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Myanmar census records country's population at over 51 million

Myanmar has announced it has a population of 51.4 million people after a provisional count of the country's first census in 30 years. However, the census failed to include some communities in Rakhine, Kachin and Kayin states.

YANGON: Myanmar has announced it has a population of 51.4 million people after a provisional count of the country's first census in 30 years. However, the census failed to include some communities in Rakhine, Kachin and Kayin states.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) assisted with the exercise, which covered 11 million households. Census takers went to places such as tea shops and hospitals to gather information. They even visited Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in various parts of the country.

But the government failed to collect information from some sensitive areas such as Rakhine and Kachin. Some were not counted in Rakhine because authorities did not allow them to identify themselves as Rohingyas. Known instead as Bengalis to the government, these people will now be categorized as unidentified.

According to Myanmar's Immigration and Population Minister Khin Yi, there are altogether 1.33 million Bengalis living in Myanmar and out of the figure, 1.05 million Bengalis are from Rakhine state. The UNFPA acknowledged the census was not a perfect exercise. But it said the lack of self-identity for some groups will not prevent necessary aid from reaching them.

UNFPA representative for Myanmar Janet Jackson said: " Particularly in Rakhine, it's a particularly Muslim community. We need to know much more about the specificities of that community and because such a large number were missed out in the census, we're going to have to make special efforts to really understand their living conditions."

The census results show that Yangon has the highest number of urbanites in Myanmar, at 70 percent. Such information will help the government develop more targeted policies in order to cater to the needs of its citizens. Some in Yangon and around the country however said they have been left out of the census and that the statistics should be seen as inaccurate. But the UNFPA stands by the exercise, insisting it adhered to international standards.

Previously, many were dissatisfied with how some ethnic groups had been wrongly identified in the census. But others said it is important now to engage the ethnic communities to discuss the results.

Karen Development Network's community management coordinator Dr May Shi Sho said: "Before the final data comes out, especially on the ethnic races, they (the government) should meet and consult with the ethnic community, each group separately, explain the data and ask their comments, opinions on how the community want the data to be disseminated. Once we have the data in our hands, we can work together with the government to make new policies or strengthen existing policies."

Other results announced include: Myanmar has almost 26 million women, 1.7 million more than men; Yangon is the most densely populated area in the country, followed by Mandalay; and the least populated areas are Kachin and Chin states. The full results, including breakdowns by religion and ethnicity, will be released in May next year.

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