The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, December 22, 2008


Jigme Kheshar Namgyal Wangchuk (JKNW) was declared king of Bhutan on Dec. 14, 2007. Although an official coronation has not been held, he has taken full charge of the kingship, and begun taking action like revising the so-called Indo-Bhutan friendship treaty of February 2007. He then approved Bhutan's constitution written by his father and company that discriminates against Bhutanese on the basis of ethnicity, language, class, political beliefs and loyalty to the king. He also constituted a government under the leadership of Jigme Y. Thinley who became president of the DPT through a controlled election. The present government is only a mouthpiece of the king that legitimizes autocracy in the name of democracy.
Interestingly, he also succeeded in constituting an “opposition party”, which, to quote an idiom, is like a monkey's tail which is neither useful as a stick nor as a weapon. The president of this party, Sange Nidup, and 44 other candidates were scapegoats who were sent to lose in the so-called impartial election to the parliament. After accomplishing the above groundwork to ruin democracy, JKNW is all set for his official coronation scheduled to be celebrated in the Bhutanese capital from Dec. 6-12, 2008.

Representing the Government of India, President Prativa Patil, along with Foreign Minister Pranav Mukharjee, will be present to witness the crowning. All the ambassadors of countries with which Bhutan has diplomatic relations have been invited to attend the ceremony. They include the U.S. ambassador who resides in New Delhi, envoys of the European Parliament and the representative of the United Nations Development Program.

This lavish coronation of the fifth king rests on a pile of government atrocities and looted properties of the citizens. The preceding government carried out the heinous act of evicting about 150,000 Bhutanese citizens between 1988 and 1992, mainly from southern and eastern Bhutan. The government of JKNW is trying to feign ignorance of the expulsion of such a large number of people. And it has not made any attempts to express remorse by giving an assurance of guaranteeing justice to the exiles. Neither is it showing any signs of vacating the properties of evicted Bhutanese which have been given to the king's supporters to occupy.

The ambassadors who are attending the coronation are obviously aware of the above facts, as their governments have been donating money to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugee to feed the refugees who have been living in camps in Nepal. They have also been helping to relocate these refugees to the U.S.A. and other countries. These foreign envoys who will be attending the coronation to observe the pomp and pageantry could have insisted that they will attend on the condition that the Bhutanese government agree to take back the refugees and establish real democracy and human rights in Bhutan.

Trillions of ngultrums (equivalent to Indian rupees) have been expended for the great success of the coronation and recognition of the fifth monarch of the Wangchuk dynasty. Most people in Bhutan, except for the selected clans close to Wangchuk, are not happy with this expensive fanfare.

In conclusion, the people of Bhutan are under constant surveillance by commandos. Their movement is controlled by regulations that require people to possess a travel document and a new citizenship identity card. This has made travel almost impossible for children below the age of 16 years because they are not eligible to get a citizenship identity card according to the government's existing laws. The upcoming coronation, therefore, will not be a happy occasion for a majority of the Bhutanese people and the world at large as it makes a mockery of the agony of the population that has been forced out of the country.

(The writer is a former National Assembly member of Bhutan.)

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