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French Foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius (R) and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speak at a press conference in Paris, April 15, 2014. (Photo: AFP)


By Joshua Lipes
April 17, 2014

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has criticized President Thein Sein’s administration for not pushing for constitutional reform, saying her party was “greatly concerned” by the government’s lack of action on bringing about charter changes ahead of key 2015 elections.

Winding down a visit to France, the head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) said Tuesday that while her party has sought to cooperate with the ruling party on matters it believes will benefit Myanmar, “there are many things [that the government does] with which we disagree quite strongly.”

“The fact that the president shows no intention of supporting amendments to the constitution is a matter of great concern to us,” Suu Kyi said, speaking in Paris, alongside French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as she wrapped up a week-long European trip that also included a stop in Germany.

“If he is genuine about democratic reform, he must be in favor of amendments to a constitution which institutes military rule as part of the political life of the country,” the Nobel laureate said.

“You cannot claim that a constitution which gives the military a particular position—a special and the strongest position—in the political life of a nation is democratic.”

Thein Sein said last month that any move to revamp the constitution should be done in a “careful and delicate” manner.

Suu Kyi said that while the issue of the military’s role in politics is one priority, the NLD is not concerned with particular sections of the country’s junta-drafted 2008 charter, so much as “the concept of the constitution as a democratic document.”

“It is far from being a democratic document,” she said.

“Any government that is serious about democratization must and should support amendments to this constitution.”

Myanmar’s constitution does not provide for civilian oversight of the country’s military and ensures the armed forces 25 percent of seats in both houses of parliament.

Together, the military and Thein Sein’s military-backed ruling United Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) control more than 80 percent of parliament, eclipsing the 75 percent support required for a constitutional amendment in the legislature.

Suu Kyi was on her third trip to Europe since 2012, during which she also met with French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, working to drum up EU support for constitutional reform in her country.

Road to democracy

After talks on Tuesday, Hollande pledged France’s assistance to Myanmar to ensure the country’s transition to democracy.

“France stands with the [Myanmar] people as the promised reforms come into effect,” Radio France Internationale quoted the president as saying.

“We've lifted sanctions over the course of these recent years and we've made efforts to integrate Myanmar in economic and commercial procedures. But we are also attentive and concerned each time a barrier is placed on the road to democracy.”

Speaking in Berlin, where she received the Willy Brandt Award last week, Suu Kyi had warned that Myanmar “is not yet a democracy,” despite a series of reforms welcomed by the international community, Agence France-Presse reported.

On Tuesday in Paris, she reiterated those claims, calling the course of democracy in her country “an ongoing one.”

“That is to say [the NLD has] by no means completed what we have been trying to do for the last 30 years,” said Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent nearly two decades under house arrest during the previous military junta rule.

In addition to the push for constitutional reform, Suu Kyi also highlighted Myanmar’s need to overcome “longstanding ethnic suspicions and lack of confidence between different communities” as obstacles to democratic change, saying the government needs to play the “major role” in resolving the problems.

2015 elections

Suu Kyi warned that the way the government addresses these problems will influence the outcome of elections planned for next year, the second since the landmark 2010 polls which led to the junta relinquishing power to Thein Sein’s quasi-military government after nearly five decades of rule.

“In many democratic transitions it’s not the first elections that count so much as the second elections … A lot of people accept, generally, that perhaps the first elections are flawed to a certain extent. And certainly in my country they were extremely flawed,” she said.

“Now we are in the run up to the second elections, but the elections do not stand by themselves in 2015. Whatever happens in 2015 will be decided very much by what happens this year in 2014.”

Aung San Suu Kyi questioned whether Thein Sein’s government was committed to tackling the nation’s problems, which she said were preventing a full transition to democracy and needed resolution.

“Not in 2015, but before 2015, so that the process of change in our country might [head] in the right direction,” she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi has said that she wants to contest next year’s elections, but a clause in the constitution currently bars her from making a bid for the presidency in 2015 because her sons are foreign citizens.

In Berlin, she warned that Myanmar's elections chief wants party leaders like her confined to campaigning in their own constituencies in 2015.

In seeking support from abroad for her country’s political transition, she urged the international community not to simply judge Myanmar’s reform process at face value, but to “go below the surface … that you may be able to give us support in our efforts to make our country, once again, the peaceful and united state that we had been at one time."

October 2013, Rakhine, Myanmar: Aung Muang Sein lives in an IDP camp in rural Sittwe. He runs a small shop, but like many people is dependent on aid agencies for basic support. (Photo: OCHA/Pierre Peron)


By UNOCHA
April 17, 2014

Hundreds of thousands of people are finding it difficult to access basic services such as health care following the emergency relocation of up to 300 aid workers from Myanmar’s Rakhine State. More than 1,000 humanitarian staff have been forced to stop working following an outbreak of violence in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, on 26 and 27 March.

Security services were unable to stop angry mobs from severely damaging 33 offices, living quarters and warehouses of NGOs and UN agencies. The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar, Renata Dessallien, called the violence “an attack on the entire humanitarian response in Rakhine State.”

Aid workers are unable to access isolated villages and camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), but they are maintaining daily contact with these communities. “We are being told that the situation is becoming increasingly desperate,” said Pierre Peron from OCHA’s Myanmar office.

This is the peak of the dry season and water levels are running critically low in some places. With limited services available, people with life-threatening medical conditions face the risk of not being taken to hospital. The Government has increased efforts to fill the gap through the Ministry of Health and local authorities, but these efforts still fall short of covering all essential needs.

No freedom to move

The immediate and dramatic humanitarian impact of this aid disruption has highlighted the dependence of hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine on humanitarian assistance. This longstanding reliance deepened almost two years ago, when intercommunal violence killed 167 people and displaced more than 140,000 in Rakhine.

The main reason for this dependence is easy to pinpoint. Most humanitarian-aid recipients in Rakhine do not benefit from one of the most basic human rights: freedom of movement.

There are an estimated 800,000 Muslim people in Rakhine who identify themselves as “Rohingya”. The Government refers to these people as “Bengalis”. They face movement restrictions because they are seen by the ethnic Rakhine people as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though most have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Many who live in isolated communities in northern parts of Rakhine cannot travel freely from village to village. Those who live in the IDP camps around Sittwe can only leave in exceptional cases, such as medical emergencies.

