April 1, 2014 – Authorities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have rubbished claims that Rohingya people would be arrested if they identified themselves as Rohingya on census forms.
Myanmar is currently conducting its first official census in 30 years.
The term “Rohingya” is controversial, as the Myanmar government does not recognise the label, and considers the community as illegal immigrants.
Rohingya, also known as Bengalis in Myanmar, account for a third of the three million people in Rakhine.
Kyaw Yin Oo, director of Rakhine State Immigration, said: “We explained there is no such term as Rohingya in the country. We can’t write down the name ‘Rohingya’ on the census.
“You have a choice of writing down ‘Bengali’ or skipping your race identity. We ask them to think about it. And if they want, we can come back (to fill out the form again).
“They’re free to identify themselves as desired and we won’t (arrest them or) take any legal action against them.”
Census takers faced resistance from some Rohingya areas because some people insisted on identifying themselves as Rohingya.
But the government will not allow that.
Some people preferred to leave the column of ethnicity blank, resulting in some census forms being incomplete.
Authorities, however, insisted that the information will still be legitimate and credible.
Authorities have also denied that census takers have altered information given to them.