Burma census bans people registering as Rohingya

Rohingya families are seen at the Rohingya refugee camp outside Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in Myanmar, on 29 March 2014 The UN has described the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world

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Burmese officials have begun the first national census in three decades, but are refusing to allow people to class themselves as Rohingya.

The UN, which is helping to carry out the census, said all Burmese should be allowed to choose their own ethnicity.

But Burmese officials said the Muslim Rohingya must call themselves Bengali or they would not be registered.

The government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, views Rohingyas as immigrants and denies them citizenship.

The Rohingya, on the other hand, feel they are part of Myanmar and claim persecution by the state.

Sporadic violence

Many Buddhists are hostile towards Rohingyas.

In 2012 hostility erupted into full-scale violence in Rakhine state, and thousands of Rohingyas were forced to flee their homes.

A Myanmar census enumerator asks questions to a housewife while collecting information in Dala township on 30 March 2014, in Yangon, Myanmar The census asks all Burmese people detailed questions about religion and ethnicity

Sporadic violence has continued, and international aid agencies working in Rakhine were attacked last week.

The UN has described the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Correspondents say the census asks detailed questions about religion and ethnicity, raising fears that it could heighten tension.

Rumours that the Rohingya ethnicity would be recognised on the census prompted many Buddhist Rakhines to pledge to boycott the poll.

"If a household wants to identify themselves as 'Rohingya', we will not register it," said government spokesman Ye Htut.

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