News

    Burma Plans First Census in 31 Years

    U.N. estimates indicate nearly one million ethnic Rohingya Muslims live in Burma's Rakhine State. A 1982 Burmese law denied Rohingyas citizenship, forcing the flight of many, like these stateless refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Aug. 2011 (file photo)
    U.N. estimates indicate nearly one million ethnic Rohingya Muslims live in Burma's Rakhine State. A 1982 Burmese law denied Rohingyas citizenship, forcing the flight of many, like these stateless refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Aug. 2011 (file photo)

    Burma plans to conduct its first census in 31 years, a key step in political reforms that could have a big impact on the country’s marginalized minorities.

    Burma's minister of immigration and population Khin Yi signed a letter confirming his government's commitment to conduct the nationwide census by 2014. The letter says the first survey in 31 years will adhere to global standards, include "all national races," and give census workers access to all areas of the country.

    During the signing ceremony in Naypyitaw, U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon said he hopes ongoing ceasefire talks will make the census possible, and will involve minorities and civil society.

    Dave Mathieson, senior Burma researcher for Human Rights Watch, said an accurate count of the population is a critical part of the government’s political reforms.

    "Potentially, if you have a census that extends the right to vote to everyone in the country, you are going to have a far more equal and credible election in 2015," said Mathieson. "If you have actually empowered people enough that they can actually cast votes."

    Burma’s last official census in 1983 failed to count people living in areas where insurgencies were raging. Before that, the last credible census was conducted in 1931, during British rule.

    Official denial of the stateless
    Rights groups worry that if not conducted properly, the census could marginalize minorities such as the Rohingya or those living in one of Burma's many conflict areas.

    The United Nations estimates nearly one-million ethnic Rohingya Muslims live in Rakhine State.

    Myint Kyaing, Director General of Burma's Department of Population, an office which denies the existence of stateless people, is responsible for conducting the survey.

    "We have no stateless people in Myanmar and there is no Rohingya in Myanmar as well, because no Bengali people are residing in Myanmar," he said.

    A key test

    Analysts say resolving such classification disputes will be a key test of the census’ accuracy and the government’s commitment to reform.

    For years, economists and academics studying Burma have been forced to use the government's notoriously unreliable data.

    Professor Sean Turnell of Australia's Maquarie University, editor of Burma Economics Watch, said the census will allow the government to more accurately estimate key economic indicators such as GDP.

    "Under the previous government there was very little, even in pretense, about having the numbers right," said Turnell. "You know there were certain objectives that the government wanted to achieve and, when pressed, those numbers usually added up to achieving those ends. And so I think the classic example was GDP growth rates, which for decades were in double digits."

    Those GDP rates, he added, would have made Burma the best performing economy in the world.

    In the two years leading up to the data-collection period, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will be assisting in surveyor training and drafting survey documents. UNFPA's country representative Mohamed Abdel-Ahad called it an especially steep challenge due to the amount of time elapsed since the last census, but one that is a critical step.

    "As you know the public does not know enough about the census," he said. "The census has not been taken for 30 years, so those who were born after 1983 in Myanmar do not know and have not gone through the experience of conducting census, and we need to inform them that it is their right to be counted."

    Abdel-Ahad said workers expect to carry out the census in April, 2014. The United Nations is expected to at least partially cover the estimated $53-million cost.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Mohammad Rauf from: Jeddah-KSA
    May 27, 2012 8:31 PM
    Mynamar Census 2014 news gives RED alert to our Rohingyas. Really it shocked Rohingyas that Myanmar's government would only consider to include in this census people belonging to the 'national races' that is now 135 only. It is a great challenge of ensuring that everyone living in Myanmar, regardless of race, is covered, including the Rohingya, who are officially classified as "stateless".
    We Rohingyas are still stateless since we were born in our mother land Arakan. Once it was also as a Sultanate of Arakan before around 350 years back where we have been there by generation and generation. Also state Radio of Burma “Burma Broadcasting Service” BBS had department broadcasting for Rohingya. We have many historical records that cannot be hidden and all knows.
    Therefore, today UN and world communities should pressure to Myanmar government to consider first Rohingyas to be as a citizen of Myanmar and native Arakan. Rohingya must be added in the ethnic list to be 136th then to decide for the Census later otherwise Rohingyas issues will be more far beyond the situation as well as Rohingya refugee problems will never be ended. Rohingya refugee problems will be floating around the world and world communities will be watching like endless disasters.

    by: Nurul Islam
    May 01, 2012 4:22 PM
    Many minorities still believe that no true population census has ever been taken in Burma. 1982 citizenship law must be amended or scrapped in line with the principles embodied in the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness of 30 August 1961. Still DG of Burma’s Department of population Myint Kyaing denied the existence of Rohingya in Burma. UN intervention is urgent and UNFPA should not support the census plan unless it is universal and inclusive of Rohingya as a national race.

    by: Mohammad Rauf, Jeddah, K.S.A.
    April 30, 2012 4:51 PM
    If World Community wants fair census 2014, means all ethnic minority issues must be solved by 2014 otherwise it will be a fake census and abusing democracy. All population living abroad must be counted in the census. Ethnic minorities especially majority Rohingyas are living in many countries. Census must be fair and it should be delayed if there is no complete democratic reform in Myanmar.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora