Census data will be collected in Rakhine and Kachin states until June 10, a senior Ministry of Immigration and Population official told Mizzima on April 22.

The decision was announced by the director-general of the ministry’s Department of Population, U Myint Kyaing, who also said that apart from the two states, the census was 98 percent complete and showed that Myanmar’s population did not exceed 60 million.

U Myint Kyaing said the decision to extend data collection in each state for two months after the census ended in other parts of the country on April 10 was because of ethnic identity issues in Rakhine and civil conflict in Kachin.

The government controversially decided not to allow residents of Rakhine State who call themselves Rohingya from identifying their ethnic identity as such, a decision which the United Nations Population Fund – which had provided technical support for the exercise  – described on April 1 as a “departure from international census standards, human rights principles and agreed procedures”.

The decision by the government – which regards the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh –followed protests in Rakhine State against “Rohingya” being allowed as an ethnic category.

“There are currently over 700,000 Bengalis missing from the census data,” said U Myint Kyaing, who added that if the ethnic identity issue arose again in Rakhine there would be no further data collection in the state.

Among those not counted by enumerators after the census began on March 30 was a resident of Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township, U Nyi Nyi Soe.

“They did not record my information because I said I am Rohingya, when they ask me again, I will say I am Rohingya this time, too,” U Nyi Nyi Soe said.

U Myint Kyaing said the count had been extended in Kachin because of the difficulty of gathering data in about 100 villages near the Kachin Independence Organisation’s headquarters at Laiza.

The director-general said negotiations were taking place with the KIO to collect census data in the villages.

Since the census officially ended on April 10, fighting has erupted between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army near Man Win Gyi and Momauk in southern Kachin State, forcing thousands of civilians to flee.

Link: http://mizzima.com/mizzima-news/myanmar/item/11103-census-extended-in-rakhine-kachin-states-says-official