure people’s basic rights of freedom of expression and opinion.

Update 01.03.21: Referencing our last update, Telenor wants to be transparent about the directives we receive from the authorities, and we had published all of them up until 14 February. We continue to operate in an unpredictable situation in Myanmar and based on a holistic evaluation where we have to balance our principle of transparency with the safety of our employees, it is still not possible for Telenor to disclose the directives. We recognise the impact this has on the local and international community’s ability to receive information and we regret that this currently continues. Our process for handling authority directives includes requiring a written order, and assessing each individual directive based on legal basis, necessity, proportionality and human rights impact. This remains unchanged. You can read more about Telenor’s global process for handling directives from the authorities here.

Update 14.2.21: It is currently not possible for Telenor to disclose the directives we receive from the authorities. We are gravely concerned with this development and recognise the impact this has on the local and international community’s ability to receive information. We deeply regret that the list on this site will no longer be updated.

 

Date Directive/activity Status
14.02.2021 Directive to temporarily (but open ended) block IP addresses and URLs Active
13.02.2021
Directive to temporarily (but open ended) block IP addresses Active
12.02.2021 Directive on temporary (but open ended) targeted blocking of access to service Active
12.02.2021 Directive to temporarily (but open ended) block IP addresses Active
11.02.2021 Directive to temporarily (but open ended) block IP addresses and URLs Active
10.02.2021 Directive to temporarily (but open ended) block IP addresses Active
09.02.2021 Directive to temporarily (but open ended) block IP addresses Active
06.02.2021 Directive to temporarily shut down data network
(statement)
Restored – 07.02.2021
05.02.2021 Directive to block social media services Twitter and Instagram, until further notice (statement) Active
04.02.2021 Directive to temporarily block social media service Facebook (statement) Active
03.02.2021 Directive to restore 3G and 4G data network in eight townships in Rakhine/Chin state (statement) Restored – 03.02.2021
01.02.2021 Forced nationwide network shutdown (statement issued on situation in Myanmar) Restored – 01.02.2021

Read more about Telenor’s work with human rights in Myanmar