“Leave right now or die”

The lack of freedom of movement has an enormous impact on the ability of people affected by violence to rebuild their lives. Many fishermen cannot access the sea, many farmers cannot access their fields and many traders no longer have normal access to the markets. Without control of their livelihoods, hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine simply cannot break free from their dependence on humanitarian aid.

A case in point is 55-year-old Aung Maung Sein. He used to live near the beach in Sittwe. But in 2012, he was given a stark choice by a mob armed with machetes: “Leave right now without your belongings, or die.”

Aung now lives in an IDP camp and runs a small corner shop. Despite living only a few kilometres from the local market, he cannot leave the camp to buy and sell goods. Instead, he is forced to sell a proportion of the food his family receives each month from aid agencies in order to pay for other basic necessities, such as medicine and firewood. He is getting poorer every month.

Finding the right balance in aid

The ethnic Rakhine people also have significant needs, and they argue that international aid is biased in favour of Muslims. Rakhine is one of the least developed states in Myanmar and poverty prevails in all communities. Rakhine community leaders point out that the number of longer-term development projects for Rakhine people is woefully inadequate. Following last month’s attacks, most of these projects have stopped.

In the short term, humanitarian and development activities urgently need to restart. In the long term, the Myanmar Government and the international aid community need to look closer at the issues of freedom of movement, citizenship, livelihoods and development for the benefit of all communities.

Ms. Dessallien proposes that the events in Sittwe could be an opportunity to reframe the work of NGOs and the UN. “As international humanitarian and development organizations return to Rakhine, we need to take the opportunity to build back better,” she said.

April 17, 2014

Jeddah — The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Ameen Madani, expressed concern about the recently conducted national population census in Myanmar and the government’s decision not to allow census respondents to self-identify as Rohingya, stating that this decision does not conform with international census standards as set by the United Nations Population Fund nor does it conform with basic human rights principles in terms of non-discrimination. 

The Secretary General reiterated that as a result of lack of adherence to principles of international law and infringement of the rights of the Rohingya people, a wave of condemnable violence again erupted including the burning of several Rohingya homes and the arbitrary detention of women.

He further expressed concern at the deteriorating situation of humanitarian aid workers in Rakhine State and regretted the reported attacks on their persons. He urged the government of Myanmar to enforce the rule of law in Rakhine, hold all perpetrators accountable, ensure the safety of those providing necessary assistance and humanitarian aid and prevent further escalation of violence.




RB News 
April 16, 2014

Buthidaung, Arakan – A military lieutenant from Regiment 353 based in Buthidaung Township of Arakan State robbed things from a Rohingya house. 

On April 8th at 12 pm, a military Lieutenant from Regiment 353 based in Kyaung Taung village tract in Buthidaung Township entered the house of Idris S/o Abdul Malek located in Taung Badaga hamlet of Badaga village tract. 

At that time Idris wasn’t at home. The Lieutenant pulled out the wife of Idris from the house. Then he took a big solar panel, a battery and some wires then left the house. The Solar panel valued 120,000 kyats and the battery is valued at 25,000 kyats.

Idirs complained about the event to the village administrator once he arrived home. Although he requested the lieutenant to give back his things through the village administrator, the lieutenant responded that he would be hardly beaten if asked again for his things to be returned.

Photo: Al Jazeera


By Brad Dell
April 16, 2014

The genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is being orchestrated. As they experience countless acts of violence from anti-Muslim Buddhists, the media murmurs, and the world merely lets out a small sigh. Where is the uproar? Where is justice for these minorities living in this small Southeast Asian country?

THE SPARK

Approximately 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims reside in Myanmar, many descending from families that have lived there for generations. Fortify Rights, a non-profit human rights organization, confirms severe violations of the Rohingya’s human rights, and the United Nations recognizes them as “one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.”

Despite their long-term residence in the country, more than 700,000 Rohingya still remain stateless, as the 1982 Citizenship Law categorized them as “foreign residents.” They have also been prohibited from freedoms such as practicing Islam, traveling freely and marrying whom they please, and Regional Order 1/2005 restricted them from having more than two children. 

Burmese-Buddhist nationalism has been on the rise, with the “969” movement – led by Buddhist monks – preaching intolerance toward the Rohingya. This ideology is set in the belief that the Rohingya Muslims are invaders of the land. This anger in the 90 percent Buddhist population paired with an authoritarian Buddhist political force has led to vast outbreaks of violence across Myanmar.

According to Myanmar’s ambassador, the major violence began with the rape and killing of a Buddhist girl by three Muslims in May 2012. A month later in June, about 300 Buddhists attacked and killed 10 Muslims in a bus. CBS reported that since 2012, the Rohingya have seen consistent outbreaks of fatal violence that have killed hundreds and left 250,000 displaced.

GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED ATROCITIES

On June 13, 2012, “a government truck dumped 18 naked and half-clothed bodies near a Rohingya displaced person camp outside of Sittwe, the state capital. Some of the victims had been ‘hogtied’ with string or plastic strips before being executed,” according to Human Rights Watch.

On Oct. 23, 2012, Buddhists attacked a Muslim community in Yan Thei village, according to Human Rights Watch. Five mosques, six madrassas and 642 households were burned to the ground. The small amount of dispatched police, who were present during the event, were accused of disarming Muslims who attempted to defend themselves. In the daylong massacre, at least 70 Muslims were slaughtered, with 28 children – 13 under the age of 5 – hacked to death. 

Furthermore, enraged by the killing of a monk, Buddhists turned their eyes to an Islamic school. On March 21, 2013, 36 Muslims-most of them teenagers and not involved in the monk killing- were massacred by Buddhist mobs. The students ran for help to the police, who merely looked on as they were killed, accoding to the Associated Press. On May 18, 2013, the United Nations confirmed two recent, separate massacres, in which at least 48 Muslims were killed, although the government denies it.

However, the violence is not exclusive to Muslims; those who dare assist them also face assault. In March, CNN said the offices of international aid agencies in Sittwe were attacked for allegedly being biased toward the Rohingya Muslims. And in February, Doctors Without Borders were also banned from treating Rohingya.

