Karen leaders have met to discuss the classification of the Karen people in the upcoming national census.
Padoh Saw Maw Htoo, chairperson of KNU in Kawkareik Township said in an interview with Karen News, that the KNU held a forum on February 10th to discuss the forthcoming census.
“We called on the village heads and urged them at the meeting not to use the government classified names such as S’gaw Karen and Pwo Karen, but to use ‘Karen’ only when they get the census questionnaires.”
Currently, there are 11 different Karen ethnics groups recognized by the government. The government wants to use these specific sub-classifications in the census, rather than the broader collective term ‘Karen’.
Karen leaders are suspicious that using these ‘sub-groups’ in the census could be a way of dividing and weakening ethnic unity. At the forum the government said that its objective is to obtain the correct population number of Karen people and to use the correct name of ethnic people.
The Government Joint Immigration Officer for Karen State, Saw Tint Lwin, tried to reassure Karen leaders:
“The Karen nation has sub-groups. Our minister is solving the problems regarding this issue, there are many groups included in the census. When the survey/record data is processed through the computer it will show ‘Karen’ only.”
Myanmar’s Minister of Immigration and Population U Khin Yi said the national census would be based on the 135 ethnic groups recognized by Burma’s government while those excluded from the ethnicity list will be registered separately.
Saw Myat Aye from Ywar Tan Shay village in Kawkareik Township told Karen News that he would give his ethnicity as simply ‘Karen.’
“For me, I will respond as ‘Karen’ when the census survey come to collect the data,” he said.