Monday, October 30, 2006
DAMAK, Oct. 30: A group of refugees who entered Bhutan with a proposal of national reconciliation were arrested yesterday by the Phuncholing-based Police in border area of Bhutan, according to the Bhutanese human rights organization, HUROB.
The team who go across the border to enter Bhutan with the support of Bhutan Gurkha National Liberation Front and Bhutanese human rights organization, HUROB consisted general secretary of the front, Aiman Rai as well as Hemdhoj Tamang, Mandhoj Tamang, Karna Bahadur Rai, Sake Dorje Tamang etc.
The team was reported to have chanted slogans like 'repatriate refugees, return our land and house' as soon as they got to Phuncholing in border area of Bhutan. The Bhutanese police force thereupon intervened on the scene and arrested them, it is learnt.
The team is said to be carrying a proposal of national reconciliation addressed to the Bhutanese King, Jigme Sighye Wang Chuk.
The proposal contained their demands for resettlementof Bhutanese refugees in their homeland while guaranteeing their civil rights.
Earlier, various group of Bhutanese refugees, at the call of the front and HUROB, also attempted to go across Bhutanese border with the proposal of national reconciliation for the seventh times.
Meanwhile, the Front and HUROB have appealed to the international community to keep watch on the condition of the ten refugees arrested by the Bhutanese police .
Maoists have ‘abducted’ two Bhutanese refugees from the Sanischare camp in the eastern district of Jhapa.
A group of Maoists abducted refugees Sahajit Tamang and Aita Tamang on Sunday, saying that they had some inquiries with them.
Family members of Tamang-duo said they had not heard anything about the condition of the abducted men since then.
The Maoists are yet to confirm the abduction of the two refugees. nepalnews.com mk Oct 06 06
A group of Bhutanese refugees have appealed the Nepali government to speed up the implementation procedures regarding a U.S. proposal of relocating them in the United States, Nepal's National News Agency RSS reported on Sunday.
The United States has announced it was ready to take in some 60, 000 Bhutanese refugees now in Nepal, said the report.
Conveying a memorandum to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the group requested the Nepali government to give priority to the task of relocating them in the United States and implement it through the diplomatic community for the welfare of the refugees.
According to RSS, the memorandum also called for the relocation of the refugees according to international guidelines, provision of basic human requirements including education and health, rights to exercise social, cultural and religious customs while residing in the United States, and guaranteeing of their freedom to return to the native country.
Meanwhile, three groups of refugees willing to migrate issued a joint statement saying that a total of 399 families of the refugees have submitted application for relocation in the United States.
Some 105,000 Bhutanese refugees have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal for the past 15 years.
As many as 15 rounds of bilateral talks held between the Nepali and Bhutanese governments have failed to yield any results so far.
DAMAK, Oct. 28: A group of Bhutanese Refugees made an appeal to the government of Nepal to forward the implementation procedures regarding the proposal put up by the USA to relocate them in the US.
Conveying a memorandum to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on Friday, the group requested to give priority to the task of relocating them in the USA and implement it through the diplomatic community for the welfare of the refugees.
The memorandum also called on for the relocation of the refugees as per the international guidelines, provide basic human requirements including education and health, rights to exercise social, cultural and religious customs while residing in the USA, rights to expression and participation in peaceful activities and guarantee the freedom of movement as well as return to their native country.
Meanwhile, three groups of refugees willing to migrate issued a joint statement apprising that a total of 399 families of the refugees have submitted application for relocate them in the USA.
At a time when the United States government has already stated that it would be willing to take up to 60,000 Bhutanese refugees for resettlement, other western countries, too, have shown interest for the same.
According to Abraham Abraham, chief of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Nepal, countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and other EU countries have inquired about 'quota' related with resettlement of Bhutanese refugees.
He added that the UNHCR was not in a position to right away determine number and quota of refugees. Abraham Abraham, talking to Kantipur daily, said that as per the 15-year-old data, there are 106,000 Bhutanese refugees languishing in Nepal. He said the new refugee census, which will be carried out from November, will reveal the exact situation.
The US offer for resettlement has already been welcomed the UNHCR, which considers it provides a real hope for resolving one of the most protracted refugee crises in Asia.
Meanwhile, unlike many other Bhutanese refugee leaders who have criticized the US offer for resettlement claiming that would only help the autocratic Bhutanese regime, a leader of Druk National Congress (DNC), has welcomed the resettlement plan.
RK Dorjee, general secretary of the DNC, speaking in New Delhi, said, "We welcome the US view on Bhutanese refugees." He, however, trashed statements by Bhutanese King that he will establish democracy in Bhutan by 2008. nepalnews.com sd Oct 29 06
Friday, October 27, 2006
The one-and-half-decade-long Bhutanese refugee crisis seemed to have reached a turning point with the recent US proposal to resettle up to 60,000 refugees in the United States. While a majority of refugees have hailed the proposal, the proposal itself has caused a major rift to develop between the refugee leaders. Tek Nath Rizal, a Bhutanese refugee leader and humanitarian who has been continuously fighting for a dignified repatriation of the Bhutanese refugees for the last 15 years, talks to ekantipur's Sanjeev Satgainya on the US proposal, bilateral talks between Nepal-Bhutan government and his views on how the situation can be solved. Excerpts:
Q: Today (October 19), Ellen Sauerbrey, US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, who had put forward the proposal of resettlement, has through an article in The Kathmandu Post (and Kantipur Daily) made her viewpoint clear insisting on resettlement. Your comments…
Tek Nath Rizal: In the last 16 years what the United States has done for us Bhutanese refugees is undoubtedly commendable. We sincerely want to extend our thanks to the government of the United States. The Bhutanese refugees, who have been living a subhuman life, have been getting so much help, all thanks to the US government. On humanitarian grounds, what the US government has offered to the Bhutanese refugees definitely seems to be winning the hearts of many refugees in several camps in eastern Nepal. And this is for sure a praiseworthy proposal by the US government. But this is not the solution or the only option to resolve the one-and-half-decade-long crisis.
Q: But you seem to have mellowed down on your comments after going through today's piece by Sauerbrey. There were some aggressive statements by you immediately after the proposal.
Rizal: I told you that I appreciate the US proposal wholeheartedly on humanitarian grounds only...
Q: But that's what the intention of the United States is behind the resettlement proposal, as says Sauerbrey.
Rizal: That's why I appreciate it. And we should not be discourteous to anybody or any government who has in the past offered so much help. But the point I am trying to raise is at a time when the repatriation process should have been initiated the international community, including the United States, should have put more pressure to repatriate the Bhutanese to their homeland. Such options do nothing but create a rift among the refugees and allow unwanted players to create chaos.
Q: Who are you trying to indicate?
Rizal: No particular group or individual. But you have seen that since the proposal, some problems have been raised by the refugees.