REMOVE THE BLINDS

Ironically, news of the May 2013 massacres arose as Myanmar hosted an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event that celebrated the distance the nation has gone since ending its military dictatorship two years ago.

Myanmar President Thein Sein has been saluted by the international community for his political and economic reforms, with economic sanctions enacted during the Burma dictatorship lifted by President Barack Obama on July 11, 2012. In the same speech that he lifted sanctions, Obama stated that new sanctions could be put in place for “those who undermine the reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict or participate in military trade with North Korea.” 

Myanmar’s products are now allowed to be imported to the U.S., and “The Obama administration is allowing U.S. companies to do business with Myanmar’s strategic oil and gas industry, which has been a key source of income for the regime,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, in an interview with CNN. 

We have evidence of “human rights abuses” and “ethnic conflict,” yet we pat Myanmar on the head like proud parents. The Genocide Watch has a spotlight on Myanmar, and yet American media has chosen to treat the situation as second-rate news. We need to address the injustices that are being faced by people throughout the world. We should not stand by while innocent people are slaughtered and their human rights violated by a nation that becomes increasingly respected by the international community.

Internally displaced Rohingya protest at their IDP camp in Rakhine. (Photo: New Internationalist)


By New Internationalist
April 16, 2014

One Western aid worker is frustrated and sickened by what’s going on in Burma. 

So, the holidays have started. Aid workers are leaving Burma for a break. The government virtually shuts down for 10 days. The current peace talks only have a couple of sticking points, apparently, and mostly they are to do with wording. International officials are telling the Burmese government how they are concerned about the ‘Rohingya situation’ (but we usually use the word ‘Muslim’ so as not to upset them. Some internationals even use ‘Bengali’) while congratulating them on their progress (letting foreign business in). Locals are getting ready for a week of fun at the water festival.

In the meantime, the Rohingyas suffer and die – hospitals used to receive around 400 referrals a month of critical patients; now they receive none. At least 2,700 children are not getting food supplements or being monitored; there are also food shortages. The government lies about the healthcare, water and food coverage provided to Rohingya in the state of Rakhine. Ethnic cleansing – and now a humanitarian crisis –is taking place. That must really upset the government and/or those pulling the strings. So the national government can’t control Rakhine? They use it as a convenient distraction whenever they wish. Heard anything much about the Chinese pipeline recently? How about land grabs? The government dislikes the Rohingyas; it dislikes the Rakhine Buddhist population too (although the latter can be useful). One Burma joke I heard is that if you see a snake and a Rakhine in the road, kill the Rakhine first.

And in Kachin, Burma’s northernmost state, internally displaced people (IDPs) are on the move again, due to heavy shelling by government forces. This at the same time as peace talks are supposedly close to finalization. Either President Thein Sein has very little control over the army, or he is playing games. Perhaps previous president Tan Swe and friends still have control of parts of the military.

The 11 commitments made by Thein Sein to US President Barack Obama need to be addressed; deadlines and consequences for lack of compliance need to be in place. Perhaps this is being done behind closed doors, or perhaps I am dreaming. Sanctions and loss of reputation internationally may work. UN military observers are needed in Rakhine. Travel authorizations should be abolished and free movement of aid workers guaranteed. Aid workers should not be controlled and directed to suit government interests. Aid distribution should be based upon humanitarian needs.

After the Thingyan Water Festival, aid workers may be allowed slowly back in to Rakhine in a controlled way, but the government is likely to dictate more of what they do, where and how. The government has apparently stated that it wants aid to be split 50-50 between the Rohingya and Rakhine, which is contrary to the humanitarian imperative. Some Rohingya are likely to die as aid workers play politics with the government to ensure access – which will be denied if they don’t. Travel authorizations are not issued at all for Thingyan and existing ones are not respected. This is for the ‘safety and security’ of aid workers – how considerate. Normally issued by line ministries, they are now also sent to the Rakhine state government for approval for ‘safety and security’. This is an old excuse, used by authoritarian regimes everywhere to restrict and control movement. It also gives the central government the chance to excuse themselves: ‘We would love to, but it is these difficult Rakhines...’

Another great gift to Burma from the international community is the census. What a great success! And we have an extension, at least until the end of April, for it to spark even more suffering and violence. It sparked the escalation of violence and a humanitarian crisis in Rakhine; it caused fighting in Kachin; but the UNFPA tells us the census was very useful and a success, and never mind that they can extrapolate the figures for areas not covered, if the enumerators have not completed them from a few answered questions. The UNFPA did advise the government to take the ethnicity question off the form, but the government insisted, so what could they do? Refuse to validate it and withdraw funding for the census, is the obvious answer, but that may be too undiplomatic. Making waves does not help one’s career, of course, so let’s keep our heads down. We are only giving technical support anyway, so it is not our responsibility. That’s a relief.

I hope the aid workers have a good holiday; I hope locals have a good Thingyan; and I hope that not too many Rohingya die.




By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
April 16, 2014

Siddhartha Gautama, who became universally known as the sage Buddha, was born some 2,500 years ago in Nepal. He was a human being who became acutely enlightened in understanding life and explaining it in its simplicity. It is said that he once sat under a peepal tree for 40 days and nights to attain understanding and enlightenment and once he reached that stage he felt free from greed, hatred and ignorance, and enhanced by wisdom, compassion, tolerance and freedom.

This was the message he sought to promote for the remaining years of his life to his disciples.

Unfortunately over the centuries, some of Buddha’s followers or Buddhists as they are called mutated into something far removed from the sage’s messages. Theirs has become a calling of all things evil and violent. Currently there are two such strains of Buddhists who are leading a campaign against others that is devoid of any of the sage’s messages.

One group, the Ahsin Wirathu Alliance, operating out of Burma or Myanmar, is made up of bloodthirsty Buddhists who have been terrorizing and slaughtering thousands of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya Muslims. Even Aung San Suu Kyi, a leader of the Myanmar opposition and the 1991winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, dares not venture to align herself with the cause of the displaced Rohingyas for political considerations. She has thus far been protected from any criticism for the massacres going on in her country even though some question whether she is supporting the terrorist Buddhist group which is attempting to exterminate the Muslim population in Myanmar.

