The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, December 11, 2006

To US via Bhutan- Leaders

PM assures of repatriation to Bhutanese refugee leaders
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has assured Bhutanese refugee leaders that the new government would take stronger measures for repatriation of all refugees languishing in Nepal for the last 17 years.

During the meeting with the 7-member delegation of refugee leaders led by human rights activist Tek Nath Rizal Monday morning, Koirala said the government has repeatedly asked the Indian government for involvement in finding the solution of the crisis.

"We have repeatedly asked India for support, but it has been avoiding saying the problem was between Nepal and Bhutan," Rizal quoted PM Koirala as saying.

The delegation of the refugee leaders, including Thinley Penjor of Druk National Congress and Bala Ram Poudel of Bhutan People's Party, urged the Nepalese government to end bilateral talks with Bhutan and take necessary steps to get support from the Indian government for repatriation.

In the half-an-hour long meeting, home minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who hails from Jhapa where the refugees are taking shelter, was also present.

Rizal quoted PM Koirala as saying that the Nepal government has not received any kind of formal application from the US or any other western countries for third country settlement of the refugees.

The US government has time and again expressed its willingness to take some 60,000 refugees to the US for settlement.

Two rounds of Nepal-Bhutan talks that were to be held after the formation of the new government in Nepal has been postponed indefinitely.

Meanwhile reports said that refugees organised rallies in Beldangi camps in Jhapa on Sunday, making the international human rights day, demanding unconditional and early repatriation to their land. ia Dec 11 06

Kantipur Report
Nepal govt giving high priority to Bhutanese refugee crisis: PM

KATHMANDU, Dec 11 - Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on Monday said that the Nepal Government attaches high priority to the Bhutanese refugee crisis.
Stating that the issue could not be resolved because of the fickle political situation in the past, the PM assured that the present democratic government has perceived this as a high priority issue.

PM Koirala made the comments today during a meeting with the refugee leaders who had called on the PM earlier today at his official residence in Baluwatar.

According to refugee leader Thinley Penjor, who was present during the meet, the PM assured that no stones would be left unturned in the resolution of the longstanding Bhutanese refugee crisis.

The refugee leaders said that they should be allowed to visit Bhutan one last time before the US resettlement the Bhutanese 60,000 refugees, Penjor said.

A seven-member team led by refugee leader Tek Nath Rijal had gone to Baluwatar to meet the PM today.

According to sources, the leaders demanded that they be allowed to go to Bhutan, arguing that if they were to be resettled in the US without once stepping foot in their homeland, they would become refugees of life.

Over a dozen foreign ministerial level discussions between Nepal and Bhutan in the past have repeatedly failed to resolve the long standing Bhutanese refugee crisis and the latest round of talks slated for November 21-22 failed to materialize.

As the undercurrent of the United States' offer made in October to resettle 60,000 Bhutanese refugees continues to further deepen the division in the refugee community, at least three other countries, including Austrailia, Canada and New Zealand have agreed with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to make similar offers in a "burden-sharing" effort.

Earlier this week, in an interview with ekantipur, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs KP Sharma Oli had said that Nepal government wants to hold final talks with the Bhutanese government to settle the refugee imbroglio.

"As the 15 rounds of bilateral talks between Nepal and Bhutan could not materialize, Nepal wants to hold next round of talks for a concrete decision on this issue," Oli said.

He said that Nepal Government wants a dignified repatriation and guarantee of a secured life in Bhutan is the desired solution to the refugee problem.

More than 106,000 Bhutanese refugees are languishing in seven UNHCR administered camps in eastern Nepal since past 16 years.

Posted on: 2006-12-11 01:06:14 (Server Time)

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