Q: But what if the refugees accept the idea of third country resettlement, which will definitely help better their lives.
Rizal: The ultimate fight will end when we fulfil all our aspirations. We have been fighting for our rights, for a dignified repatriation in order to go back to our homeland and spend the rest of our lives there with respect. We need our property back that has been seized by the Bhutanese king. We have our relatives there and we want to live the rest of our lives with them in our homeland. The third country resettlement is not going to provide us that.
Q: Let's come to another issue. Several rounds of bilateral talks between the government of Nepal and Bhutan have failed to yield any result. What do you think is the major cause behind the failure? Another round of talks is in the offing, are you hopeful about this round of talks yielding any results?
Rizal: The foremost thing, which I have repeatedly put forward, is all the bilateral talks that have so far been held between the government of Nepal and Bhutan hardly bear any value, at least in terms of resolving the refugee crisis. I don't mind dubbing these talks as dramas organised just to dodge us. I have time and again emphasised on the representation of Bhutanese refugees in the talks. Unless and until representatives from the refugees sit in the talks, we are not going to obtain any concrete solutions on behalf of the refugees. I know the problem better than anyone else because I have suffered, I had to leave my homeland, I know the plight of the refugees and what they aspire to. We have been thrown out of our country just because we speak Nepali. I have been standing against the Bhutanese king's oligarchy and to instate democracy in Bhutan. And instead of the international community playing a major role to put pressure on the Bhutanese king to restore democracy in Bhutan, they are simply trying to blow a different tune. Therefore, no matter how many rounds of talks between the government of Nepal and Bhutan are held, it's useless.
Q: You have also said that India should play a role in resolving the crisis…
Rizal: Definitely. The refugee crisis is never going to end without India's involvement. Time and again even Indian leaders have been vociferous on this issue, but to no avail. The government of Nepal seems to have turned a deaf ear towards our demand that India's role is a must in resolving the crisis.
Q: But why do you think this (Nepal govt not asking the Indian govt for any sort of assistance) is happening?
Rizal: This is a million dollar question indeed. I believe there must be something behind the curtains which restrains the Nepal government and leaders here from talking to India and putting forward a clear view.
Q: What is your assessment about India's part? Do you think India itself does not want this crisis to be resolved?
Rizal: I am not sure and I don't blame the Indian government per se. But I do believe certain segments in India are playing dirty politics.
Q: Can you name them?
Rizal: It's too difficult to properly identify those segments…
Q: But even then, with what you are saying, there must be something on your mind…
Rizal: Maybe some from the bureaucracy…
Q: One major issue that has come about with the US resettlement plan: How is it going to affect the democratic movement in Bhutan? What was the issue of secretaries in refugee camps?
Rizal: I have been repeatedly saying I cannot object to the US proposal. The resettlement proposal has disillusioned some of the refugees. What is the future of the rest of the refugees? Does anyone have the answer? The US proposal has brought about confusion in the refugee camps. Another main issue is a country like the United States which has the power to do something for the refugees has come with such a proposal which is not in a favour of those refugees who have been for the last 15 years fighting for a dignified repatriation. The international community including the United States has the ability to create an atmosphere so that the refugees and the Bhutanese king can hold talks. But this is not happening.
The democracy that is in the offing, as has been purported, will be more degraded. Had the Bhutanese king been a pro-democratic individual, he would not have let all this happen.
Q: What is the issue behind camp secretaries?
Rizal: The UNHCR has selected some people with the purpose to ease the distribution process in the refugee camps. Those people were meant to take care of the distribution process. But in recent days I have seen these people getting involved in politics and blaming me – who has incessantly endeavoured to help make their lives better with dignified repatriation – of playing a negative role. Does this sound fair? Even I was threatened by some. There was not other option in the end but to move ahead by dismissing them. When I visited the camps recently I seized some documents as well which were prepared with the aim of getting those positions filled by those who were willing to resettle.
Q: Now, what are your future plans?
Rizal: There is nothing we can do except put more pressure to install democracy in Bhutan. We want dignified repatriation. The refugees should not be put into a dilemma by floating such proposals (like the US) though I respect their intentions. If things are not resolved in the near future, Nepal is bound to suffer more refugees. There are thousands of Bhutanese refugees – an estimate says around 30,000 – in North Bengal (India).
The crisis has stretched on for too long. I do have one proposal -- dual citizenship should be offered to the refugees.
BY TILAK P. POKHAREL
KATHMANDU, Oct 27 -
"I had talked with her (US Assistant Secretary of State for Population Refugees and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey) about the refugee issue when I was in America," Oli, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio, said in an interview.
When asked if the US would select only "intelligent and promising" refugees for resettlement leaving behind the elderly and less-promising ones, Oli said, "No, no. The refugees will be picked on camp-by-camp basis, not on individual basis."
He however said no official notes have been exchanged between Nepal and the US governments in this regard.
Following talks with Oli in the US, Sauerbrey had announced at an executive committee meeting of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Geneva, October 2-6, that the US would resettle up to 60,000 Bhutanese Lhotshampa refugees over the next several years. The UN has already welcomed the US offer, saying it a "real spark of hope" to resolve "one of Asia's most protracted" refugee situations.
Despite 15 rounds of failed negotiations with Bhutan vis-à-vis repatriation of 100,000-plus refugees, DPM Oli still lives with a glimmer of hope by approaching Bhutan and requesting the latter to take back its citizens. "If Bhutan agrees to take them back, the problem is resolved once and for all," said Oli. "That's why we have taken initiatives to resume dialogue
with Bhutan." However, Bhutan hasn't yet agreed on a date for the talks.
The latest US offer has prompted deep division among refugees, as thousands are upbeat about it while others are insistent about returning to their homeland.
‘Envoy appointments within a month’
DPM Oli said that vacant posts in Nepali diplomatic missions will be filled within a month. "We are very close to appointing the ambassadors," he said. "The process will start within a week, including recommending names to the Parliamentary (Public Hearing) Committee, and the process will be over within a month."
Among the 24 Nepalese diplomatic outposts, 15 are vacant. Oli said appointments in 13 key outposts (India, USA, UK, China, France, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Russia, Myanmar, Thailand, Belgium and Saudi Arabia) will be made within the period.
Ellen Sauerbrey, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, explained the U.S. proposal to resettle Bhutanese refugees to America in an op-ed that appeared October 19. 2006 in Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post newspapers.
U.S. MOTIVATION IS HUMANITARIAN
Some concerns have arisen since I announced in early October that the United States is willing to resettle up to 60,000 of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal over the next three to four years. Let’s address these worries.
First things first: The U.S. motivation is humanitarian. It is tragic that a generation of Bhutanese children has been born and raised to adulthood never knowing anything but life in a refugee camp. I know the people and the government of Nepal share this concern.