Another equally vicious Buddhist group in Sri Lanka, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), has lately begun a fierce campaign against the Tamil, Muslim and Christian minorities on the island.

Last month, events in Sri Lanka took an even more disturbing turn. Ashin Wirathu Thera, leader of the 969 Movement in Myanmar, and notorious for his anti-Islam tirades which have resulted in the slaughter of thousands of Rohingya refugees was invited by his BBS counterparts in Sri Lanka to visit the island. Time magazine has correctly described Wirathu as the “Face of Buddhist Terror”.

The meeting of two terrorist Buddhist group leaders from Myanmar and Sri Lanka does not bode well for the minorities of the island of Sri Lanka. In Myanmar, the minorities have already been subjugated to the point of being completely wiped out in some areas by acts of maximum brutality. Such acts have been muted so far in Sri Lanka, but such an unholy alliance could well spell disaster for their adversaries.

When the UN’s top human rights body launched an investigation recently into Sri Lanka’s civil war and possible war crimes against the Tamil minorities based on the recommendation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, the Bodu Bala Sena General Secretary screamed at a press conference: “We will skin the bitch alive!” This is the same individual who flew to Burma to receive a special birthday gift from Burma’s radical monk Wirathu last month.

The mindset of this terrorist group has increasingly worried many Sinhalese who make up the majority of the population in Sri Lanka and it has greatly disturbed the many minorities who have lately witnessed an increasing number of unabashed and defiant acts against their people, places of worship and businesses. This was not Buddha’s message.

With this unholy alliance between the two terror groups in the offing, the island’s minorities are wondering if it will eventually lead to the same sort of assault and slaughter of their people as the Rohingya have faced in Myanmar. This will unquestionably lead Sri Lanka to the precipice of disaster.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

Saudi Gazette


By Dr. Maung Zarni
April 16, 2014

The editorial of the Progress, the official publication of the largest Rakhine political party that has national representation at Myanmar's Parliament in Naypyidaw, (No, 12, V. 2, Nov. 2012) explicitly states Hitler and Eichman were protectors of the Germans and they were great heroes. 

The editorial says again explicitly whatever the heinous crimes patriotism requires Rakhine patriots to stop any peaceful co-existence "with the un-seen enemy" (meaning Muslims and Rohingya in Rakhine State). 

"We cannot pass on this (Muslim/Rohingya) 'problem' to the next generation any more. We need to finish this job during our time".

This is a coded and chilling message for ethnic cleansing AND a genocide. 

This message is framed as 'protecting Rakhine race, Buddhist faith and Burma's national sovereignty'.

This call for genocide is justified as something NOT against human rights because patriots are to protect their human community as Rakhine and Burmese.

The publication is littered with genocidal messages.  Vet Aye Maung, the leader of the Rakhine's largest party, now known as Rakhine National Party (before RNDP or Rakhine Nationality Development Party) argues that "Bengali" (racist reference to Rohingya) problem was a well-time detonation of 'population time bomb' by those (Islamic groups, inside and outside of Burma) that plan to swallow Rakhine-land and exterminate or purge Buddhist Rakhine.  He welcomed the violent events - mainly organized and structured mass violence by the Rakhine and Myanmar security troops against Rohingya as 'opportune' for Burma to address the underlying fundamental problem (of the need to get rid of "Bengali").

One Rakhine author stated that "some people (in a rather obvious reference to Rohingya in Rakhine State) cannot be considered fully humans.  Not everyone with a head on the shoulders ought to be considered humans.  Because they do NOT deserve fully human status, they are not entitled to human rights."

This is straight out of the slavery discourses in the United States in the pre-Civil War period where Africans were considered 3/5 human beings!

Myanmar is only about 250 years behind the world!  






By Bi Shihong
April 15, 2014

Myanmar's first census in three decades, which kicked off on March 30 and aimed to better outline national development based on the real population numbers and social conditions, has reignited long-smoldering tensions among different ethnic groups. 

The information gathered through the census will be crucial for the country's development and planning. However, the Myanmar government underestimates the challenges of carrying out the count in this poor, multiethnic and predominantly Buddhist country. 

The census was supposed to end on April 10, but will be extended to the end of May. The inclusion of questions about ethnicity and race in the count has deepened worries that it would give rise to more violent nationalism, worsening discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities. 

The strife-scarred state of Rakhine has borne the brunt. A contentious focus is that the local Muslim population has not been allowed to register as "Rohingyas." The Myanmar government holds that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, identifying them as "Bengalis" rather than "Rohingyas." 

Department of Population Director General U Myint Kyaing told local media that "We do not have Rohingya in Myanmar […] so we cannot consider allowing them [to self-identify as such]." These policies have been criticized by some countries.

Meanwhile, Minister for Immigration and Population U Khin Yi warned that people who identify themselves as "Rohingya" in the census might face legal charges. 

The International Crisis Group (ICG) in February issued an alert, claiming Myanmar's census is "overly complicated and fraught with danger." It paid special heed to the inclusion of compulsory questions about ethnicity, religion and citizenship status, which the ICG warned will be very risky for Rohingyas. 

Besides, since the Myanmar government only recognizes an outdated list of 135 ethnic groups devised under British colonial rule, some ethnic groups fear that they may be denied political representation if their communities are subdivided, misclassified or clumped together with other unrelated groups.

At the policy level, the Myanmar government emphasizes freedom of religion and the development of the Muslim community. 

But in reality, Myanmar Buddhists and Muslims have long been mired in conflicts, striking a blow to the country's image as well as the progress of political, economic and social reforms. Therefore, the count is very likely to inflame tensions and fuel antagonism to Muslims.

Some Christians in the states of Kachin and Chin also voiced worries about their situation. It is reported that they have been asked to identify as Buddhists if they want to be registered in the census, which caused some nongovernmental groups to call for scrapping religion and ethnicity from the census form to avoid escalating tensions. 

Among the recognized 135 groups, some have changed their names, and some have only a handful of people who still identify as members. 

Three groups, including the Karen People's Party, threatened to boycott the census unless the Kecho and Kebar, which have been classified as Karenni based on government data from 1983, are redefined as subgroups of the Karen. 

