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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora