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11.4m Cambodians counted by census

11.4m Cambodians counted by census

PRELIMINARY results of Cambodia's first census in 36 years have been released, giving

the country the beginnings of a reliable statistical framework for national planning.

The numbers also help estimate final voter registration and voting percentages in

last month's election.

National Census Committee Chairman Sar Kheng released the results at an Aug 25 ceremony.

"The General Population Census of Cambodia is a very huge national task which

has an important and historical meaning," Sar Kheng told the gathering, according

to an unofficial translation of his speech.

On "Census Night" - midnight of March 3, 1998 - Cambodia's population was

11,426,223, according to the provisional results. The last census, in 1962, gave

a population of 5,728,771.

The 1998 provisional results are not yet broken down by age or citizenship, so numbers

of potential voters in the country cannot be exactly determined. But by using age

breakdown percentages from a 1996 government demographic survey, the present census

numbers would give an approximate voting base of 5,907,357.

Setting official government registration and voting figures against the surmised

voter-base number gives a voter registration of 91.3% - not far off revised estimates

of 92%, but down from an original official estimate of 97%. Actual voter turnout

would be 85.6% of the eligible population.

The census numbers include everyone within Cambodia's borders on March 3, thus including

foreigners - except diplomats - and excluding refugees who were in Thailand fleeing

fighting at that time. The absence of the about 60,000 refugees is not noted in this

report, though it will be in the final one. The provisional report does note that

perhaps 45,000 people in areas of conflict could not be counted.

The US$6.8 million procedure was funded by the United Nations Population Fund, with

UNDP "sharing" $0.7 million for vehicles and equipment and UNESCO running

an information campaign. Over 33,000 supervisors and enumerators - teachers and other

civil servants - spent ten days completing the surveying.

UNFPA Representative Hedi Jamai said he was pleased that the results corresponded

well with those of the 1996 demographic survey. "They were really very, very

close, demonstrating that the census has very good quality," he said.

He added that solid demographic figures will be valuable in all sorts of national

planning. Statistics on migration and population density can be used for road planning,

for example, while age breakdowns and growth rate can indicate how many schools should

be built.

Of equal importance is that surveys in Cambodia will now have a reliable basis for

extrapolation - a boon to businesses, the government and NGOs alike. "The census

will provide a sampling frame for all types of survey," Jamai said.

The provisional results show: population breakdown by province; sex ratio (93.1 males

to 100 females); population density (64 people per 100km); urban population percent

(15.7) and average household size (5.2 people).

Final census figures with comprehensive breakdowns will be finished in mid-1999,

according to census organizers at the Ministry of Planning and the National Institute

of Statistics.

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