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Several minority ethnic groups in Shan State say they plan to conduct a population count on their own terms and separate from the government-sanctioned nationwide census scheduled to begin at end of this month.
Win Myint, Shan State Minister for Intha Affairs, said the “Committee to Verify the Accurate Number of Ethnic Nationalities in Shan State” was formed last year and includes members of parliament and civil society representatives from various ethnic groups in the eastern Burmese state including Shan, Palaung, Pa-O, Kokang, Intha and Danu.
“We aim to determine the exact populations of different ethnic groups under our own terms – but there is no plan to submit the findings to the government,” said Win Myint, adding the committee hopes the figures will be useful when the country transforms into a federal union.
“For the most part, we intend to use the count as a means of assessing the needs of local populations – ID cards, householder lists, and for social and education assistance.”
He said the process is set to begin after completion of the government census in April and that a three-month timeframe would be set, which could be extended to up to nine months if necessary.
Sai Than Maung, a committee member and MP in the Shan State Regional Parliament, said the programme will also include local people who do not have national identification cards.
“We are looking to help those thousands of people who have been forced to flee the country over the past 15 years – some of whom who don’t have ID cards – by reissuing their personal documents and householder lists. We are talking with civil society organisations in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, as well as the regional government in Shan State to work out a plan for them,” said Sai Than Maung.
The budget for the project is estimated at 200 million kyat (US$200,000). The committee said it has now raised around 120 million kyat from local businessmen, civil society groups and individual donors.
The Committee to Verify the Accurate Number of Ethnic Nationalities in Shan State was formed on 22 August 2013 with members of parliament, literary experts and influential figures from 84 Shan State townships with 10 representatives each per township.
The confirmation that the Shan groups plan to work independently of the central government and other ethnic groups on the census comes just a day after the Shan State Army- South announced through DVB that it will not fully adhere to any nationwide ceasefire agreement, but will instead work towards a separate peace deal with the Burmese government.
Meanwhile, the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) reported a clash with Burmese government forces close to its headquarters in northern Shan State’s Kehsi Mansan Township on Tuesday morning.
Sai La, spokesperson for the SSA-N said a four-hour battle took place in the vicinity of Pangse Hill about 15 miles from their Wanhai Headquarters when a Burmese army column deviated from its course and ran into rebel troops. He said several injuries were reported in the fight, but no loss of life.