Govt to Release Census Data on Religion

By San Yamin Aung 12 July 2016

RANGOON — Data from Burma’s 2014 census on the populations of the country’s religious groups will be released this month, a ministry spokesperson has announced.

Myint Kyaing, the permanent secretary within the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the religious data will be ready for publication in late July, but data on ethnic populations will continue to be withheld.

Due to ongoing debates, figures on Burma’s religious and ethnic makeup were delayed from publication with the other census results in May of 2015, which revealed the total population to be more than 51 million.

“We delayed at that time since we needed [to perform] more analysis and consultation. But now, since we have finished it all, we plan to publish [the results],” Myint Kyaing said.

He said that the figures will reveal the population of each religious group in the country, as well as at the state and divisional level.

“I don’t think the figure will become an issue. I hope the data will support mutual understanding and respect in building a peaceful society and the development of the states and divisions,” he said, adding that, “There was not much significant change from 1983 census.”

Burma is home to animists, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims. One highly anticipated forthcoming figure is that of the country’s Muslim minority; the 1983 census reported that Muslims constituted 4 percent of the population in the Buddhist-majority country, but this percentage is believed by some to be a low estimation.

In addition, an estimated 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims in western Burma were not enumerated in the 2014 census; a 1982 law– which narrows citizenship eligibility along ethnic lines– excludes the Rohingya from recognition as one of the country’s ethnic groups; the law, as currently implemented, forces those in unrecognized groups to prove family residency over three generations, which is very difficult for most to prove, since the vast majority of people in Burma went without documents prior to laws introduced in 1951 requiring registration.

Myint Kyaing, said that the ethnic data from the census is expected to be released after four or five months as further statistical analysis is reportedly required, as are consultations with ethnic leaders and Burma’s ethnic affairs ministry and committee.

The census was conducted in March and April of 2014, and marked the first attempt to carry out a nationwide population count in more than three decades. The massive data set includes demographic characteristics and living conditions, detailing population size and growth, age and sex, marital status, migration, births and deaths, education, employment, disability, and housing conditions and amenities in each of Burma’s 330 townships.

Correction: This story originally stated that a 1982 law precluded the Rohingya from citizenship. It has since been updated to instead illustrate how the law has been used to deny citizenship to ethnic groups not “recognized” under the controversial statute.