Nepal is to be commended for generously hosting the Bhutanese for nearly two decades. The United States has contributed a significant share of the assistance funding that has kept this refugee population alive over the years. But we need to go beyond sustaining and just keeping people alive and find a humane and durable solution. The U.S. offer should be understood in the context of our shared concern and effort to resolve this unfortunate situation.
The United States fully supports efforts by the Governments of Nepal and Bhutan to resolve the protracted situation of Bhutanese refugees. We have steadfastly encouraged both governments to work together, particularly to allow refugees who so wish to return to Bhutan. The United States government, working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other interested governments, is part of an international effort to resolve this situation. We commend the efforts of Nepal in working with UNHCR to do a census of refugees, which is essential to identifying appropriate solutions.
Third country resettlement is one of the solutions that concerned countries, such as the United States, can offer. We do not imagine that it would be the solution for every refugee, and only those Bhutanese refugees who freely choose to resettle in the United States would be considered for our program. Again, it is our intention that it be part of a comprehensive solution to the problem, which may also include resettlement to other countries and voluntary repatriation to Bhutan. The United States continues to urge the Government of Bhutan to permit the repatriation of all refugees who have legitimate claim to Bhutanese citizenship and who wish to return to Bhutan.
It’s important for all to keep in mind that the timeline proposed for this resettlement effort is three to four years. This means from 2007 to 2010 or, more likely, 2111. This would not happen overnight.
The United States has a long tradition of offering permanent resettlement to refugees from around the world. It continues to lead the world in refugee resettlement, accepting more than 60 percent of the individuals referred by UNHCR in 2005 and admitting more refugees each year than all other resettlement countries combined. Since 1975, the U.S. has offered a permanent home to more than 2.6 million refugees. Over 40,000 refugees from 68 countries started new lives in the United States in the last year alone.
We have a long track record of successfully integrating refugees from all backgrounds. It is important to note that we select applicants for our program on the basis of applicants' need -- we do not make selections based upon level of education, job-related skills or other such criteria.
On arrival in the U.S., refugees are helped with education, language training, and job skills to give them every opportunity for a successful new beginning. Most refugees who come to the United States are able to find jobs and support their families. After five years, resettled refugees become eligible to apply for American citizenship and the vast majority embraces this opportunity.
I believe we are all in agreement that the Bhutanese refugees have been in the camps for too long and need a fresh start in life. This is an unhappy situation for them and it certainly is not desirable for Nepal, either.
The United States hopes that, working together with Nepal and the international community, we will soon make real progress on this situation, and offer new hope to the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
18 October 2006
The United States has offered to resettle up to sixty-thousand Bhutanese Lhotshampas refugees over the next three or four years. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey said that the United States has had extensive consultations for years with Bhutan and Nepal in an attempt to find a comprehensive solution for the refuges. "However," she said, "as a whole generation of refugees continue to languish in refugee camps, the United States has come forward and said we are willing to resettle a very significant part of this population.
Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said, "Years of bilateral negotiations between Bhutan and Nepal have made little progress resolving this issue so the opportunity of a large-scale resettlement is a real spark of hope."
The Lhotshampas are descendents of Nepalese who moved to the southern lowlands of Bhutan in the nineteenth century. The Nepali Hindu Lhotshampas remained largely distinct from Bhutan's Buddhist Druk majority.
In 1990, the Bhutanese government asserted that many Lhotsampas were not bona fide citizens of Bhutan and expelled them. Many fled to India and Nepal; more than a hundred thousand claimants to Bhutanese citizenship live now and have since 1990 in seven refugee camps in southeastern Nepal administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees with financial support from the United States and other donors.
Bhutan continues to resist repatriation and Nepal opposes local integration of the refugees. "We have been waiting for nearly two decades to return to our homes," said Bhoompa Rai, a refugee representative. "We are still hoping that our struggle and wait will not be in vain," he said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu said the U.S. "offered the refugees a home because we wanted to find a durable solution to one of the world's most protracted and most ignored refugee problems." America, he said, "has always provided a sanctuary to the homeless and dispossessed."
While the United States is open to all options - including resettlement - for providing durable solutions for the refugees, the U.S. position continues to be that the governments of Nepal and Bhutan should work together to ensure that all refugees with legitimate claims to Bhutanese citizenship who wish to return to Bhutan should be able to do so.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.
You can hear the voice here: http://www.voanews.com/uspolicy/2006-10-19-voa1.cfm
Narayan sharma is associated with Law University in South India. Manorath Sharma works as Information Technology IT professional in Nepal. Bhim Bastola is a chartered accountant stationed and available for contact in Kathmandu, Delhi and Dubai. Abi Narayan is a head Teacher in a popular senior School in Western Nepal. All of them have deep knowledge of Bhutanese history and are closely observing the overall developments going on in Bhutan. More views will be added in course of time.
Bhutan Talk (BT): What is your alignment in the moment for democracy in Bhutan?
As a young student who was forced to leave my country in the early 1990’s I have suffered similarly as have done the others. If the RGOB today attempts to hype its image, because of the preparation for a democracy, the veracity of which remains to be tested, it should be thankful to the people who actually fought for it. The weak, the old, the hungry, the martyred and the suffering masses in exile are the ones whose contribution has culminated into the changes in Bhutan. To that extent all of us are a part of the process. Sadly however, we are in effect excluded from the process we ourselves were actually fighting for in our own ways.
Manorath:- Repatriation is more important than democracy for the Bhutanese in exile. The RGOB, though in its own tune, is doing whatever it can towards establishing good democratic governance in the country. This is a positive direction because at least something is happening in the name of democracy in the country.
Manorath:- I do not see any trouble here as it is "premeditated" as you see. Everything should go as scheduled and this is good for everybody.
Bhim: It is good that 2008 is slated as such. But my skepticism reinforces with “passing over the throne” which does not mean throwing the throne down into Thinchhu. Further, 100 years of Monarchy reasserts itself into “We have ruled unchallenged for 100 years and you can safely assume we will rule you into the recent century”. General Election, we can reasonably interpret what it means in the context of Bhutan. End to the refugee “issue”, not necessarily an equitable and justifiable solution to the problem. It is only and ‘end’ to an issue and not a ‘solution’ to a problem. No political process will bring lasting peace unless it is inclusive enough to engage people of all ethnicities and social standing.
Bhutan Talk (BT): Three options are floated to put an end to the refugee crisis. Why is there a delay in the implementation? Which option should be pushed ahead and with what force?
