Postcard from... Rangoon


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The Independent Online

Enumerators fanned out across Burma yesterday for the first census in three decades – a poll that has been widely criticised after the government denied members of a Muslim minority the right to identify themselves as “Rohingya”. Administrators in some areas said they were barring census-takers because they worry it will be used for political purposes.

More than 100,000 enumerators started going door-to-door at 7am yesterday. They hope to reach 12 million households by 10 April. Their survey – a collaboration between the government and the United Nations – includes controversial, questions about race and ethnicity that human rights groups have repeatedly warned are inappropriate.

They are especially worried about Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. The government considers members of the religious minority to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and refers to them as “Bengalis”. A presidential spokesman said Rohingya would not be allowed to identify themselves as such on the ballot.

Khaing Khaing Soe, head of the population department, was undeterred by threats to deny access. “We will go to every corner of the country and will conduct the census according to international standards,” she said. “We will not exclude any area.” AP