Burma: Ensure Proper Execution of the Census

Burma: Ensure Proper Execution of the Census 23 March 2014


IGO welcomes the 2014 nationwide census, the first census to take place in Myanmar in the last three decades. IGO urged all Rohingya to fill in their ethnic name correctly and independently without any spelling errors.

Rohingya, not an officially recognised ethnic group, has not been assigned a numerical code for the census. However, individuals who wish to identify as Rohingya will be able to select “other” and then write in Rohingya. In January, members of the Democracy and Human Rights Party (DHRP) and the National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD) called for Rohingya to be given a numerical code, but their attempts to have the census changed were unsuccessful.

On March 18, Rakhine Buddhists held demonstrations in cities across Rakhine State to protest against individuals being allowed to self-describe as Rohingya on the census. The demonstrations were organised by Rakhine civil society groups, members of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party and Buddhist monks, including U Wirathu, leader of the “969” movement who was preaching in Rakhine State over the weekend.

Concerns have been raised that many of the government school teachers who are acting as enumerators in Rakhine state for the census do not speak the language of the Rohingya. A number of teachers previously reported they were mis-identified as speaking the language on census-related materials posted at schools in northern Rakhine.

IGO calls on the government to focus its attention on security surrounding the census and provide interpreters to ensure the proper execution of the census.

The census is set to take place March 30 to April 10 and is being implemented with help from the United Nations Population Fund.