The first census process after reform measures are taken in this
country is taking place now. Despite various apprehensions expressed
by local people, especially the ethnic communities and well meaning
foreign observers, we welcome this process, hoping that a sincere,
transparent Census process is a great opportunity for ushering peace
in this long suffering nation.
We understand the Census process paves waves for better planning in
development and peace. We are sure the government, with the help of
international community has launched into this ambitious project with
the intention of ushering a prosperous and peaceful future for every
citizen of Myanmar, especially the most vulnerable and the people in
We urge the government to ensure the following :
* The process should be totally transparent, strictly following
international standards, allowing local and international monitors
into the process.
* The census teams comprised of men and women from all cultures
* That the process affirms the traditional culture, traditional
resource holding patterns and protect all cultural symbols and meaning systems
* That no attempt be made to change the demographic nature of any
area, making sure that all people areas that were traditionally
identified as ethnic areas are not diluted into other demographic
* That no attempt is made to change the three pillars of people's
existence : identity, culture and resources. These three form the
constitutive element of the ethos of the people and any attempt, overt
or covert, should be resisted in the interests of durable peace.
* Community assets form the soul of many communities. As such forests,
waters and land are questions that could provoke conflicts.
Sensitivity to local perceptions will pave the way for peace.
* This country is a country of migrants and displaced people. They are
sons and daughters of this land. Efforts are made to wipe out their
memory and their possessions. Every effort must be made to enumerate
the details of these people and ensure that they return to their
* The documentation process needs to be robust, meeting international
standards, ensuring that all documents are finished at the ground
level without any scope of manipulation later away from the people who
underwent the census process.
Myanmar march towards peace and prosperity is an arduous journey. The
government and the international community should ensure that major
events like Census ensures a confidence building measure, instilling a
sense of belonging to a nation, where justice and fair play ensures
the rights of the most vulnerable communities. Census offers a golden
opportunity for peace.
Any myopic attempt at circumvent this opportunity is a recipe for long
years of mutual suspicion and conflict. I do hope the sagacity and a
vision for peace and prosperity guides us all in this moment of truth.
PRESS RELEASE: UNFPA Statement on Myanmar Census and Violence in Rakhine State
YANGON--UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is very concerned
about the mob attacks on international NGO and UN offices in Sittwe
yesterday, and supports the call by the UN Resident
Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator (a.i.) on the Government to
ensure the protection of the humanitarian and development community in
All UNFPA staff are accounted for and safe. UNFPA will retain
essential staff, and will continue to assess the need for any further
action as the situation develops.
UNFPA is concerned by reports linking the riots to mounting
tensions in Rakhine State in relation to the Myanmar census, which is
due to begin on March 30.
In accordance with international standards and human rights
principles, and as part of its agreement with the UN and donors, the
Government has made a commitment that everyone who is in the country
will be counted in the census, and all respondents will have the
option to self-identify their ethnicity. This commitment cannot be
honoured selectively in the face of intimidation or threats of
Reliable census data can only come from an enumeration in which
the safety and security of enumerators and respondents is assured.
Respondents must feel safe to answer all questions freely, and
enumerators must be able to record the answers faithfully, without
fear or intimidation.
Official actions to address security concerns during the census
must not compromise the commitment to uphold international standards
and human rights principles. Any measure adopted must guarantee the
right of all people to participate in a census that is conducted in a
fair, inclusive and uniform manner in every state and for every
For more information, please contact:
William A. Ryan, ryanw @ unfpa.org, mobile +66 89 897 6984; or
Malene Arboe-Rasmussen, arboe-rasmussen @ unfpa.org, tel. +95 1 5429
109 ext. 146, mobile +95 9 2500 26961