The talk of Third country settlement has featured quite frequently in the Bhutanese refugee situation in the recent months. The Kuensel as usual, was over enthusiastic to report the offer made by the US government to settle willing “People in the Camps in Eastern Nepal” in USA. I personally am not sure as to how genuine is the offer. Bhutan knows that its interest would be best served if all or most of the refugees agree to the offer of third country settlement. That would be a Dream come True to Bhutan and would be a success story of its ethnic policy. Lets examine as to why the solution seeking process in the Bhutanese refugee situation has led us no-where making the situation protracted or to use the wordings of your question, delay in implementation. One issue should be abundantly clear to all the actors in the Bhutanese refugee situation especially the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB}, that unless a holistic, inclusive and a composite solution is enabled for the Bhutanese refugees, the problem will not end. By saying composite, holistic and inclusive solution, I mean that all the three options should be open to the refugees in a free environment and it should be their voluntary decision as to which of the three they desire to opt. The RGOB wrongly believes that by denying repatriation to the Bhutanese refugees, it is creating environment conducive for the refugees to opt for third country settlement who would move away to distant lands thereby freeing itself from its state responsibility without actually needing to take back its citizens. Rather than doing so, RGOB’s action is making the Bhutanese Refugees especially the youths increasingly resolute to fight back for the effective realization of their rights. I do not think that the majority of the refugees are willing to accept any imposed solution. There should be no push factors created in the country of origin to discourage people from repatriation as also no push factors from the host country to hasten a solution. However, the RGOB tends to believe that an indefinite delay on its part will eventually force all the Bhutanese refugees to move away to third countries. Nothing could be more wrong. Bhutanese refugees have often organized spontaneous repatriation programs in the past despite the conditions in the country of origin remaining the same. This should be evidence enough for the RGOB that delay will not tire the Bhutanese refugees. You will need to wait to believe. The RGOB finds an easy escape: that Nepal government is not prepared. And given the turbulence in Nepal, the international community seemingly tends to believe the Bhutanese propaganda. If the RGOB was sincere why does it then hesitate to accept, despite its own findings after the verification of the refugees that there are Bhutanese citizens in the camps? Why the usage “People in the Camps in Eastern Nepal”? And as claimed by the RGOB, if the refugees were not Bhutanese why did it need to engage Nepal in the bilateral process in the first place? A majority of the refugees have proven their claim that they are Bhutanese citizens, passed an examination under a very hostile examiner! And it is at this phase that the RGOB is inventing fresher excuses and allegations. The RGOB would want us believe that a huge human population resolved one fine morning that they wanted to leave Bhutan in the height of monsoon, forfeit voluntarily their citizenship, chose benevolently to leave back everything that they had earned for generations, move empty handed to another country and opted the most abominable life of a refugee. Indeed a cruel joke! RGOB’s refugee policy is a delaying strategy with the ill-advised belief that delaying would absolve itself of its state responsibility. Why does it propose a volley of conditions for returnees to fulfill even after finding that there are genuine Bhutanese in the camps expelled by the government? Because truth is not with the RGOB it is bound to make a bundle of contradictions. The following emerge:
That RGOB’s refugee policy is the sole reason for the delay in implementing any solution and unless Bhutan shows genuine commitment to repatriate all willing Bhutanese, there will be no end to the Bhutanese Refugee Crisis.
That a composite and an all inclusive solution that respects the Right to return of the refugees on the one hand and the voluntary character of their decision as to which solution the Bhutanese refugees intend to opt for on the other need to be enabled.
That all the three solutions should be made available simultaneously.
Manorath:- There is definitely delay in the other two options ((i.e. Third country settlement and host country settlement) because of the following reasons:
1. There is no repatriation (RGOB should start the ball rolling first!!)
2. The Host country and the International community have been torturously lengthening in internationalizing the Bhutanese refugee issue. The refugees in the camps are living as Asylum Seekers (Political implications!!). They should be recognized as "refugees" according to the standards of UNHCR so that other options could also be explored for the willing ones.
Bhim: The basic tenet here again is empowerment. Repatriation with full political and economic rights and/or third country settlement are to be opted for. It is a double edged sword for Bhutan and other power(s) in play. I think implementation comes in picture only when there is a concrete plan of action. Till now, parties to the crisis, UNHCR and Nepal Govt. had not planned in unison. Things are gathering shape now. Hence delay in moving forward.
Third country settlement option should be pushed with utmost gusto since any further turmoil in Bhutan will receive an immediate attention of the west through the compatriots who have settled in there. Any future exodus may reasonably be avoided to remain in limbo unlike the present one. Secondly, the seeds for democratic have been sown. These seeds will fructify only when our people are economically self reliant.
Bhutan Talk (BT): Are there any international directives (pressures) over the RGOB now? If yes, of what type?
That being said, the UNHCR as the only internationally mandated body should seek a larger participation from the international community, especially the donor countries to Bhutan, Other organs of the United Nations, the implementing partners and the like. UNHCR has the mandate to facilitate and promote repatriation, which of course cannot be effectuated in an environment where the country of origin is opposed to its participation in the solution seeking process, and the circumstances that triggered the refugee situation remain unchanged. UNHCR should not of course resign to the myth of being an apolitical body. As is said, one meaning of being political is the preference of one policy perspective over another, and in that context UNHCR is a political body as it works to influence policies of various actors in its mission of international protection. The call of its statute that the agency remain a non-political body was perhaps something befitting the context at the time of framing of the statute. It should be contextualized and so long as the agency works for the benefit of the refugees, it should not couch itself within that narrow frame. International protection includes quest of durable solutions and repatriation being one of the most significant durable solutions of the three, the refugee agency needs to be pro-active. International pressure needs to be built upon recalcitrant governments and UNHCR should undertake extensive lobbying functions in realizing this right of the refugees. The reported offer of the US government to settle a good section of the refugees in its national mainstream, if genuine, is a laudatory step. However, let not the refugees be forced this solution. As the leading democracy of the world, it ought to realize that there are Bhutanese who desire to return. All such benevolent governments should first get the sense of the Bhutanese refugee community as to what they actually desire. Are they accepting other solutions because Bhutan is able to evade its state responsibility or is it their informed choice? If former is the case, the state of origin should be persuaded to do everything possible to enable return of refugees, in an environment free of fear. In fact the international community, especially the donor countries and the UN organs assisting the development projects of a refugee generating country should push through the agenda of conditional grant and assistance. Is it not the purpose of the United Nations to create a world free of oppression and fear and discrimination? Why then do we allow member countries to violate the very purpose of the world body? Of what relevance is the UDHR and a host of treaties that states commit to fulfill and then flout them most systematically? International solidarity should go with the oppressed. We cannot have a peaceful earth if the rights of the weak are not respected.
Manorath:- Yes there are pressures on the RGOB both international and national but it has been so far able to thwart them because of the following reasons:
1. Too much of support to the refugee producing regime by the world's largest democracy in the world blissfully forgetting the democratic principles it advocates elsewhere in the world.
2. RGOB machinery is too disciplined as compared to the refugee groups. The refugee groups existing today are simply incompetent to deal with the propaganda machinery of the RGOB.
