Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


December 17, 2020

(Note: I wrote this for a discussion on Facebook, about Burma's 2014 national census, and more broadly the fight for ethnic nationality rights in the country.)

It is important to understand the political dimension of the government's refusal to publish the ethnic census data set. The Bamar consider Burma to be THEIR country. Under Than Shwe, the current setup is the 4th Bamar Empire. Following the 1962 coup (which itself followed the 1958 coup), and which was done to protect Bamar power, the Panglong Agreement, which was the foundation to create federated multi-ethnic control, was abandoned. The coup and everything since (notably the divide and conquer civil war strategy) has been designed to keep the ethnic nationalities down.

This is reflected in the ethnic census data. Before 2014, no one knew how many people there were in the country and what groups they identified with. There had been no reliable census for over half a century, and the dictatorship's mythical "135 national races" was itself intended to reduce ethnic nationality numbers and power. But in 2014 people were counted. And it was a simple analytical task to strip the 135 down to the real groups and find out how many Bamar people there were, and Karen, and Shan, etc.

But the government wouldn't release the results. Why? Because they would reveal that Burma is not a Bamar 70% majority country, as they always liked to say (and which lie media around the world continue to spew to this day!). Instead, Bamar, certainly 100% Bamar (not mixed group, and there are many), are likely less than a majority - maybe a lot less.

This is extremely significant. If the Bamar aren't above 50%, they lose their statistical argument that Burma is their country (ignoring the fact that it is actually a colonial construct, first with the real Bamar empires - which were based on genocide, and then the British, and now back to the Bamar).

This explains why the Bamar Supremacist government won't publish the results. But who is the government?

The census is under the Ministry of Immigration, Population and Labor, which is under Suu Kyi. It is essential to recognize that it is Suu Kyi herself who is censoring the results (not only dictating what can be passed and even debated in Parliament).

So why is that? Simple. Because Suu Kyi, at her core, is a Bamar Supremacist, and likely has been her entire life. She refused to have anything to do with the ethnic pro-democracy rebellions following her return after 1988, although there were opportunities. She always kept her NLD separate, even behind the scenes. (I know this because the EAOs formed a series of ethnic alliances, and I knew their leaders, and there was never real contact much less coordination).

So, when push came to shove, Suu Kyi was faced with a choice, stand for democracy and stand up to the military (not just be a symbol), or join with the military and help keep the Bamar supreme, even though they likely aren't the majority and also because tyranny by any group, majority or minority, is not democracy. She chose the former, joining with her "friends" with whom she has "warm feelings." Real democracy can wait.

All the discussion that has been going on for years about Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing being opposed to each other is nonsense. Sure they have disagreements. They are fighting for POWER. But regarding the goal of complete Burmanization of the country, they are in complete accord. That's why few ethnic leaders were given posts in the 2015 government, even in their own states, and why the current olive branch to create a "unity government," as most ethic leaders understand very well, is meaningless.

Nothing is going to change. Burmanization will continue. The military dictatorship will get stronger. And the natural environment, what remains, will be ruined by development.