YANGON -- UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is deeply concerned about the Myanmar Government’s decision not to allow census respondents who wish to self-identify their ethnicity as Rohingya to do so.
In its agreement with the United Nations on the 2014 census, the Government made a commitment to conduct the exercise in accordance with international census standards and human rights principles. It explicitly agreed with the condition that each person would be able to declare what ethnicity they belong to, including those who wish to record their identity as of mixed ethnicity. Those not identifying with one of the listed ethnic categories would be able to declare their ethnicity and have their response recorded by the enumerator.
Just before the start of the census, however, senior officials announced that people who wish to define their ethnicity as Rohingya will not be able to do so.
UNFPA is deeply concerned about this departure from international census standards, human rights principles and agreed procedures. We are concerned that this could heighten tensions in Rakhine State, which has a history of communal violence, as well as undermining the credibility of census data collected.
UNFPA looks to the Government to give the highest priority to protecting lives and preventing violence from occurring, and to fully respect and protect the human rights of everyone, including people who choose to define their ethnicity as Rohingya.