Muslims in Bago say they have denied the opportunity to list their ethnic identity in the national census that began on March 30, Mizzima has been told.

The chairman of the Bago regional branch of the Myanmar Muslims’ Youth Association, U Khin Maung Myint, said ethnic identity was the eighth question on the census form, after one about religious belief.

“Muslims from all over the region have telephoned me to say that they had not had the chance to respond [to the question about ethnic identity] and instead they were immediately categorised as “914”, the code for “other”,  with no opportunity to fill in the blank space alongside,” U Khin Maung Myint told Mizzima on March 31.

“We are worried that if we are not allowed to identify our race, then we might automatically become ‘alien citizens’ or ‘permanent residents’,” he said.

U Khin Maung Myint said he had heard that in some parts of Myanmar, as soon as Muslims had answered question seven, the enumerator would immediately write ”914” as the answer to the next question.

However, U Ye Lwin, an audit officer from the Kyaungyi Odan ward census office in PyayTownship, BagoRegion, said there were no barriers to Muslims completing question eight as they wished.

“We fill in the race as instructed by the government but we cannot fill in what they do not say, they must respond correctly just as we must fill in the correct data,” U Ye Lwin said.

U Zaw Win, a resident of KyaungyiOdanward told Mizzima that as soon he told the enumerator he was a Muslim, his ethnic identity was listed as “914”.

“We were not allowed to check the answers and ensure they have written the correct race, it looks as if we are not allowed to declare our race,” he said.

U Ye Lwin said that there was no audit process for the census and the Census Commission was not allowed to review the completed forms.

“Rumours that the race question ‘blanks’ were not filled are just rumours,” he said.