Researcher: Naypyitaw sticks to its guns on 135 national races

unfpa-khinyi Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund with Ministe of Immigration and Population U Khin Yi on 29 August 2012 (Photo: UNFPA)

Critics and researchers can say whatever they like, but Burma’s next census in 31 years will still be based on the controversial 135 “national races”, according to a foreign researcher working in the country.

“Detailed information however will not be released until a month before the actual census taking,” said the analyst on 15 November while visiting Thailand. “Officials concerned say they are afraid it will be politicized if it comes out prematurely.”

No intensive research on the number of the country’s “national races” has been made, but according to Gamanii, an analyst based in Thailand, actual count could be no more than 58:

                   Junta count    Researcher’s count
1    Kachin            12                     6
2    Kayah             9                      5
3    Karen             11                     3
4    Chin               53                    11
5    Burman          9                       5
6    Mon               1                       1
7    Arakan           7                       5
8    Shan              33                     22
    Total               135                   58

Kachins, for example, he says, are unnecessarily divided into 12, when it should be only 6:

1    Kachin    Term covers Jingpho, Maru, Rawang, Lashi, Atsi and Lisu
2    Jingpho   a Kachin branch
3    Maru       a Kachin branch
4    Rawang   a Kachin branch
5    Lashi       a Kachin branch
6    Atsi         a Kachin branch
7    Lisu        a Kachin branch
8    Trone     a Rawang clan
9    Guari      a Jingpho clan
10    Khakhu    a Jingpho clan
11    Duleng    a Jingpho clan
12    Dalau    a Jingpho clan (some argues a Rawang clan)

“The funny thing,” he says, “is that Kachin has been set apart from Jingpho, Maru and others although all of them are collectively known as Kachins.”

The same thing goes for Shans, who have been divided into 10 different national races, Palaungs into 2 and Lahu into 2 in Shan State. An ongoing campaign is urging all Shans of different clans or sub-families to be registered as one single label, that is, “Shan” or, as they call themselves, “Tai”.

Last March, a pilot census was taken in 20 townships across the country, where 41 questions were asked. “In Loikaw,” said the researcher, “the people just handed out their household registers for the enumerators to copy as they had been warned earlier by the local immigration officers that they must give correct answers. The result was that a Christian family I saw was ticked off as Buddhist, although a portrait of Jesus was hung on the wall for all to see.”

“The UNFPA (UN Fund for Population Activities) should do public consultation well beforehand,” the researcher concluded.

The census taking will be conducted on 30 March-10 April 2014. “We need to achieve peace as soon as possible,” Minister for Immigration as Population U Khin Yi told SHAN in Myitkyina on 5 November. “Because it’s only barely 5 months away. You shift your head a little and your bottom a little, and, before you know it, you’re already there.”

135: Counting Races in Burma by Gamanii, 25 September 2012


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