Burma: Saying "Good-bye" to Stateless Problem?

The Burmese Immigration is again recounting the Rohingya population, which the total number to exceeds 1.3 million. I think this is consistent with higher-end estimates of the Rohingya population by observers, where the lower-end estimate goes like 700,000.

It is encouraging to see that the census is also including those Rohingya(Bengalis) who are displaced across the border and total number is said to be about 300,000. These people, I assume, were mainly of those returnees of 1994 repatriation who found life too difficult in Arakan State, then went back across the border. In any event, the Burmese Immigration must have already checked that 300,000 individuals with the Rohingya family lists of which the Burmese Immigration reportedly retained for decades.

I still think there is a great deal of mis-understanding and mis-information exist about Rohingya: the name sake; the ethnic origin; current ethnic composition; source of statelessness etc... Such mis-understanding about this particular community seem to be shared by all of us: the Burman majority, the Rakhine, the International Observers and, last but not the least, the members of Rohingya community.

Burmese people inside and outside are still finding out about that section of Rohingya community which became stateless aftermath of 1982 Citizenship Laws. Even if the Burmese Government is flexible enough and allowed these stateless Rohingyas to become Burmese 'citizens' of some sort, the Burmese people as a whole will need to be informed clearly about what had happened to these Rohingyas(Bengalis). I think there are already enough resources within this list (Internet) to draw conclusion about these stateless Rohingyas.

With this kind of positive development, i.e. the inclusion of stateless Rohingyas in the census, we might look forwards to the year 2015 at a time Burma can say 'good-bye' to her stateless problems.

In Solidarity,
U Ne Oo.

Democratic Voice of Burma:


Reported date: 8/5/14


Burma’s Ministry of Immigration announced that the census in Arakan State will continue until the end of May, in an attempt to count Muslim populations that were excluded from last month’s tally.

Immigration Minister Khin Yi, addressing the press in Rangoon on Wednesday, said that officials were considering a “don’t tell policy” for those who self-identify as Rohingya. People in three districts of Arakan State remain unaccounted for because they refused an ultimatum to list themselves as ethnic “Bengali”.

“The term ‘Rohingya’ is not recognised in Burma, but if the populations in question are not comfortable identifying as ‘Bengali’ they just don’t answer at all,” he said, “and [now] we will register them.”

Enumerators were ordered not to write in the term “Rohingya” on census forms, and instead to not register those who refused to identify with an ethnicity already listed on the paperwork. Due to the amount of people who remain unaccounted for, census-takers will now be permitted to leave the ethnicity section blank.

The term “Rohingya” is still unavailable as an ethnic identifier.

From the information already available, Khin Yi said there are an estimated 1.3 million “Bengali” people in Burma, and about one million of them reside in Arakan State. This excludes, however, those who live in the three districts that identified as Rohingya.

“We counted over 300,000 Bengalis living across Burma outside of the Arakan state – these people were counted because they did not identify themselves to be Rohingya,” said the minister. “Of the five districts in Arakan state, the population in two districts accepted the term Bengali and so were registered.”

He said the government ensured a “successful outcome” from the census, with a 99 percent coverage rate and a response rate of 98 percent. Comprehensive results will be available in May 2015, he said.

The Immigration Ministry has also reached out to the Kachin Independence Organisation in northern Burma to survey the 20 villages left out because of a recent bout of combat.

According to Khin Yi, 97 villages across Burma were excluded from the census due to “security reasons.”