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Representatives from 10 ethnic organisations told Immigration Minister Khin Yi on Wednesday that they are prepared to shelve concerns over categorisation of ethnic groups in Burma until after the census has been conducted.
The collective previously opined that the official listing of 135 distinct ethnic groups could cause discord, hence the questionnaire should be adjusted to avoid controversy.
Thus far Burma’s ethnic groups have been fervent in their criticism of a census that the International Crisis Group have too labelled “divisive”; the new statement is the fist indication of a changing sentiment.
Salai Izak Khin of the Chin National Action Committee on the Census (CNACC) said that the list of 135 ethnic groups does need to be altered. While they maintained that the number – which originated from the British colonial administration – is problematic, Salai Izak Khin, said that changing the roster can wait.
“We decided to facilitate a negotiation with ethnic groups to resolve the issue after its [the census] completion,” said Salai Izak Khin.
He said the representatives and the minister agreed on the formation of post-census committees to rework the list of ethnic identities.
According to the current list, there are 135 distinct officially recognised ethnic groups under eight “major national ethnic races”: Kachin, Karenni (Kayah), Karen (Kayin), Chin, Bamar, Mon, Arakanese (Rakhine) and Shan.
Several ethnic sub-groups have objected to their ethnicities being listed as distinct groups, claiming that it causes disharmony and damages nationwide peace efforts.
Burma has an estimated population of 60 million people, though no census has been conducted in over thirty years. Results of the 1983 census, however, which estimated the population at around 30 million, are heavily contested because enumerators had no access to large swathes of the country under rebel control.
The 2014 census will begin on March 30 and end on 10 April.