The Kachin Democratic Party also argued that several categories and "subdivisions" should all be viewed as Kachin. Taking "subdivisions" as independent ethnic groups, they said, will jeopardize ethnic reconciliation and undermine trust that ethnic groups have in the government. 

A handful of armed ethnic forces also questioned the census, since they have worried the government may take the chance to weaken their position. 

The Myanmar government, which is mostly made up of the main ethnicity, Burmese, has been using the concept of the "nation" to assimilate smaller ethnic groups since independence. This is a political tool they depend on to consolidate power. 

Nationalism has been gradually discarded in some developed countries, but is still cherished in Myanmar. 

Will there be reforms in ethnic policies in Myanmar after the 2014 census? Will the old list of 135 groups be changed? 

Carrying out the count in a transparent, peaceful and convincing manner is of vital importance, and the extended census should be in accordance with international technical and human rights standards. 

Given that Myanmar is already facing controversies over constitutional amendments, the arduous work of census adds unpredictable variables to Myanmar's 2015 elections. 

If transparency and fairness cannot be guaranteed in the count, ethnic conflicts and even the irrational tide of nationalism will be rekindled. 

The author is a professor at the School of International Studies at Yunnan University.




By Huson Salm
RB Opinion
April 15, 2014

1) The immigration department of union of Myanmar has declared that the nationwide enumeration has approximately been collected except Kachin state and part of Rakhine state. Since then, government higher authorities have been interviewing with Burmese programs of Radio Free Asia and Voice of America that the enumeration process phase for Kachin state and north and central part of Rakhine state be extended for additional (8) weeks until the enumeration process accomplished to targeted destination.

2) The Rohingyas inhabitants from Rakhine state have been in high fear that the remaining enumeration process would be forcefully conducted against the will of the respondents as per the secret direction of higher authorities rather than an accord with UNFPA and the government of Myanmar which was reached between the two counterparts as per the international procedure. 

3) Immigration Minister U Khin Yi and Director General U Myint Kyaing have been blustering on the air that government will take action against those who will persistently stick the race ‘Rohingyas’ by the enumeration law, enacted by the government. As a matter of fact, in accord the enumeration law, respective enumerators should have had to record as per the respondents in the process. Having been acknowledging the attitude of Minister U Khin Yi and Director General U Myint Kyaing by entire Rohingyas, in fact, the enumerators who have been drastically breaking the enumeration law should be taken action rather than Rohingyas who were just respondents, and they are innocent. 

4) Government authorities had repeatedly approached the Rohingyas elders through Rakhine state parliamentarians (Rohingya) of Maungdaw and Buthidaung along the process to persuade the populace as ‘Bengali’ in race tally. Later the government authorities have changed their strategy about the race tally, suggesting the people that they may leave the race tally as ‘blank’, which Rohingyas from Arakan state are being irritated that this blank space in race tally be later filled up as ‘Bengali’ by the immigration officers in free hands behind the respondents.

5) Having firmly believed by the Rohingya people that they are Rohingyas only and are greatly worried by the enumerators’ attempt to brand them whatever-- whether the term Bengali or leaving space as blank in race tally which favors by the enumerators—are the gravely dangerous motivation by the government to be disentrancing the national rights and which totally against the accord between the UNFPA, donors and the government of Myanmar. 

6) There had been Rakhine mass demonstration before the commencing the enumeration, showing their firm stand against the name Rohingyas which Rakhine widely concern latter on-- the identity legitimizing as an indigenous status, and an attempt to solve the Rakhine people’ concern by the government, the enumerators were firstly directed not to register the name Rohingya as per the respondents. Anyway, the most interesting point now is that both community, Rohingyas and Rakhine do not like exit the race tally blank, concerning by Rohingyas that the authorities’ enumerators would later fill up as “Bengali” as well as Rakhine Buddhists concern that the government would fill up as Rohingyas in the blank under the advice of international community, learned from grassroots Rakhine and Rohingyas.

7) In actual fact, government has declared that the enumeration purpose from the beginning is to collect the social data for each and every single national to be able to lay out the wide national plan which to be benefiting merely overall social development regarding the respective ethnic group in the country, and adding that the collected data should not be applied for any particular purpose except for social development plan. 

8) If so, I personally find out a temporary plan to resolve the reef knot which is occurred in the region between Rakhine, Rohingyas and Union government. To have solved the problem; what about to re-design a new form in which no column of “race, religion, and code” tally, which with (38) facts against (41) points right now. I think this is the best solution at this current situation, which neither Rohingya nor Rakhine would have a room to raise objection for the enumeration and the union government would not have too much head-ache too to accomplish a peaceful enumeration process in Rakhine state where there are Rohingyas people residing. 

9) To have a peaceful enumeration in the region, both Rakhine state government and Union government are responsible to handle rationally the communal affairs and to take care of the requirement of oppressed community instead of privileged one.



The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect RB editorial policy.




RB News 
April 15, 2014 

Maungdaw, Arakan – Several groups of Rakhine extremists have been trying to attack or harass the Rohingya villages in Maungdaw Township of Arakan state since end of last month. 

On April 15th, in the afternoon at 3:30 pm a Rakhine extremist entered into Zi Pin Chaung village tract behaving provocatively, as if he were mad. He was caught by the Rohingya villagers and handed over to the village administrator. He then identified himself as being from Kyain Chaung village and stated his name was Moo Too S/o Maung Maung Lwin. The village administrator sent him to village police outpost and later sent to Kyain Chaung police station. The villagers told RB News that he wouldn’t be interrogated when he arrives to Kyain Chaung police station because the police are aware of the movement of the extremists in the area and they intentionally ignore them. 

On April 12th at midnight about 30 Rakhine extremists holding guns, swords and gallons of petrol (gasoline) tried to terrorize Tan Binga hamlet of Kha Mhaung Seik village, but sentry guards stopped them before they entered the village and they had to leave unsuccessfully. Similarly, they tried again on April 14th at 1:30 am. The Rohingya sentry were able to protect their village from the attack of the Rakhine extremists, and managed to ward off attacks by shouting that they saw the Mob coming. The villagers said those Rakhine extremists are based in a mountain area located at the eastern side of their village. The Rohingya villagers are worried that their village could be torched at any time by the group. 

