A Rangoon monastery is organising an anti-Ooredoo event on Saturday in order to urge the public to boycott the Qatar-based company and its products in a bid to protect the Buddhist religion.
Magwe Pariyatti Monastery in Rangoon’s North Dagon Township has spearheaded a campaign against Ooredoo since it was awarded one of two telecommunication licenses in 2013 to operate in the mobile-starved country. With an investment of US$15 billion, Ooredoo has promised to roll out a network that would reach 90 percent of Burma’s population in two years.
But Buddhist monk Parmouhka said that his monastery plans to travel across the country to inform people not to purchase the company’s products, starting with Saturday’s event.
“We are doing this because Ooredoo is owned by Muslims and they are going to use their profits from their business in Burma to build mosques in this country and fund Muslims to marry our women,” Parmouhka said. “They are a company that will destroy our race and it poses a threat to our religion.”
Thiri Kyar Nyo, public relations manager for Ooredoo, said in an email that the company’s products and services will win over the public once it has hit the market. Additionally, Ooredoo employs more than 700 locals, which makes up almost 80 percent of the company, and Thiri Kyar Nyo said it plans for its Burmese staff to be at 99 percent in five years.
“I think any suspicion about our company will quickly dissipate once people start to see more of our brand and the positive effects that we will bring to the people of Myanmar [Burma],” Thiri Kyar Nyo said, adding: “I myself [am] a Myanmar and a Buddhist, I’m very proud to represent my organization.”
Burma, a predominantly Buddhist country, has faced communal violence in the past over religion. Aung Naing Oo, director-general of Myanmar Investment Commission, said that such anti-Muslim campaigns against foreign investors will only hurt the country if it gains traction.
“It would not be a good sign for the environment if these campaigns become widespread and if they start targeting more and more investors,” Aung Naing Oo said, adding that boycott campaigns don’t typically persist in other countries. “So I assume it won’t last long in Burma either.”
Sithu Aung Myint, a well-known columnist who has criticized the anti-Ooredoo campaign, said the campaigners need “a valid reason” for opposing Ooredoo, instead of one based on bigotry.
“It would be hard for the government to step in because it is the consumer’s right to decide not to use service or buy products from a certain company,” Sithu Aung Myint said. “But if they, for example, escalate on using hate speech in their campaign, then the government can interfere.”