3. The host country in engulfed in its own internal problems and the JMCs have been so far not fruitful.
Bhutan Talk (BT): How will be the Bhutan’s foreign policies after 2008?
Manorath:- There will not be significant changes except as demanded by the country's national interests as everything is "premeditated". However, the Bhutanese Government will have tough time sidelining the refugee issue then!!!
Bhutan Talk (BT): Why is population figure of Bhutan atypical? What makes people inside Bhutan speak that democracy is early for them?
Narayan: - How do you verify that it is the people saying so? Do not you really think that it is the government press as self-appointed peoples’ representatives making statements on their behalf. That of course gives a sense of self-satisfaction. “That despite people not willing, our benign government is devolving power and democratizing the system. We are indeed enlightened”.
Manorath:- This is a play of politics to manipulate the ethnic demography so that the ruling regime is always at ease. There are other subtle factors as well. Some people inside Bhutan speak that democracy is early for them because they have not had the opportunity to see the other alternative!!!.
Bhutan Talk (BT): Will the political parties formed in exile get legitimacy to contest in the first election? What is the development so far, in this context?
Manorath:- In a democracy the citizens prevail at all times. The political parties in exile should re-orient themselves (if needed) according to the dynamics of the country's national interest and geopolitical considerations.
Bhim: I think the answer lies in the question itself. When we are talking about a genuine election where political parties represent the aspirations of the people of Bhutan, the badge of legitimacy should not be sought from an external artificial source. Democracy itself gives legitimacy to the will of the people. Therefore, parties in exile should generate support of and represent people within Bhutan. I lament time is running out.
Bhutan Talk (BT): India had been assisting rather regulating Bhutan’s foreign policy, security and finance? What changes will democracy bring in this trend?
Manorath:- I am not sure whether India is regulating or assisting the Bhutan's foreign policy. According to the treaty it should be regulating the foreign policy of Bhutan.
Bhim: Brother, it is not only a trend but an established process within geopolitical realities that India has been doing so. Do not call me a pessimist. Rather I want to be realist in so far as highlighting my surmises that this situation will continue in one form or the other for quite a long time.
Bhutan Talk (BT): Who all are responsible for the refugee crisis?
Narayan: - The Bhutanese Refugee crisis is a manifestation of the larger ethnic policy of the RGOB and its population politics. The RGOB began the current trend of its ethnic policy in the 60’s. Its larger agenda has been cultural nationalism. It began its assimilationist agenda that was directed at obliterating the cultural base of the southern Bhutanese. For instance, observe carefully the 1977 amendment to the Nationality Act of Bhutan. It clearly reflects the cultural concerns of the RGOB and its homogenizing agenda. Examine the Marriage Law and the incentive for cross-cultural marriage. That was an assimilationist effort. Examine further, the One Nation, One People Policy, the Social Code of Conduct or Driglamnamzag, The Dress Policy, the Language policy; all these and many more explain the assimilationist strategies of the RGOB. Failing in this, it began the final onslaught with its exclusionist agenda. The 1985 Citizenship Law, the Census exercise, the categorization of people in 7 groups, the No Objection Certificate Policy, Exclusion of southern Bhutanese from recruitment and Promotions, compulsory retirement, Ban on free movement from one place to another, and many more explain the exclusionist policy of the RGOB. Its immediate intention was to expel as many southern Bhutanese as possible and hence the concept of Voluntary Migration Forms while its long term strategy has been to make Bhutan an ethnocratic nation based on the ethos of the ruling community. Assimilationist and failing that exclusionist. Simply, either “you” are one of “Us” and shall behave and act as one of “Us” or you are not here at all! The refugee crisis is a singular creation of the Royal Government of Bhutan. When it had to hesitantly enter into bilateral engagement with Nepal and a majority of the refugees, successfully corroborated their claims to Bhutanese Citizenship, it has erected further strategies to deny return. Today, it is talking of a legalistic solution to the Bhutanese Refugee Crisis when it actually needs to take a political decision to reverse its earlier decisions. The Bhutanese National Assembly now resolves that any solution to the problems of the “People in the Camps in Eastern Nepal” shall be dealt in accordance with “1. Our Nationality Laws and 2. National Assembly Resolutions”. Shielding itself behind its laws, the RGOB now pre-empts the solution seeking process. There is absolutely no doubt that the refugee crisis is a result of the larger agenda of ethnic policy of the RGOB and in an attempt to ferociously defend that, prevents a solution to the refugee impasse.
Manorath:- Every literate Bhutanese individual minus the innocent mass in the camps in Nepal is responsible for this human catastrophe.
Bhutan Talk (BT): What are/were the threats and benefits behind the presence of ULFA and Bodo activists in Bhutan? Was the security of Bhutan endangered by their presence?
Narayan: - I cannot of course envisage any benefit with the presence of any insurgent groups in our country. The sovereignty of Bhutan is and needs to be our prime concern, whether we are inside or outside Bhutan. In fact the government of the day in Bhutan was anti-national by not taking adequate care as to the entry of the insurgents in the Bhutanese territory. It boomeranged. And I do not guess that Bhutan government would have agreed to operation all clear without a persistent Indian pressure. Of course Bhutan’s security was under a threat and enough caution needs to be exercised in all the days to come in that regard.
Bhim: The presence of dissident groups of a foreign state in another nation state does not at all bode well for its security and Bhutan cannot be an exception. Though the regime, through clandestine means, encouraged them to put up tents within its soil, they soon proved to be a big liability. Initially, they were pitted against our splinter militant groups operating from within and across the border.
Bhutan Talk (BT): What is the probability of rise of extremism in Bhutan?
Manorath:- The exiled population is pushed to the wall by the different players in this horrendous game. Extremism in Bhutan is a possibility if the suffering continues.
Bhim: There is all likeliness as the RGOB seems hell bent on continuing the same policies with of course a slightly less intensity and different form.
Bhutan Talk (BT): How many members are there in the royal family? What percentage of the national budget goes to the palace? What are other incomes and income sources of (for) the members of royal family?
Bhim: There is no debate to the stranglehold enjoyed by the family. It is undisputed. The degree should not be a subject of debate as in doing so, we legitimise such hold. The solution lies in putting an end to such monopoly on the national resources.
Bhutan Talk (BT): Last, your message to the people.
Your majesty, the world calls you an enlightened ruler. However, the current refugee policy perpetuated by the RGOB does not reflect that. This policy will not lead the country and future generation to peace. The future generation will suffer.
Shed the prejudice and introspect. If you were to be put to the same test by way of an arbitrary census exercise as were the southern Bhutanese none of you would have qualified and would be languishing today somewhere as we are now. You would not have forgiven your government and neither the Bhutanese refugees will. Do not rejoice. Believe in objective findings and not on propaganda. You will do justice to the country and all the generations to come.
Think resolutely and act accordingly.