On the afternoon of April 11th the military caught three Rakhine extremists from Kaye Myaing Natala village in Maungdaw which is nearby Duchiradan village, where the mass killing took place in last January.According to locals who gathered information from various sources the three Rakhine extremists are from Sittwe and were reportedly involved in attacking International NGOs and NGOs in Sittwe and were staying in Maungdaw as part of a plan to launch attacks in Maungdaw against Rohingyas.

Additional reporting by MYARF.

The rebel Kachin Independence Army has accused Myanmar's military of thwarting the peace process.


April 15, 2014

Ethnic Shan and Kachin minorities in Myanmar are fleeing their homes as the military pushes ahead with an onslaught against rebel groups.

Rebels say they're frustrated as negotiations continue with the government on a countrywide ceasefire.

Kachin Independence Army colonel James Lum Dau has told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program the Myanmar army is thwarting the peace process.

"We never go down to fight the Burmese army," he said. "The Burmese army comes up to our villages and refugee camps and come and fight."

In 2011, eight ethnic minorities formed the United Nationalities Federal Council in preparation for negotiations with the government.

But as talks continue, human rights groups say the Myanmar military has intensified its fighting in Shan and Kachin states in the past fortnight.

The recent fighting has seen villagers fleeing to China for asylum, but mostly to no avail.

Colonel Lum Dau says two months ago when the Chinese Red Cross provided 5,000 boxes of basic essentials to Kachin families, Myanmar complained to Beijing.

He says the Myanmar government's approach is to "let them die so that the Kachin will automatically surrender".

Colonel Lum Dau says all the talk about reform and development in Myanmar is merely to appease foreign powers.

"The day the Burmese military is sincere or honest and they keep their promise, that day Burma will get peace."

Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian are facing criminal defamation charges over an article on people smuggling.

By Sophie Brown and Kocha Olarn
April 15, 2014

A criminal defamation case against two journalists in Thailand is set to proceed this week, despite calls from the United Nations and prominent rights groups for the charges to be dropped amid concerns over press freedom there.

The charges relate to an article published July 17 last year that included information from a Reuters investigative piece that alleged some Thai naval forces have been profiting from the smuggling of ethnic Rohingya people fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar. Reuters won a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting for its series on the persecution of the Rohingya on Monday.

The Phuketwan journalists are accused of knowingly publishing false information and committing slander, according to the charge sheet.

In December, the Thai navy filed criminal defamation and computer crimes charges against the reporters from Phuketwan, a small news website in the province of Phuket, over a report connecting military personnel to human trafficking.

Veteran Australian journalist and editor of Phuketwan, Alan Morison, and reporter Chutima Sidasathian, a Thai citizen, have been advised that the case will proceed at Phuket's Provincial Court on April 17, according to a Phuketwan report.

Phuket's public prosecutor, Wiwat Kijjaruk told CNN Friday there was enough evidence to proceed with the case."Even though the two said that they just republished an article from Reuters ... they should have checked the facts before doing so," he said.If convicted, Morison and Chutima could face up to seven years in jail.

'Chilling effect'

A United Nations human rights official has called on the Thai government to drop the case.

"Criminal prosecution for defamation has a chilling effect on freedom of the press," said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. "International standards are clear that imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty for defamation."

Human Rights Watch, which condemned the lawsuit along with otherNGOs, said the Thai navy should allow authorities to look into the allegations of trafficking and other mistreatment of Rohingya migrants.

"Prosecutors should be investigating the poor treatment of Rohingya boat people instead of targeting journalists," said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch in a statement.

CNN could not reach the Thai navy for comment for this story. After the charges were filed in December, an official from the Royal Thai Navy, who asked not to be named, told CNN the navy "does not intend to obstruct any media from, or threaten any media for performing their duties. What we are trying to do is to protect our organization from false allegations." The navy has not released an official statement about the case.

Reuters has not been notified of any legal action over its report, which a spokesperson for the company said "was the product of extensive reporting, is fair, balanced and contextualized."

"We wish to emphasize that Reuters' story does not single out the Thai Royal Navy, but explores the responsibility of all involved in patrolling the Thai seas and provides their perspectives."

According to Phuketwan, other Thai news organizations that also published the text at the center of the case have not been charged.

If found guilty, Morison and Chutima could face jail time of up to two years on the criminal defamation charges and five years for breaching the Computer Crimes Act, as well as a fine of around $3,000.

'In defense of media freedom'

Thailand's Computer Crimes Act aims to stop the spread of content believed to threaten national security or create panic, but it has attracted criticism from freedom of speech advocates and internet providers for making online users liable for reproducing material originally published by others.

Denying the charges, Morison, 66, said that he will not apply for bail if a court seeks it, "in defense of media freedom in Thailand."

Originally from Melbourne, Morison has been in Phuket for 11 years, where he produces Phuketwan and also freelances for international media, including CNN, The Sydney Morning Herald and the South China Morning Post. He worked for CNN as CNN.com Asia Deputy Editor in 2001-2002.

Phuketwan has become known for its investigations into the alleged mistreatment of Rohingya, many of whom arrive in Thailand by boat after fleeing ethnic and religious violence in Myanmar.

Reports of Rohingya ending up in camps where they are held at ransom, beaten, killed or sold as laborers have been documented by NGOs and media organizations.

The Thai government says it is committed to combating human trafficking in Thailand but denies that the Rohingya are victims of trafficking. It says that the Rohingya are migrants who consent to being smuggled.

In a 2013 human trafficking report submitted to the U.S. State Department in March, Thailand does not include any Rohingya in its trafficked persons statistics, a spokesperson for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sek Suwannamethee told CNN Friday.

The State Department is due to release its latest ranking of countries' efforts to combat human trafficking in June. Thailand will be downgraded to Tier 3, the lowest rank, unless it makes "significant efforts" to tackle the issue, according to the State Department.

CNN's Kocha Olarn reported from Bangkok; Sophie Brown reported and wrote from Hong Kong.

Myanmar's National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi pictured at a polling station in 2012.


