Ethnic identity determines to a large degree who belongs to the Burmese polity, and the place in it of those who do; some groups are de facto relegated to subordinate positions in a hierarchy dominated by the Bamar majority. But the Rohingya are excluded altogether. Since the late seventies, the government’s policy has been one of containment.
The most controversial aspect of the census recently held in Burma has been the denial of the large Muslim population in Arakan to identify themselves as Rohingya, the term of their choice. The government ban means as many as one million people remain uncounted in Arakan. That is scarcely surprising, as the Burmese government, Rakhine ultra-nationalists and seemingly a majority of the Burmese population have denied for years the existence of the Rohingya identity.
Suu Kyi has been far more engaged in playing politics in the opaque corridors of power in Naypyidaw and making tours abroad than trying to listen to the Burmese public at large, whose support she and the NLD seem to take for granted.