07/08/2021, 15.06
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Coup driving foreign companies out of Myanmar

Several international chains have closed their stores and investors are putting their plans on hold. The departure of Norwegian telecom company Telenor is causing concern. Digital rights activist wonders: “Will privacy still exist in Myanmar?”

Yangon (AsiaNews)- Several international chains and brand names are divesting and pulling out of Myanmar.

Stores have closed due to "the changing operating environment", while the remaining foreign companies are cutting or stopping investments in the country.

In recent days, the US company Auntie Anne's, China’s Little Sheep and Taiwan’s bubble tea franchise KOI Thé have left Myanmar.

Norwegian telecom operator Telenor’s decision to sell all of its activities in Myanmar to the Lebanese M1 group for US$ 105 million is causing concern.

“Telenor entered Myanmar because we believed that access to affordable mobile services would support the country’s development and growth,” said Telenor president Sigve Brekke.

However, “The situation in Myanmar has over the past months become increasingly challenging for Telenor for people security, regulatory and compliance reasons.” Hence, “We have evaluated all options and believe a sale of the company is the best possible solution in this situation.”

For Telenor, the sale agreement to the M1 group will guarantee the continuity of operations.

The Norwegian operator was one of four telecom operators present in the country, but when the military junta that took power in a coup on 1 February it cut off mobile and internet connections in an attempt to stifle popular resistance.

According to Oliver Spencer, an advisor at the digital rights group Free Expression Myanmar, Telenor’s departure from Myanmar will worsen the already limited digital rights locals have.

“If Telenor leaves, all of that limited freedom that they had will also leave,” he explained. “Will privacy still exist in Myanmar?” he wonders.

The arrival of foreign brands in recent years had allowed Myanmar to emerge from economic isolation, but after the coup, the economy has taken a nosedive.

The country’s banks have closed and according to the World Bank, the local economy is expected to shrink by 10 per cent.

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