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2014 Census

Individual Documents

Title: Who's Counting? Ethnicity, Belonging, and the National Census in Burma/Myanmar
Date of publication: 28 January 2015
Description/subject: Abstract: "Partially rooted in British colonial ethnology and administration, the ethnic categories of the 2014 Myanmar census have attracted controversy, particularly from representatives of non-Burman political organizations. The categories themselves, as well as the bureaucratic exercise of the census, have a complex genealogy which offers considerable insight into understanding the contemporary situation. Drawing from Hirschman’s theory that the study of measurements of ethnicity is a unique resource for understanding the meaning of ethnicity in a society, this article discusses the controversy surrounding the 2014 census, and how some census-related issues have been crucially framed by bureaucratic structures that came before...." Keywords: Myanmar - Burma - census - ethnicity - colonialism - bureaucracy
Author/creator: Jane M. Ferguson
Language: English
Source/publisher: Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney
Format/size: pdf (348K)
Date of entry/update: 24 March 2015

Title: Myanmar’s unreliable narrators
Date of publication: 04 May 2014
Description/subject: "Teaching, although not always highly regarded, does afford a valuable perspective on aspects of a country and in this case – ethnicity. Last year I was fortunate enough to teach on an academic development course which enrolled students from across the country; Wa Chin, Karen- even a young Rohingya man were among our particularly diverse cohort. So when I thought about the upcoming census and the heated question of ethnicity, I considered it in terms of that school and of those students. And I realised there was particular problem when asking someone their ethnicity – it is subjective. It is likely to shift depending on who they spoke to. They were often unreliable narrators of their own identity..."
Author/creator: Matthew Gibbons
Language: English
Source/publisher: "New Mandala"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 14 July 2014

Title: Myanmar up for the count
Date of publication: 01 April 2014
Description/subject: "On Sunday Myanmar started its first census in 30 years. And while the national survey poses many challenges and risks, including sectarian violence, it also presents some opportunities, says New Mandala co-founder Nicholas Farrelly. Speaking to the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific from Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw, Farrelly said the census highlights a “huge conundrum”. “We don’t know what we don’t know,” he said. “Across the gamut of Myanmar society the information available to decision-makers is incomplete and inconsistent. For example, are all 135 national races recognised by the country viable categories?..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: "New Mandala"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 14 July 2014

Title: Ethnicity without Meaning, Data without Context - The 2014 Census, Identity and Citizenship in Burma/Myanmar
Date of publication: 24 February 2014
Description/subject: Conclusions and Recommendations: "The 2014 Population and Housing Census is likely to undertake the most significant ethnic and political boundary making in the country since the last British census in 1931. However, by using flawed designations that date from the colonial era and ignoring the considerable complexity of the present political situation in Myanmar, the census is likely to raise ethnic tensions at precisely the moment that peace negotiations are focused on building trust. Ethnic politics, democratic reform and conflict resolution are at a critical juncture. If carried out in an inclusive, transparent and ethically implemented fashion, a census could support national reconciliation and momentum towards reform. Instead, many ethnic groups fear that its timing, format and methodology, with an unwarranted array of questions and overseen by law enforcement officers, will further diminish and marginalise the political status of non- Bamar groups. Citizenship rights for some people could even be under threat, based on census results. The timing of the census in the year before a key general election raises additional concerns. Statistical reports that result from it could have confusing and negative impact on political debate and ethnic representation in the legislatures, as defined by the 2008 constitution. There are many communities and internallydisplaced persons in the conflict zones of the ethnic borderlands who will not be properly included as well as others with marginal legal status who would prefer to disappear in an official counting exercise. Through inclusive dialogue, planning and timing, many of these controversies could have been addressed. The UNFPA and Western government donors, with a projected US$74 million budget, have a special responsibility to ensure accurate research, definitions, data collection and inclusion in any process of this magnitude. Difficulties have been treated purely as technical problems with simple, “one-sizefits- all” solutions, rather than as fundamentally political and ethnic challenges that need resolution. Instead of creating the opportunity to improve inter-ethnic understanding and citizenship rights, the census promises to compound old grievances with a new generation of complexities"
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: pdf (661K)
Date of entry/update: 24 February 2014

Title: Burma’s Census: Not Worth Dying For
Date of publication: 19 February 2014
Description/subject: "At the end of March, Burma is due to hold its first official census for almost thirty years. The census is being carried out by the government of Burma in conjunction with the United Nations and with significant other international technical and financial support, including more than sixteen million dollars from the British government. On the face of it, holding a census is an obvious and important step to take. The information it provides will be important in making future economic plans, developing infrastructure, allocating resources for public services, and prioritising international aid. Furthermore, some ethnic and religious minorities who have been suffering repression and discrimination see the census as an opportunity to be officially recognised, seeing this as a step towards asserting their status and rights. However, in the current Burma context, the census could also lead to violent attacks against religious minorities, increase ethnic tensions, and provide inaccurate data. On balance, the potential risks appear to outweigh the potential benefits. As a result, Burma Campaign UK believes the census should be postponed to avoid these very real risks, which could include conflict and loss of life..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Burma Campaign UK (Burma Briefing No. 32)
Format/size: pdf (345K)
Date of entry/update: 19 February 2014

Title: Myanmar Conflict Alert: A Risky Census
Date of publication: 12 February 2014
Description/subject: "The nationwide census planned for 30 March to 10 April 2014 risks inflaming tensions at a critical moment in Myanmar’s peace process and democratic transition. The census process should be urgently amended to focus only on key demographic questions, postponing those which are needlessly antagonistic and divisive – on ethnicity, religion, citizenship status – to a more appropriate moment. By doing so, the government, United Nations and donors can demonstrate that they are sensitive to the serious risks presented by the census as currently conceived, and that they are willing to respond to the deep reservations expressed by many important groups in the country..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: International Crisis Group (ICG)
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 16 February 2014

Title: Burma's Senseless Census
Date of publication: 19 December 2013
Description/subject: "Burma's census disregards the complex ethnic identities of its people. Could this breathe new life into sectarian conflict? .... Next year, Burma will embark on its first census-taking process in more than three decades. It's an opportunity, but it's also a significant risk. One the one hand, the census could compel the state to finally recognize long-excluded people and foster a better collective understanding of the daily struggles that most Burmese face. But on the other, the census is set up to obscure Burma's incredible diversity by requiring that Burmese people choose just one ethnic identity, even if they identify with many ethnicities. This comes at a dangerous point in Burma's simmering ethnic conflict, especially since nationalists are now using conceptions of exclusive and timeless ethnicity to justify violence against populations suddenly deemed irrevocably "foreign."..."
Author/creator: Elliott Prasse-Freeman
Language: English
Source/publisher: "Foreign Policy" - Democracy Lab
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 20 December 2013