Telenor seeks answers over Rakhine telecom tower snipers report

By FRONTIER

YANGON — Telenor Myanmar says it is seeking talks with the authorities over a Rohingya news agency’s report that troops used one of its telecoms towers to shoot civilians during the Tatmadaw’s clearance operation in Rakhine State last year.

The claim was made by the Chittagong-based Kaladan Press Network in a 70-page report released this month about the impact of the clearance operation on Alethankyaw, a Muslim fishing community in southern Maungdaw Township.

It said snipers were deployed on MPT and Telenor towers at Alethankyaw after the Tatmadaw launched a massive clearance operation following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on August 25, 2017.

“The troops were clearly ordered to shoot to kill,” said the report, The killing fields of Alethankyaw. “Men, women and children, were mown down as they tried to dodge the troops inside the village, and as they fled out into the surrounding fields,” it said.

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In a November 29 statement, Telenor said the claims were “disturbing” and it was deeply concerned by the alleged crimes.

“Based on the allegations, Telenor Myanmar is initiating dialogue with relevant authorities to express our concern and seek further facts on the matter,” it said.

Telenor said it was also concerned by the potential illegal entry into – and abuse of – the tower, which was operated by one of its network vendors.

It said most mobile network towers were unmanned with fenced protection to keep out unauthorised persons, but noted that such measures would not prevent anyone from using force to enter a site.

The statement said the tower mentioned in the report was erected in 2016 but did not become operational until March 2018.

It said entry to the area was not allowed for Telenor personnel between August 2016 and April 2017 and between August and December 2017 based on Telenor Myanmar’s assessment of the safety and security situation.

The Myanmar authorities had also imposed strict restrictions on access to the region in August and September 2017, it said.

The statement highlighted the Norway-based Telenor Group’s commitment to human rights.

It said Telenor Group had on several occasions expressed grave concern over the findings of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar and had supported calls for implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State headed by late former UN secretary-general, Mr Kofi Annan.

“Since inception, Telenor Myanmar has focused on human rights and will continue to do so,” it said. A Telenor spokesperson declined to provide further comment.

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