Tensions as Myanmar embarks on first census in 30 years

SITTWE (TIP): Tens of thousands of census-takers fanned out across Myanmar on Sunday to gather data for a rare snapshot of the former junta-ruled nation that is already stoking sectarian tensions. Groups of school teachers and local officials began the 12-day population survey — the first since 1983 — travelling from house to house in an ambitious drive aimed at counting everyone across the poverty-stricken nation.

But the census was called into question even before it started in Rakhine state, the site of deadly religious conflict. Myanmar has announced that Muslims will be unable to register their ethnicity as “Rohingya” in a move aimed at mollifying angry Rakhine Buddhists who fear any official recognition for the stateless minority could herald a move towards political rights.

Buddhist nationalists were seen travelling through state capital Sittwe on Sunday, proclaiming by loud hailer that their planned boycott of the survey had been called off after they received written assurances that the term Rohingya was “illegal”.

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