Manorath:- Don't quarrel over petty matters; see unity in diversity because this is a godly thing to do. Diversity in unity is a devilish trait according to the holiest scriptures.
Your comments are anticipated
Monday, October 16, 2006
Upcoming talks will be decisive for repatriation of Bhutanese refugees: Oli
Deputy Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli (File Photo)
Deputy Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who also holds the Foreign Portfolio, has said that the meeting to be held between Nepal and Bhutan in November on the repatriation of refugees would be decisive.
After receiving memorandum from a delegation of organisations of Bhutanese refugees in Birtamod, the DPM said, “The forthcoming talks will be decisive. In case of it being otherwise, we will look for alternatives. The government, however, doesn’t want to prolong the process.”
The memorandum, presented by the Refugee Coordination Committee, stated that the recent US proposal of accommodating 60,000 refugees in the US has not only affected the movement of democracy and human rights in Bhutan, but it has also raised questions about the future of the refugees.
More than 106,000 Bhutanese refugees are languishing in seven UNHCR administered camps in eastern Nepal since early 1990's. The 15-round of talks between Nepal and Bhutan failed to resolve the deadlock.
Meanwhile, addressing a Dashain Tihar greeting exchange programme organized by him, the DPM said that the international community was ready to extend all forms of assistance to restore peace in the country.
"Our foreign friends are willing to see peaceful settlement of the present crisis," Oli added.
Commenting on the ongoing peace talks, he said, “It is the government’s duty to make the peace process fruitful by giving an appropriate and respectable outlet to the Maoists,” adding, "As people are already sovereign there is no reason for the Maoists to cling to their weapons."
nepalnews.com pb Oct 16 06
Is US Offering A Lasting Solution? [ 2006-10-16 ]
By Vijaya Chalise
THE US offer to accept 60,000 Bhutanese refugees languishing in the seven refugee camps in Nepal for the past fifteen years has ignited a debate. A section of refugees have welcomed the US proposal, the other is making harsh comments. Considering the US proposal as an encouragement for the Druk regime to go against the right of Bhutanese people, the Bhutanese refugee leader Tek Nath Rizal alleged that such an offer is creating rift and confusion among the refugees. Obviously, it is better to assist the refugees in their dignified repatriation campaign rather than encourage them towards third country resettlement. Though, it will help settle about half the refugee problems, it will not yield a lasting solution for those refugees who want to return to their country with dignity. Furthermore, this sort of third country resettlement scheme might encourage the Thimpu government to continue its policy of ethnic cleansing. Therefore, the fear that the American offer may inspire to increase the racist policy is obvious.
If the refugees will have a better life elsewhere in comparison to the life in the refugee camps, it is good to accept the US floated resettlement plan. But, how the refugees will be resettled in America should be clear, if they are not destined the supply of cheap labor in the American job market having no dignity of life,Despite advocacy for democracy and freedom, India's silence on the issue of Bhutanese refugees obviously shows that it is not all comfortable with refugees going back home. Ignoring Bhutan's suppression of democracy and the policy of ethnic cleansing, preaching of democracy by India and the US to the leaders of the developing countries, would be a loss on moral ground. For the reason that enjoying the strength of India's indifference and apathy towards refugees, Thimpu all the time is maneuvering and bolstering energy enough to solve the problem of Bhutanese citizens. India, the prime force capable to solve the crisis, has remained passive for the past 16 years. Similarly, the countries that are floating the resettlement plan have never shown keen interest in repatriation of the Bhutanese refugees, which could have been possible in their honest initiatives. The Bhutanese side has been playing one trick after another and Nepal was unable to understand that at first. At the outset, Bhutan out rightly denied that the people in the camps were Bhutanese citizens. Afterwards Thimpu said some of them were economic migrants of the recent past, and that's why they were evacuated. Later, it agreed to accept the genuine citizen only after categorization of the people in the camps into four groups. Accepting the condition of categorization into four groups was a blunder from our side. Despite the fact that the problem involved Nepal, Bhutan, and India, Nepal accepted bi-lateral dialogue at the home ministry level. It was another mistake to think about resolving the refugee issue without India's mediation. The then Nepali Congress government agreed to Thimpu's precondition that talks should be bilateral. As India lies between Nepal and Bhutan, Bhutanese refugees had first taken refuge into Indian land and later they were forcefully driven away to Nepal by the Indian authority. Similarly, India's positive node was essential as; the 1949 Indo-Bhutanese treaty retains a 1910 British clause to guide the foreign relation issues of Bhutan, which ensure New Delhi's influence over Bhutan's foreign, and security policies. Even the acceptance of Bhutan's clever proposal of four-category concept was a blunder committed by us. To try to resolve the refugee impasse at the bilateral level without massive international pressure was another mistake. It is now a proved fact that international pressure is a must since bilateral efforts have failed to produce results. Thus, diplomatically, Nepal failed in every sphere to portray the real issue to the international community; where as Bhutan and Indian media mislead them successfully.The complexity of the refugee issue was a bi-product of the deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing of the Druk regime. And the refugees were uprooted from their homes because of political reasons. Thus the refugee problem is purely the problem between the Bhutanese government and its people. The problem started in 1985 when Bhutan made a new citizenship law, targeting against Lotsampas (Southern Bhutanese) of the Nepalese root, after revoking the citizenship Act 1958. Thousands of Southern Bhutanese, who had been living there for generations, were declared non-Bhutanese. The government started forcibly evacuating them from their home and fields. Historically it is a proven fact that Nepalese were taken to Bhutan for constructions and other works more than 350 years ago. Their descendents have been living there for more than 12 generations, while monarchy in Bhutan dates back to just four generation.However, despite agreement to sit together for another round of foreign minister level talks between Nepal and Bhutan in Kathmandu in November next month, no change is seen in the Bhutanese policy on refugee issue. This can be understood from Bhutan's National Assembly member's demand for total ban on repatriation of refugees in its 81st session in Thimpu. This demand along with the social and religious code 'Driglam Namzha', banning the wearing of other dress, except the national dress by Bhutanese people, backs the theory that the ethnic cleansing process against the Southern Bhutanese of Nepalese origin has been there in action. This has resulted in gross human rights abuses in Bhutan against UN Human rights Declarations. However, the Bhutanese regime has always been successful in diverting the attention of the international community from the real issue of human rights and democracy. It has obviously contributed to the lack of international cooperation and pressure to resolve the problem. StanceDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, K. P. Oli seems hopeful for finding a final solution to resolve the Bhutanese refugees crisis. However, the up coming 16th round of bi-lateral talks to be influenced by the United Nation High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) backed US resettlement proposal as a part of third country resettlement plan enhanced by the US and other European Countries is obvious. Since Nepal is always flexible in its stand and policy towards the issue, it would be better if Nepal could make public its stance towards the US package of third country resettlement of Bhutanese refugees. Similarly, before deciding the resettlement proposal it would be better to form a commission including members of civil society and human rights representatives to examine whether majority of refugees want to be settled in a third country or go back to their own land.
