The long-awaited figures on religious affiliation from Myanmar’s 2014 census were released on 21 July 2016. According to the figures released, Buddhists compromise 87.9 percent of Myanmar’s population, a decrease of 1.5 pc over the past 30 years. The release also reported 6.2 pc of the population as Christian, 4.3 pc Muslim and 0.5 pc of Hindu out of a total estimated population of 51.4 million. The census also identified 1.2 million people not enumerated, including over 1 million in Rakhine State alone.

Myanmar’s previous census in 1983 demarcated 4.9 pc of the country’s population as Christian and 3.9 pc as Muslim, meaning there has been a slight slight increase in major non-Buddhist populations in the past 30 years. The Hindu population was also reported at 0.5 pc in 1983. “It seems that data on the numbers of people not collected in Rakhine State are Muslims,” U Thein Swe, Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population said in Nay Pyi Taw, referring to the over 1 million residents of Rakhine State that were not enumerated in the census. Before releasing the census religion data, the Ministry conferred with representative religious organisations. While most of the census data was released last year, data on Myanmar’s population by religious and ethnic composition was withheld due to fears of inciting sectarian tensions during the country’s landmark November election and subsequent political transition to the National League for Democracy government.

“We will release the numbers on religion and we have already prepared to release it. We had planned to release these remaining data since the previous government, but it coincided with the transition period,” Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population permanent secretary U Myint Kyaing previously told The Myanmar Times.

Figures on Myanmar’s Muslim population were also widely believed to double previous estimates, or account for as much as 8pc of Myanmar’s population. This prediction was not authenticated by today’s release, which pegged Muslims to account for only 4.3pc of the total population.

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