RAKHINE – A decision by Burma to ban Muslims from registering as Rohingya in a rare census of the population in decades has sparked anger among the oppressed minority amid calls to the government to ensure freedom and safety for all citizens.
“The government has committed to run the census in line with international standards, including allowing all respondents the option to self-identify their ethnicity," the British embassy said while protesting the Burmese government's decision, Indendent.ie reported on Sunday, March 30.
In the first national census in 30 years, Rohingya Muslims will not be recognized like other ethnic groups in the restive Burma, according to the government that wants to register them as "Bengali".
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"If a household wants to identify themselves as 'Rohingya', we will not register it," government spokesman Ye Htut was quoted by Agence france Presse (AFP) on Saturday.
"They will only write down 'Bengali' because Rohingya doesn't exist," Aung Mya Kyaw, a local MP, added.
Launched on Sunday, march 30, the census aims to reach 12 million households in Burma, ending its mission on April 10.
The government's arbitrary decision to bar Rohingyas registration followed fierce opposition by Buddhists in the western Rakhine state who threatened to the boycott the census, saying it would legitimize the status of the oppressed minority.
Buddhists anger extended to foreign aid workers who fled Rakhine's capital, Switte, a few days ago after mob attacked them.
On Saturday, several houses across Switte hanged a sign that read: "This house is protesting against the census. Do not register".
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term “Rohingya”, referring to them as “Bengalis”.
Rights groups have accused the Burmese security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas following the sectarian violence last year.
Over the last two years, Buddhists mob attacks have left hundreds of Rohingya Muslims killed and evacuated more than 140,000 from their homes.
Human rights groups have warned earlier that the ethnical census would endanger the vulnerable Rohingya population, calling the government to postpone it.
“The mob attacks in Arakan State illustrate the risks of proceeding with the census in such a volatile atmosphere,” Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
“The government should suspend the census until it can ensure adequate security and a fair process for everyone involved.”
On the other hand, the government assured that the census is needed to ensure continuous economic growth.
According to Burmese President Thein Sein, providing census information is a "national duty" required to boost the economic development.
“We cannot do proper planning in health, in education, in the economy, unless we have a census,” Aung Tun Thet, an economics advisor to the president, was quoted by the Loa Angeles Times on Sunday.
The messy categorizations of the census were criticized by various minority groups who count for 40% of Burma's population.
"Some categories of people have been left out, some have been included several times under different names,” said Khon Ja, an activist from Kachin State, a mostly-Christian region in northern Myanmar.
“My group is listed four times under different names, even using a geographic location as a tribe name.”
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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