Press release 21, December 2018

Norway must take action over atrocities uncovered at 
Telenor tower in Alethankyaw

On November 22, 2018, the Rohingya news agency Kaladan Press Network released a report “the Killing Fields of Alethankyaw,” which exposed atrocities by Burmese government security forces at the Telenor telecommunication tower premises in Alethankyaw village, southern Maungdaw, in August 2017. Snipers climbed the tower to shoot at fleeing men, women and children, and villagers’ bodies were deposited under the tower. 

On November 29, 2018, Telenor responded to the report with a statement on its website, saying they were “initiating dialogue with relevant authorities to express our concern and seek further facts on the matter.” 

Since then, there has been no further public statement from Telenor. We are very concerned that Telenor will take no further action, and will simply sweep the issue under the carpet. 

Telenor’s statement already indicates an attempt to absolve themselves of responsibility for the atrocities committed on their premises – saying their personnel were not present in Alethankyaw at the time, and that entry into their premises for such purposes was “illegal”.
These arguments are not viable. Rohingya workers employed to build the tower were there before and during August 2017, and themselves fled from the atrocities committed there. Telenor knew full well the risks of expanding into northern Rakhine in partnership with state authorities carrying out systematic persecution of the Rohingya, irrespective of “legality.”   

Telenor even profited opportunistically from local prejudice against Muslims, by stepping in to set up telecommunication towers when Rakhine Buddhists rejected investment by their rival Ooredoo.

Telenor’s indifference to the fate of the Rohingya is made clear by the fact they went ahead and began operation of their tower last March in Alethankyaw, a mere seven months after the genocidal slaughter of Muslims by security forces in August 2017 – literally carrying on “business as usual” over the bones of the Rohingya. 

Even in their response to the Kaladan Press report, Telenor cannot bring themselves to use the word “Rohingya” – clearly fearful of impacting their business relationship with the Burmese authorities. 

The most disturbing factor in all this is that Telenor is majority-owned by the Norwegian government. Their callous, business-at-all-costs behavior is a direct reflection of current Norwegian policy to Burma. 

Once respected as a staunch supporter of the democracy movement in Burma, Norway is now deeply mistrusted by Burma’s ethnic peoples for siding with the Burmese regime for its own economic interests – cutting cross-border humanitarian aid to ethnic communities, and partnering with Naypyidaw to invest in telecommunications and dams in ethnic conflict zones. 

As momentum grows worldwide to hold the Burmese regime to account for the Rohingya genocide, Norway should urgently reconsider the implications of siding with the genocide perpetrators. 

The uncovering of the atrocities at Telenor premises is an opportunity for Norway to start doing the right thing, and show that it cares about the rights of the Rohingya and other oppressed ethnic peoples in Burma. 

We therefore urge the Norwegian government: 

  • To immediately carry out a transparent, independent investigation into what happened in and around the Telenor tower premises in Alethankyaw, as well as all other Telenor tower sites in northern Rakhine where “clearance operations” took place in August 2017
  • To push for legal action against the perpetrators of any crimes uncovered
  • To review all Norwegian engagement and investment in Burma if the authorities block this investigation 

Background Information:

For more details, please contact:
Australia: Dr. Hla Myint         +61-423381904
Bangladesh: Ko Ko Linn:      +880-1726068413
Canada: Nur Hasim              +1-5195725359
Japan: Zaw Min Htut             +81-8030835327
U.K. Ronnie:                          +44-7783118354
U.S.A: Dr. Habibullah:           +1-4438158609