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UK Spends £9M On Census In Burma

July 15, 2014

Britain has spent £9 million on a census in Burma that was widely criticised for stoking religious and ethnic tensions after the government denied a long-persecuted minority from identifying themselves as Rohingya.

Outgoing International Development Minister Alan Duncan said the UK committed £10 million to the census, with £9 million already spent and £1 million to follow for "data analysis, thematic reports and dissemination of information".

The census was criticised for not allowing Rohingya Muslims to note their ethnicity on forms as the Burmese government sees them as Bengali immigrants and denies them citizenship.

Many migrated into Burma generations ago and have long been persecuted by majority Buddhists in the country - also known as Myanmar - which has recently emerged from 50 years of brutal military rule and isolation.

Buddhist hostility towards the Rohingya spilled over in 2012 when Buddhist mob attacks on the minority left 200 people dead and displaced another 140,000 from their homes in the Western state of Rakhine.

In the run up to the March census, Buddhists in Rakhine vowed to boycott it as they were worried the status of the Rohingyas would be legitimised. They also attacked the homes and offices of foreign aid workers, forcing their evacuation.

The census was the country's first for 30 years and involved a complicated questionnaire drawn up by the Burmese government and the United Nations Population Fund.

The 1983 census counted the country's population as 60 million but is seen as flawed for failing to count many religious and ethnic minorities.

The UN had given assurances that the 2014 census would count the Rohingya.

Mr Duncan gave the figures in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour's shadow international development minister Gavin Shuker.

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