STATEMENT BY ARCHBISHOP CHARLES BO ON THE CENSUS PROCESS IN MYANMAR.+ Archbishop Charles Bo
The first census process after reform measures are taken in this country is taking place now. Despite various apprehensions expressed by local people, especially the ethnic communities and well meaning foreign observers, we welcome this process, hoping that a sincere, transparent Census process is a great opportunity for ushering peace in this long suffering nation.
We understand the Census process paves waves for better planning in development and peace. We are sure the government, with the help of international community has launched into this ambitious project with the intention of ushering a prosperous and peaceful future for every citizen of Myanmar, especially the most vulnerable and the people in the margin.
We urge the government to ensure the following :
* The process should be totally transparent, strictly following
international standards, allowing local and international monitors into the process.
* The census teams comprised of men and women from all cultures
* That the process affirms the traditional culture, traditional
resource holding patterns and protect all cultural symbols and meaning systems
* That no attempt be made to change the demographic nature of any area, making sure that all people areas that were traditionally identified as ethnic areas are not diluted into other demographic shifts.
* That no attempt is made to change the three pillars of people's existence : identity, culture and resources. These three form the constitutive element of the ethos of the people and any attempt, overt or covert, should be resisted in the interests of durable peace.
* Community assets form the soul of many communities. As such forests, waters and land are questions that could provoke conflicts. Sensitivity to local perceptions will pave the way for peace.
* This country is a country of migrants and displaced people. They are sons and daughters of this land. Efforts are made to wipe out their memory and their possessions. Every effort must be made to enumerate the details of these people and ensure that they return to their original land.
* The documentation process needs to be robust, meeting international standards, ensuring that all documents are finished at the ground level without any scope of manipulation later away from the people who underwent the census process.
Myanmar march towards peace and prosperity is an arduous journey. The government and the international community should ensure that major events like Census ensures a confidence building measure, instilling a sense of belonging to a nation, where justice and fair play ensures the rights of the most vulnerable communities. Census offers a golden opportunity for peace.
Any myopic attempt at circumvent this opportunity is a recipe for long years of mutual suspicion and conflict. I do hope the sagacity and a vision for peace and prosperity guides us all in this moment of truth.