Burmese Nationalist Campaign to Call for Anti-Ooredoo Boycott

By Zarni Mann 4 June 2014

RANGOON — A Burmese nationalist movement led by Buddhist monks is set to begin a campaign in calling for people to boycott Qatari mobile phone operator Ooredoo.

An abbot who supports the movement, U Parmaukha, told The Irrawaddy that a publicity campaign would begin in Rangoon on Saturday discouraging people from buying Ooredoo SIM cards, or even answering calls from phones using an Ooredoo SIM, because the company hails from a Muslim country.

U Parmaukha, from Magwe Kyaung Tike monastery in Rangoon, said a group called the Burmese Nationalist Youth will distribute pamphlets and CDs in the former capital with information about the boycott.

“The campaign is to protect the integrity of the Burmese nation and the religion because we doubt that we will have freedom when talking over their mobile network because the company is from an Islamic country,” said U Parmaukha.

In support of the campaign, the abbot will open up his monastery for a press conference to launch it on Saturday. He added that similar campaigns against Ooredoo would soon be underway across the country.

Ooredoo—which is owned by the natural gas-rich Qatari government—is one of two foreign firms awarded the right to operate mobile phone services in Burma. The company said last month that it would make mobile phone and internet services available to 30 percent of the country sometime between the start of July and the end of September.

U Parmaukha said he was aware that the boycott would raise concerns about the environment for overseas businesses in Burma, which is currently seeing a massive influx of foreign investment, much of it in the nascent telecommunications sector.

“We are also concerned that the foreign investment would draw back, but we are worried that this Islamic company would threaten the integrity of the Burmese nation and the religion,” said U Parmaukha.

“The government needs to think before giving permission to Islamic-related companies to run their business in the country, looking at it from A nationalistic point of view. For us, we prefer to give permission only to other companies, rather than Islamic ones.”