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Parliament approves census bill

Nobody knows how many people really live in Burma. (Photo: Hein Htet / Mizzima)
The Assembly of the Union, or Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, published its “Population and Housing Census Bill” via state-run media on December 9, 2012.

Section IV of the bill says that to meet international standards, the census must follow the criteria approved by the United Nations Statistical Commission.

According to the bill passed by the bicameral Houses of Parliament, a first step is for a Central Census Commission to be formed. The President must appoint one of the Vice-presidents as the Commission’s patron, while the Immigration Minister must take on the position of chairperson of the Commission with his or her Deputy Minister serving as Secretary of the Commission.

Commissions will also be established at State/Region level, district level, township level and quarter/village level. The director of the Department of Population will supervise the entire process.

The bill says that the census, beginning in 2014, will have four steps: preparation, data compilation, preparing statistics, and an “assessment and review” period.

This will be Burma’s first census of its population for 31 years. Previous figures and registers are notoriously outdated; at the 2010 general elections thousands of people complained that they were not allowed to vote because their names did not appear on the register, which is in turn taken from the official database that the census works from.

Estimates to the population of the country vary wildly: according to the World Bank, Burma’s population is 48 million; the Asian Development Bank says it is 60 million; and the International Monetary Fund lists the population at 64 million.

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