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Religion and the Myanmar census - the international community handing off the 'hot potatoes'

Dr Kyaw Thu, director of Paung Ku, asks the question of why religion and ethnicity data was collected in the first place in the Myanmar census, and what next for the international community. ____________________

Why was religion and ethnicity data collected in the first place?

One of the reasons maybe that the international community intended to persuade and pressure Thein Sein regime to legally recognize and accept the most discriminated population in Myanmar.

This strategic reason is based on a mixed syndrome of overconfidence of international communities, and their over-trust and under-estimation of the Thein Sein regime.

They selected UNFPA as key agency and pooled their political power, money and technical expertise behind them for census.

But Thein Sein regime is not that naive, and UNFPA is not that smart, thus the game is not that simple.

The agency that international communities invested in, UNFPA, ignored (and even insulted ) the serious advice and warnings from civil society organisations, for example, that tensions and conflicts could be instigated by forces controlled and supported by the regime and the ruling party. But they proceeded.

Then the story ended up with ugly organized violent attacks on UN and INGO offices .

It was a costly lesson for UNFPA and international communities!

So, what next?

The problem is that international communities are not taking responsibility of conflicts and giving all the ‘hot potatoes’ into hands of the new government and saying ‘decision is yours’.

International community made a serious mistake, so they say they are not involved with census anymore. They say ‘let's enjoy involving in Burma transition with other important things like investment’.

They say ‘dear Myanmar people, now you have all valuable census data ready to release - decision is yours. Now you have newly elected govenment - decision is yours. You have the strong military who is dedicated to protect the constitution - decision is yours. You have strong Buddhist nationalist groups across the country who has strong interest in religion and ethnicity data - decision is yours’.

And then they say ‘dear ethnic nationals and religious minorities, the religion and ethnicity data are in hands of the government that you voted for - decision is yours. The religion and ethnicity data are very important for you to defend and fight for - decision is yours’.

But international communities are not taking responsibility of conflicts.

pic.yahoonews and story at…

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