Friday, October 13, 2006
The government of Nepal has formally sent a letter to the Bhutanese government asking to sit for talks on the Bhutanese refugee issue.
In a letter dispatched by the foreign ministry on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister KP Sharma Oli has urged Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, who is also the foreign minister, to sit for final talks on the nearly two-decade long refugee issue.
Nepal has proposed the date for talks as November 12 and 13 in Kathmandu. This will be 16th round of bilateral talks between Bhutan and Nepal.
The letter has been sent as per the agreement reached between Oli and Wangchuk to sit for final round of bilateral talks on the refugee issue in New York recently at the sidelines of UN General Assembly session.
Meanwhile, Bhutanese human rights leader Tek Nath Rizal has urged the refugee community not to remain divided merely with the offer of the US government to resettle over 60,000 refugees and remain patient till the government of Nepal takes any decision over the matter.
In a statement issued after the meeting of Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee (BMSC) in Damak on Thursday, Rizal has said since the Nepali government is going to hold talks with the Bhutanese government soon, the refugees should remain calm till that time.
He said, "Nepal government has said that it would hold talks with Bhutan.The UNHCR, America and Nepal government may take decision regarding our future after seeing the result of the bilateral talks."
Rizal is scheduled to travel to Kathmandu Friday to hold meetings government officers regarding the refugee issue.
nepalnews.com ia Oct 12 06
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
10 Oct 2006 08:27:36 GMT10 Oct 2006 08:27:36 GMT
KATHMANDU, 10 October (IRIN) -
Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal have expressed scepticism over an offer of third-country settlement from Washington.
On 2 October, US Assistant Secretary of State for Refugee Affairs, Ellen Sauerbury, told reporters in Geneva that her government was willing to "absorb 50,000 or 60,000 of the [Bhutanese] people who are now in these [refugee] camps".
But both the refugees and the Nepalese government were surprised at the announcement, saying they had not been consulted.
"There has been no formal communication and discussion between the US government and us about this offer to resettle Bhutanese refugees," said Yadav Khanal, a spokesman for Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), in the capital Kathmandu on Monday.
Bhutanese refugee settled in neighbouring Nepal in large numbers from 1990 after a large number of ethnic Nepalese, known as Lhotshampas, were evicted from their homes by the Bhutanese government. The group had been living in Bhutan for more than two centuries.
The refugees said they were fleeing a new Bhutanese citizenship law that disenfranchised them and deprived them of citizenship and civil rights.
According to the Bhutanese Refugee Representatives Repatriation Committee (BRRRC), there are now over 106,000 refugees living in seven camps in the Morang and Jhapa districts of eastern Nepal, nearly 700 km east of the capital.
More than 15 rounds of bilateral negotiations over more than a decade between Nepal and Bhutan have failed to resolve the refugees' plight.
"We are still in favour of reaching a bilateral solution to the Bhutanese refugee issue," said Khanal, adding that the two countries are having talks in November but the dates and venues had yet to be finalised.
"We have been waiting for nearly two decades to return to our homes and we are still hoping that our struggle and wait will not be in vain," said Bhoompa Rai, a BRRRC leader.
Rai added that most Bhutanese refugees still held out the hope of going home and that most wanted to retain their Bhutanese citizenship in order to be able to do so in the future.
Meanwhile, the US resettlement offer has reportedly provoked tensions among refugees in the camps. "This issue has already created a huge rift and misunderstanding between the refugee families," explained Rai.
A minority of the refugees have agreed to take up the offer for resettlement while the majority are vehemently against the idea, according to BRRRC members.
"The international community, especially the US, should help us get a proper settlement to repatriate to Bhutan if it is genuinely concerned about us," said refugee Ram Lal Subedi in the capital. He is one of a group of refugees who have been organising an ongoing demonstration in Kathmandu to bring international attention to their cause.
Dispute deepens among refugee leaders, BRRRC suspends camp secretaries
The dispute in the Bhutanese Refugees Representatives Repatriation Committee (BRRRC) reached to its apex on Tuesday, when its meeting dismissed the six camp secretaries as central committee members of the organization.
Tek Nath Rizal (File Photo)
A meeting of the BRRRC held in Damak on Tuesday in presence of its chairman Tek Nath Rizal decided to suspend the six camp secretaries immediately, reports say.
In a programme on Monday, the six secretaries of camps in Jhapa district had said they support the US offer to resettle over 60,000 refugees in US and other western countries as the best alternative to resolve the protracted crisis.
Rizal said the six persons have been suspended, as they were involved in bringing division in the refugee community and working against the interest of the refugees.
The suspended secretaries are Manoj Rai of the Khudunabari camp, Hari Bangale Adhikari of Beldangi - II, D P Pradhan of Beldangi – I camp, Manorath Khanal of Beldangi – II extension camp, Parshuram Nepal of Timai camp and Ram Chandra Sapkota of Goldhap camp.
Meanwhile, the young people in the camps have started campaign not to allow the secretaries to enter into their offices.
The US government has expressed its willingness to settle up to 60,000 of the 107,000 Bhutanese refugees in the next 3-4 years. Refugee leaders strongly objected to the offer saying it would encourage the Druk regime for further eviction of Nepali speaking people from Bhutan.
nepalnews.com ia Oct 11 06
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Notwithstanding the displeasure of Bhutanese refugee leaders, secretaries at six Bhutanese refugees camps in Jhapa welcomed the US offer to take in at least 60,000 refugees over the next few years.
Speaking at an interaction organized in Birtamod on Monday, secretaries Manoj Rai of the Khudunabari camp, Hari Bangale Adhikari of Beldangi camp-1, DP Pradhan of Beldangi camp-2, Manorath Khanal of Beldangi camp-3, Parshuram Nepal of Timai camp and Ram Chandra Sapkota of Goldhap camp heartily welcomed the proposal.
Saying that no good would come of the speeches of refugee-affiliated political parties and organisations, they pointed out that pressure upon Bhutan could be brought to bear for repatriation even after going to the US.
However reports quoted chairperson of the Bhutan Peoples' Party Balaram Poudel as saying that all the refugees in the camps want to go their own country rather than to the US.
He described the US proposal as a conspiracy to create division among refugees.
Bhutanese human rights leader Tek Nath Rijal has criticized the offer saying that it was "in favor of Bhutanese King and against Bhutanese people."
"The US along with the international community is working to defend the Bhutanese King," he accused.
He said it was wrong to spread rumors about resettlement without stressing on repatriation.
Around 106,000 Bhutanese refugees are languishing in seven UNHCR administered camps in eastern Nepal since early 1990s.
