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UN Spins Census While Myanmar Says Will Not Recognize Rohingya

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 13 -- Is the UN in denial about the exclusionary census it is supporting in Myanmar? Back on January 24, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: another Myanmar question. There is a census coming up. It seems that the United Nations system is involved in funding and maybe even participating in it. Both Kachin and Rohingya groups have expressed a lot of concerns. One, there is no box in the census thus far to check Rohingya, meaning… implying that they are not citizens. Also, Kachin, they have other complaints. I wanted to know: is UN aware of these? What steps are they taking, and will they fund a census that many groups think makes things worse rather than better?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Well, we will look into what we are doing on that question. We need some details about that.

  It was 19 days later, on February 12, that the UN Spokesperson's Office finally sent this response:

Subject: In response to your question on the Myanmar census.
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 5:02 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is the focal UN agency for providing technical and programmatic assistance to the Government for the census. It says that everyone in Myanmar will be counted in the census. UNFPA is supporting the Government to ensure that the census is fully inclusive and conducted according to international standards. Respondents will be asked to identify their ethnicity, with the option of selecting one of the categories used in the 1983 census or selecting "other" and writing in the name of another group. All of the responses will be coded and tabulated.

  Compare this belated Pollyanna answer by the UN and UNFPA to what the Myanmar government Minister for Immigration and Population U Khin Yi openly says:

"They say that their race is Rohingya. When a person says that his race is “B”, because he doesn’t want to mention his race as “A”, that means that race “A” no longer exists, but the race “B” is a new race. Since race “B” is a new race, there will be questions, such as “how did the race enter (the country)?” or “are they encroaching here?” When things become radical, I worry that it could harm peace and stability...We will record what the person says. If he says “A” then we will fill the form as “A”. The result will be, like I said before, that even if that term “A” is Rohingya, we will not recognize Rohingya as one of the 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar."

So this is "fully inclusive and conducted according to international standards"? The UN is at best in denial. Watch this site.

Footnote: It appears that on-again, off-again UN official Charles Petrie is about to set sail from Myanmar. He was quoted earlier this year: "In terms of MPSI we want to make sure whatever we do adds value, and there’s a clear sense that if there isn’t we won’t continue." Watch this site.


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