With the start of the national census less than a week away, Mon leaders are pushing for their true ethnic identities to be written on ID cards.
The director of the Yangon Mon Population Collection Committee, Min Soe Aung, said the list of ethnic groups on the census has been manipulated and doesn’t offer a true account of the population.
“We found that seven out of ten ethnic people are misrepresented on the list,” he said.
Even if a person was listed as Mon on their ID card and household list, official records often list them as Burman, he added.
Min Soe Aung said because of this, minority groups are losing political opportunities and rights.
The data recorded is intended to determine whether Mon representatives could be warranted in divisions outside of Mon State that have large populations of the ethnic minority.
“Under the Constitution, each ethnic group that reaches 0.1 percent of the total population of that particular state or division can elect their own MP. Now we want to know the exact number of Mon people in Yangon [Rangoon] Division so we can elect our own Mon MP,” he said.
Last month the people of Mon State celebrated Mon National Day while in Rangoon thousands of Mon people recorded their data on documents as part of their own population count.
Investment banker Thander Khaing registered her identity as Mon although she had previously been counted as a Burman on her ID card.
“When we went to immigration to renew my ID card, I accidentally said I was a Burman. I didn’t think about it too carefully but it was a mistake. I’m a Mon, so I should be listed as a Mon,” she said.
Min Soe Aung said that by registering their true ethnic identity on the census, ethnic people across Burma will be brought one step closer to equality.
“Equality is as important as democracy and human rights in the quest to achieve peace in this country,” he said. “These concepts are all related. When these components are fulfilled, we will achieve peace.”
Under decades of Burmese military rule, people from ethnic minorities were discriminated against. Many say they were given fewer job opportunities and government films often portrayed them as separatists and terrorists.
To obtain better education, better job opportunities and a better life in general, many ethnic people chose to refer to themselves as Burman.
Correction: The video states that, “each ethnic group of the population that reaches 0.01 percent of the total population of that particular state or division can elect their own MP.” The correct percentage is 0.1.