SNLD: Many Chinese hold Myanmar national registration cards

Many local Shan nationals in Myanmar's northern Shan State do not have national registration cards although Chinese citizens there are holding such cards, according to the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD).

Likewise, other ethnic minorities such as Lahu and Palaung also do not have national registration cards.

"Our SNLD party is now preparing to obtain national registration cards for the local Shan, Lahu and Palaung nationals in northern Shan State. In some townships, about 40,000 to 70,000 people are not holding national registration cards. In Tanyang also, there are many who do have registration cards," said Sai Nyunt Lwin from SNLD.

Plans are being made for them to get national registration cards before the general election this year, but controlled measures are also in place as people from China enter Myanmar illegally, he added.

"For Chinese citizens, they can cast votes if they hold Myanmar national registration cards. Another thing is that in Shan State, people no longer hold FRCs (foreign registration cards). In Rakhine, there are many people still holding FRCs. But in Shan State, alien infiltration is on the rise. The western door is not secured while illegal aliens flow into the country through the northern door," said another official from SNLD.

According to the pilot census data, Myanmar has a population of 51.2 million only and the amount is about 6 million less than expected. However, the populations in Shan and Kachin states reportedly increase and in Shan State alone, there is an extra population of more than 1 million. Some people therefore want the government to release the exact population data.

"We learned that the country's population has increased. How much then? We don't get exact data. If there is an increase, many might have come from somewhere. In 1995 and 1996, Mongwun Culture Association was formed, which issued national registration cards immediately to those who could show endorsement. But they stopped doing it when we showed our objection," said Sai Nyunt Lwin.

"Now, Mongwun Bamar has again started issuing national registration cards. Some are applying in Tarmoenye region which enjoys self-administration under the name of Mongwun region. Recently, the Myanmar government was asked to allocate 600,000 acres of land for growing bio fuel crops. We unanimously showed our objection, so the plan stopped. If we didn't know that, permission would have been granted. Land measurements were even reported,’’ he added.

The Central Census Commission announced on August 29 last year that Myanmar has a population of over 51 million. The latest data is the same as the pilot census data. The commission said the census was taken in line with the international standards and procedures.

The process was carried out under the leadership of UNFPA. But some negative comments erupted over the possibility of the population of 51.4 million in Myanmar just after its official announcement.

"There were many problems regarding ballot lists for by-elections in 2012. Some dead people were on the list. In Mayangon Township, the name of one person was on five different ballot lists. We were able to trace the problems to the general election in 2010. I don’t know what the ballot lists in 2010 was based on. Was it based on the 2008 national referendum for the constitution or separate lists for the 2010 election? I can't say," said advocate Ko Ni.

"If I say according to some strong figures, Myanmar had a population of 57.5 million when the 2008 constitution was approved. At that time, it was announced that the country had more than 27.3 million eligible voters. In 2008, there was such and such amount of population. As population increases, all expected that the population would increase to more than 60 million because five or six years had passed when the last national census was taken in 2014. But the population was announced 51 million only."

Myint Kyaing, director general of the Immigration Department, said: "According to the current data, Shan State has a population of 5,815,384. There was no problem in that state. No one was left out of the census. Ethnic armed groups were included. All including Ywet Sit's group, Wa and Kokang participated in the process. No problem emerged in Shan State. We could not count all only in Rakhine State. Kachin State has a population of 1,689,654. However, we had a little problem in Kachin State. We issued two lists. Actually, we could count 1,643,054. The villages near the town of Laiza were left uncounted."

Even international economists were found to have used the population data when Myanmar held a national referendum in 2008 for approving the constitution. Similarly, the calculating of Myanmar's GDP was based on the 60-million population.

"The population of 51 million was reportedly counted with foreign assistance. It is amazing that Shan State has the largest increase in its population. The increase is one million. Kachin State also sees an increase. We should consider who's coming," said Ko Ni.

According to some reports, unlike other states and regions, Shan and Kachin states see their populations increase. The government also reported that there are illegal immigrants in Myanmar's territory who entered the country without border passes issued at Myanmar-China border.

"A lot of Shan nationals left their region to work abroad. There are also a lot of illegal immigrants in the state. Many Chinese citizens come here. Our country welcomes Buddhist converts and issue national registration cards officially. There are many people who entered the country in return for money. Particularly, there are a lot in the region of the eastern Thanlwin River. There many tribal people from China have come to settle down. They don't understand Myanmar language or Shan language. There are a lot small tribes in Yunnan Province. Some hold our national registration cards. Census taking was based on the number of people present. They (authorities) did not ask for national registration cards.

As the population increases, the number of real local nationals is likely to be few," said Sai Than Maung from SNLD.

According to some local reports, illegal workers from Myanmar are usually arrested by Thai police. However, Myanmar accepts a lot of Chinese citizens living illegally and other Chinese people also live here under the title of 'poppy-institution cultivation'.