Karen representatives from across Burma held a two-day forum from January 9 to 10, in Hpa-An, Karen State, with the objective of “forming a united position of all the Karen nationals of Burma, acquiring true Karen population figures and using the correct names of Karen sub-groups for the 2014 Population Census Enumeration.”
Karen State is officially called ‘Kayin State’ by the Burma government, a name not recognized by the majority of the Karen people.
Representatives from across Burma attended the forum, including from Upper Burma and Kawthoolei Region, Karen State, Mon State, Taninthayi Region, Bago Region, Aeyawaddy Region and Yangon Region – a total of 270 Karen representatives and leaders attended.
Padoh Mahn Mahn, joint secretary of the Karen National Union who attended the forum said.
“The upcoming national census should help solve the current political problems, not worsen the current situation,” by creating divisions between Karen people.
During the two-day meeting, discussions were held on the topics – the “Karen Sub-groups” and “Classification of Karen”, contained in the 2014-Population Census Enumeration Plan. The findings of the discussions are quoted verbatim and are as follows:
“It was found that:
(1) In the previous census enumerations, there were no true representatives of the ethnic nationalities among the ethnic leaders and academics, who designated the names of sub-groups of the ethnic nationalities, and the process was carried out without the sub-groups‟ approval of the names given to them.
(2) The „Code Numbers‟, designating the ethnic sub-groups, used in the 2014-Population Census Enumeration Plan cause, in addition to contradiction, more divisiveness among the ethnic nationalities.
(3) Some of the sub-groups, which the Karen nationals have recognized historically as Karen, are found to be included in the list of other nationals in the 2014-Population Census Enumeration Plan.
(4) In place of the original English name „Karen‟ for the ethnic Karen nationality, the word „Kayin‟ is used, without approval of the Karen people.
(5) There can be loss of rights of the ethnic nationalities and cause for confusion as to the objective conditions in classification of a nationality, as one of the directives says that the „census enumeration does not take into account whether or not a person is in possession of Family List Form (66/6), Form (10) or possession of the National Identity Card‟
Based on the findings above, the Karen representatives attending the forum call upon the central government and the government‟s Central Census Commission:
(1) Not to use in census enumeration the names of Karen sub-groups, which are subject to controversy, but to adopt and provide for use of the names the Karen sub-groups have adopted for themselves.
(2) All the Karen sub-groups are to be highlighted as one Karen nationality. (3) The original English word “Karen” is to be used in mentioning the Karen people in English language.
(4) To review and amend the Immigration and Census Laws for consistency in the definition of a „nationality‟ and provide for guarantee and protection of rights of the ethnic nationalities.
(5) The census enumeration is to be done only with the assistance of local ethnic nationality elders and volunteers, and in areas where the Karen forms a majority, at least a Karen person is to be included in the census team for a census unit area.
Moreover, we call upon the entire Karen people to act as follows.
(a) At the time of census enumeration, while expressing yourself as being a Karen, you must clearly state also the Karen sub-group to which you belong.
(b) Difference in religion has nothing to do with nationality and to know distinctly the fact that you are being a Karen.
(c) All the Karen nationality affairs ministers, Karen cabinet ministers, Karen MPs of the House of Nationalities, Karen national leaders and elders, Karen civil societies, Karen political parties and Karen religious organizations are to perform with extraordinary weightiness and give help for obtaining the true population figures of the Karen people and for the use of correct sub-group names in the 2014-Population Census Enumeration.”