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Limiting ethnics to 135 groups harms peace process—Kachin social orgs

Twenty-three Kachin social organisations have sent letters to President Thein Sein and Union Assembly Speaker Thura Shwe Mann demanding the postponement of a census to be taken from March 23 to April 10 this year.

The organizations say that a census that only canvasses from the government’s designated 135 ethnic groups cannot be accurate. There is no particular tribe known as “ethnic Kachin,” they point out: the race combining all the groups is ethnic Kachin.

“If the government accepts 135 ethnic groups only, it can cause harm to the peace process because ethnic groups can get into armed conflicts if disagreements arise among them,” said Khun Jar of the Kachin Peace Network.

“Until now, the government and the ethnic groups are still trying to reach an immediate ceasefire. Unless the census results include everyone, it will be hard to achieve that.”

The other factor is the 2015 election. As the ceasefire agreement has not been signed yet, it will not be easy to conduct an accurate census in conflict zones and KIO-controlled areas, the Kachin organizations said.

“We can’t anticipate who will conduct the census in remote areas and places where there is no ceasefire. In some places there are no schools. Teachers are normally used to collect data on the population. So with no schools, it will not be easy to collect population figures at the refugee camps,” said Daw Khun Jar.

The ethnic groups are planning to hold a ceremony to clarify the census on February 17. Kachin, Mon, Kayin, Chin, Shan and other ethnics are likely to attend  the ceremony. Taking a nationwide census requires a lot of time, the groups said.

The Kachin organisations also sent letters to the minister for Immigration and Population, the chief minister of Kachin State, the Kachin parliament, representatives of the United Nations Population Fund, donor organisations and the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society.

 

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