By Tim Hume 
April 15, 2014

Having endured nearly 15 years of house arrest with grace and courage, Aung San Suu Kyi has earned a reputation throughout the world as a political superstar of rare moral stature.

But for some, mostly from outside the country but also from within, the aura surrounding Myanmar's most famous daughter has dimmed in recent years.

"I think everyone agrees now she has been a disappointment when it comes to human rights promotion," said David Mathieson, Human Rights Watch's senior researcher on Myanmar.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner's glittering international reputation means that visiting dignitaries still clamor for a meeting since she emerged from detention in 2010 and set about pressing her case to become the next president of post-reform Myanmar. "Everyone that arrives in Rangoon (Yangon) expects to get a photo op," said Mathieson. "They all want that Suu Kyi photo on the mantelpiece."

But for some observers of Myanmar's emergence from nearly half a century of authoritarian military rule, the 68-year-old's perceived failure to speak out against rising violence towards the mainly Buddhist country's Muslim Rohingya minority is grounds for criticism.

HRW executive director Kenneth Roth was withering in a recent report: "The world was apparently mistaken to assume that as a revered victim of rights abuse she would also be a principled defender of rights."

Aung Zaw, editor of Myanmar news magazine The Irrawaddy, said that while she remained popular among Burmese, Suu Kyi had eroded some of her domestic support in recent years.

Her failure to speak out on ethnic issues and the communal violence that had wracked the country was "shocking," he said, and had been met with disappointment in quarters of the country's ethnic communities.

"People expected her -- as she is a Nobel Peace Prize winner -- to say a few words to stop the bloodshed," he said.

Ethnic conflict has been a recurring feature of Myanmar's political landscape since it gained independence from Britain in 1948.

But following the 2011 transition from military rule to quasi-civilian governance, the country has witnessed a significant spike in violence targeting Muslims, with Buddhist extremists blamed for fanning the flames of hatred.

The Rohingya -- a Muslim minority concentrated in impoverished Rakhine state in the west of the country -- has borne the worst of it, prompting the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, to declare this month that the recent persecution of the group "could amount to crimes against humanity." Myanmar presidential spokesman Ye Htut told CNN the government rejected the remarks.

Myanmar's most persecuted minority

The Rohingya -- regarded by many in Myanmar as interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh -- are de jure stateless due to their lack of official recognition as one of the country's 135 ethnic groups. During the controversial recent national census, the country's first in 31 years, officials forbade respondents from identifying as Rohingya, drawing international criticism.

The Rohingya face "very, very strong" antipathy throughout the country, according to Georgetown University expert David Steinberg, being subjected to restrictions on marriage, employment, health care, education and movement, and are the only group in the country barred from having more than two children.

In 2012, outbreaks of communal violence in Rakhine -- home to an estimated 800,000 Rohingya -- left hundreds dead, the majority of them Muslims. The bloodshed displaced huge populations from their homes into squalid camps, where 140,000, mostly Rohingya, remain, completely reliant on humanitarian aid supplies that are increasingly being restricted.

Last month, Doctors Without Borders -- the largest NGO healthcare provider in Rakhine -- was banned from operating in the state, where it had worked for more than 20 years, because officials accused it of providing preferential treatment to Rohingya. Weeks later, international aid workers were driven from the state during rioting by Buddhist-led mobs angry at the aid workers' perceived support for the Rohingya, a development Quintana warned would have severe consequences for the 140,000 within the camps, and 700,000 vulnerable people outside them.

The killings have persisted as well, according to reports. The U.N. says that in January, at least 40 Rohingya men, women and children were killed by security forces and civilians from the Rakhine ethnic group at a village in Rakhine state called Du Chee Yar Tan. An official inquiry by Myanmar's government found no evidence to support the claims of a massacre, said Htut.

While Suu Kyi -- who, through her staff, declined to comment for this story -- has joined rights activists in criticizing the two-child limit for Rohingya as discriminatory, her critics say she has been less than emphatic about the communal violence that has disproportionately affected the Rohingya.

When drawn on the Rohingya issue, "The Lady," as she is known in Myanmar, has consistently hewn to familiar talking points: stressing the rule of law and a commitment to non-violence, while refusing to condemn either side -- a position that many rights activists find untenable.

She has rejected the HRW's characterization of the situation as "ethnic cleansing," and told an Indian television interviewer in 2012 not to "forget that violence has been committed by both sides." "This is why I prefer not to take sides and also I want to work towards reconciliation between these two communities. I'm not going to be able to do that if I'm going to take sides."

In November, she told an audience in Sydney that "what people want is not defense but condemnation. I am not condemning because I have not found that condemnation brings good results."

Suu Kyi's stance, said Chris Lewa, director of Rohingya advocacy group The Arakan Project, was "very disappointing," in that it falsely equated the suffering of Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine. "Silence is not remaining neutral. It's giving a green light to those who want violence, keeping this climate of impunity and insecurity."

A 'politically calculated silence'?

So why has this outspoken defender of human rights seemingly lost her voice?

It is, says Mathieson, "a politically calculated silence" that reflects the re-entry of Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy into the political fold in earnest.

The former political prisoner, who described herself to CNN last year as having "been a politician all along," has repeatedly said she wants to be the next president of Myanmar. The 2015 general election will see her compete against the military-backed party of President Thein Sein on one flank, and hardline anti-regime activists on the other.

"She's playing a different game now," said Mathieson. "People still see her as this great Nobel Peace Prize-winning icon for human rights and democracy -- what they don't get now is she wants to be a politician taking on one of the most brutal militaries in the world."

Mathieson said Suu Kyi's political fortunes depended on negotiating several challenges, including trying to strike a balance between international expectations -- "most of which are outlandishly unfair and ill-informed" -- and a "very complicated domestic setting where if she suddenly did do a volte-face and spoke out on behalf of Muslims, it would be politically disastrous."

Moreover, she was operating in a complicated post-authoritarian domestic environment in which she had opted to work inside the system as a lawmaker and was compelled to keep senior military figures, who still hold a strong grip on the reins of power, onside. "I can understand why she's walking on eggshells," he said.

