Myanmar begins pilot census in 20 townships

October 02, 2023

YANGON: Myanmar´s junta announced on Sunday it had begun a pilot census in 20 townships across the divided country, a move critics say will be used to increase surveillance of opponents.

The military has justified its 2021 coup with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in 2020 elections won resoundingly by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi´s National League for Democracy (NLD).

Junta officials have said a national census must be completed before fresh elections, which the government has hinted may come in 2025.

“We will conduct (a census) from October 1 to 15, 2023, in 20 townships selected in Naypyidaw and other states and regions,” the statement said, referring to the military-built capital but without specifying which areas would be involved.

“These 20 townships will be a sample,” it said. State media reported the pilot had started in the Karen, Bago, and Mandalay regions. There was no indication from the military where in those areas, which have all seen recent fighting between the junta and its opponents, the pilot would take place.

It comes ahead of a nationwide census in 2024, state media said. Critics say the junta will use the census to step up monitoring of opponents of its coup, including thousands of civil servants, doctors and teachers who have not returned to work in protest.