Fifteen rounds of bilateral negotiations between the Bhutanese and Nepalese governments have failed to resolve the refugee impasse. nepalnews.com pb Oct 10 06
Monday, October 9, 2006
Damak, October 9The recent US offer that it can take in up to 60,000 Bhutanese refugees has failed to attract the refugees and instead created confusion among them. Most of them said they do not want to be resettled in the US and just want to go home.Refugees said the US proposal was not in their welfare. "We want to return to our homeland where we were born; returning to our country is our priority," said Tej Bahadur Gurung of Beldangi Camp No-1. He said the US proposal has created confusion among the refugees.Bhutan's political parties should play an active role to clear the confusion, said Rahalman Gurung of the same camp. He added that most of the refugees want to return to Bhutan at any cost. The US proposal would have a negative impact on the refugees' agitation, said Gurung.The outlet to the problem should be sought by holding direct talks among Nepal, Bhutan and the refugees, said another refugee, Jung Bahadur Budathoki.It's not reasonable to take us to a country where the culture and religion are aliens to us, said Naina Kala Rai of Sanischare camp in Jhapa.Chairperson of the Bhutan People's Party, Balaram Poudel, said the proposal of the US was not conducive for the refugees. He added that they should be repatriated to their own country.Meanwhile, some refugees at Beldangi camp in Jhapa welcomed the proposal of the US. Issuing a statement, they said that as no solution had been found to their problem, the proposal of the US was reasonable.UNHCR has also stressed the need for looking for alternatives to solve the problem of the refugees.A few months ago, some 3000 refugees had written a letter to UNHCR, demanding that they be accommodated in some third country.
October 6, 2006Posted to the web October 8, 2006
Charlene PorterWashington, DC
The United States is proposing to resettle up to 60,000 Bhutanese Lhotshampas refugees over the next several years, an offer that is described by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as an opportunity to break a long-standing deadlock over more than 100,000 refugees from Bhutan living in eastern Nepal.
"Years of bilateral negotiations between Nepal and Bhutan have made little progress in resolving this issue," said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis at an October 6 briefing in Geneva, "so the opportunity of large-scale resettlement is a real spark of hope."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population Refugees and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey made the resettlement offer while attending the UNHCR's Executive Committee meeting in Geneva October 2-6.
"After 15 different governmental-level consultations between the two governments," Sauerbrey said at an October 2 briefing, "the United States has come forward and said we are willing to resettle a very significant part of this population."
She said the United States likely will be able to absorb up to 60,000 refugees over three or four years, with Canada and Australia also offering to take some of the Bhutanese refugees.
The Lhotshampas refugees are ethnically Nepali Hindus and have been subjected to increasing restrictions by the Buddhist-dominated Bhutanese government since the 1980s. In 1990 the Bhutanese government effectively declared large numbers of the Lhotshampas stateless peoples, forcing the creation of the seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal.
"The way ahead is still complex," said Pagonis. "We hope the Nepalese government will maximize the opportunity being presented by these interested countries to help resolve this very protracted situation."
For more information on the Nepali-Bhutanese refugee dispute, see The State of the World's Refugees 2006 on the UNHCR Web site.
Published: Saturday, 7 October, 2006, 09:53 AM Doha Time
KATHMANDU: With an announcement earlier this week that the US was ready to take in 60,000 of the more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees living in UN run camps in east Nepal, Nepal Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister K P Sharma Oli yesterday said Nepal and Bhutan would hold ministerial talks next month on the repatriation of the refugees.
Oli, who returned yesterday after attending the UN General Assembly in New York, told journalists that Bhutan and Nepal had agreed to hold ministerial-level talks next month on the issue.
More than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees, most of them Nepali speaking, have been living in seven camps run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in eastern Nepal for the past 15 years.
The Bhutanese refugee leaders say they were forced out of the tiny Himalayan kingdom after they campaigned for democracy, following the Nepalese pro-democracy movement in late 1990. They were expelled by Bhutan and started trickling into Nepal in early 1991.
More than a dozen ministerial-level meetings have been held between the two countries, with a breakthrough in 2003 to classify the refugees.
The verification committee found that 74% of the refugees were entitled to return to their homeland. However, the Bhutanese government alleged misconduct in the process and cancelled the classification.
There has been no ministerial meeting between the two countries since 2003.
Foreign Minister Oli said the two countries would "try to solve the problem" in their meeting next month.
Political observers in the Nepalese capital, however, say that there was little prospect of Bhutan taking back the refugees anytime soon. - DPA
Sunday, October 8, 2006
Even as he welcomed, on humanitarian grounds, the United States offer to resettle up to 60,000 refugees, Bhutanese human rights leader Tek Nath Rijal has criticized it stating that it was "in favor of Bhutanese King and against Bhutanese people."
"The US along with the international community is working to defend the Bhutanese King," he accused.
He said it was wrong to spread rumors about resettlement without stressing on repatriation. He also urged Nepal government to come forth with its official stand on this issue prior to the November bilateral meeting.
The US offer to take up to 60,000 Bhutanese refugees seems to have stirred a hornet's nest. While many refugee leaders have criticized the offer saying that it was tantamount to absolving Bhutanese regime of all its wrongdoings and even encouraging it to evict further Bhutanese people, reports say many refugees languishing in camps have started signature campaign in favor the offer. nepalnews.com sd Oct 09 06
The proposal of their resettlement made by the United States government is rapidly dividing the Bhutanese refugees languishing in Nepalese camps.
Following the proposal of resettling around 60,000 Bhutanese refugees to the US, the debate has intensified even among members of a family with some wanting to go to the US, some wanting to return to Bhutan, some wanting to stay back in Nepal and some wanting to engage in agitation.
According to news report by Nepal Samacharpatra daily, this debate is taking intense form at seven refugee camps in Jhapa and Morang. A group of refugees who want to be resettled in the US or the third developed country, has launched signature campaign in refuges camps of Beldangi, Gooldhap, Timai and Pathari. They have even floated organizations to intensify the campaign.
Rinjin Dorjee, general secretary of Druk National Congress – Bhutan, has accused that a conspiracy is being hatched to split the refugees by compelling them to open up various parties, committees and organization in the pretext of resettling them to the US.
"Situation is such that, there could even be a bloodshed. When we said that repatriation is the ultimate alternative and the only sustainable solution of this impasse, threats were made to our lives," said D.B. Rana Sampang, chairman of Bhutan Gorkha Liberation Front.
D.P. Kafle, general secretary of Human Rights of Bhutan, urged all concerned to be cautious about the likelihood of clashes. "If we are not cautious in time, there could be unimagined consequences (of this resettlement proposal)," he said.
Narad Adhikari, general secretary of Bhutan People's Party, urged Nepal government to come up with responsible reply soon in order to avert disaster. nepalnews.com sd Oct 08 06