Suu Kyi's political ambitions were complicated by the fact that a clause in Myanmar's 2008 military-drafted constitution prohibits anyone with a foreign spouse or children from becoming president, said Mathieson. Suu Kyi's late husband was a foreign-born Oxford academic, and her two adult sons are British.

While Suu Kyi and her supporters are seeking to have this clause removed from the constitution before 2015, the time frame to achieve this is short, and parliament has indicated any changes to the constitution would prioritize other reforms first.

For some in Myanmar, it is her perceived failure to successfully negotiate her new relationship with the military that is the biggest source of disappointment. To Zaw, her accommodations to the military establishment have led to her, and others in the opposition, being co-opted by a "completely flawed system."

"Her reading of the government, an offshoot of the repressive regime, has been wrong," said Zaw, citing her controversial support for a Chinese-backed copper mine in Letpadeung, which saw her sharply criticized by local residents opposed to the project, as one such misstep to have alienated supporters.

"The regime is clever at using her political legitimacy to advance its goal to legitimize its rule, and to change the perceptions of Western governments towards the country -- from pariah to darling of the West.

While she retained popularity among many Burmese, he said, the result was that Suu Kyi had lost some of her allies "inside and outside of Burma."

'Not so simple'

But others are more forgiving of her position. Influential blogger and activist Nay Phone Latt, who was a political prisoner for four years under the junta and is currently campaigning against a wave of "hate speech" in Myanmar, stressed that Suu Kyi was negotiating a complex political environment at a critical juncture for the country.

"The political situation (in) our country is not so simple," he said. "I don't want to blame her."

Steinberg said he interpreted Suu Kyi's politically expedient stance on the Rohingya issue as motivated out of concern for Myanmar's national interest, rather than being a purely self-interested act.

"I think she thinks she's the person in that country who best understands what democracy is about, and what's best for the future of Burma."

He believed that Suu Kyi remained "very important" to Myanmar's future, but that her significance would diminish over time, if the government's rapid reforms of recent years continued apace and brought about significant change.

"If the government can deliver improvement in the lives of the people, if they do things with the environment and pay attention to minorities, then her status will quietly diminish," he said. Suu Kyi would likely retain a high profile to the rest of the world regardless, he predicted, "because we like Joans of Arc."

For Zaw, despite his criticisms, Suu Kyi remained "one of the hopes in Burma," alongside "many other democrats and ethnic leaders who continue to push for genuine change."

She retained the support of many, he said, and crucially, she was not corrupt.

"I still think there's time for her to change her tactics, reconnect to the roots and rebuild her base," he said. "If she can mobilize people and her allies, inside and outside, the other side will negotiate and make more meaningful concessions.

"She is someone Burma was expecting for many decades. She should know that the country needs her."

By Hereward Holland
April 14, 2014

Muslim Rohingya are excluded from political representation as a result of not being counted.

Myanmar's million-plus Muslim Rohingya population doesn't officially exist on government records. Branded "Bengali" and considered illegal immigrants, they've been living under systematic discrimination since sectarian violence erupted in 2012 in the coastal Rakhine state.

In the past six months, resentment of aid groups has been building among some Buddhists because of charities' perceived preferential treatment of the Rohingya, who make up the vast majority of those displaced by the recent unrest. Many aid groups that once provided life-giving support to the Rohingya's squalid camps have either been banned or forced to flee, their compounds ransacked by Buddhist mobs.

The mobs gathered after a UN-backed national census, the country's first in 30 years.

The headcount officially began on March 30, despite threats of violence and questions of ethnicity and religion that could re-ignite conflict in an already deeply fractured country.

Rights groups and think tanks advised the government to delay the census or remove questions concerning race and religion because of Myanmar's fragile stage in transition from dictatorship to "disciplined democracy".

The UK's Department for International Development donated £10 million ($16m) to the project.

Days before the count, Buddhist nationalists - roused by hard-line monks - threatened to boycott the census if the Rohingya registered their ethnicity.

In an attempt to keep the peace, the government barred Rohingya from taking part in the census unless they identified themselves as "Bengali".

The UN Population Fund said it was "deeply concerned about the departure from international census standards".

Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
Provoked by hard-line monks, many in the Buddhist community were angered that the government initially allowed Muslim Rohingya to register their ethnicity. The government later barred Rohingya from taking part unless they registered as "Bengali".
Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
Ethnic Rohingya, who have lived in the region for centuries, are conspicuously absent from this museum display. Rohingya are also absent from the official list of 135 ethnicities on the country's census form.
Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
In the run up to the census, some hard-line Buddhists spread rumours that Muslims were attempting to convert Myanmar from a Buddhist country through migration and marriage to Buddhist women.
Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
A building owned by Malteser International, an emergency aid group, bears the scars of an attack by a Buddhist mob angered by the removal of a pro-Buddhist flag from their building. Local Buddhists saw this as disrespectful, compounding resentment over the agency's perceived preferential treatment of Rohingya following previous sectarian violence. Later, a mob wielding hammers marched around town smashing and looting more than two dozen compounds used by aid agencies.
Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
On April 1, around 200 census workers entered Te Chaung camp on the outskirts of Sittwe. The data collectors were flanked by police and backed up by two army battalions. The camp's overwhelming majority is ethnic Rohingya.
Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
Instead of asking the 41 questions of the census, workers asked just one: "What is your ethnicity?" If respondents answered: "Rohingya", the workers reportedly moved on without registering the family.
Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
A Rohingya woman watches as census workers walk past her home, refusing to allow her to participate. Participation is crucial, as ministerial positions in local parliaments are allocated corresponding to proportional representation of registered ethnic groups.
Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
Rohingya children look out from their hut as census workers pass. They won't be counted, after pressure on the government from Buddhist nationalists - who see the Rohingya's census participation as the "thin edge of the wedge" towards citizenship, even though officials deny the count would be used for that purpose.
Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
A Kaman Muslim man living in the Te Chaung displacement camp poses with a card showing he participated in the census. Despite being Muslim, the Kaman is one of the 135 officially recognised ethnicities.
Photo: Hez Holland/Al Jazeera
A census worker practices filling out the pink census form at a training session. The United Nations Population Fund and the national government say the headcount will help allocate the nation's budget and resources.

Rohingya Exodus